Thoughts on Framing Styles and Mats

Since launching my print collection some of the most frequent questions I’ve been asked concern framing and whether prints should be framed with a mat or not.  While I can’t claim to be a framing expert, I can share some thoughts on different framing styles a couple of examples from my own collection. Hopefully, these help you on your way to creating the ideal presentation for your print that works best in your space!

Is a mat important to framing?  I think it is.  The additional border it creates gives a print ‘room to breathe’ by creating space between the image and the frame.  It also increases the overall presentation size to give a print a more dramatic impact and helps smaller pieces take up the space they deserve. 

Beyond the aesthetics, mats have other advantages. They separate the image from the glazing, keep the print perfectly flat, and when you have your heart set on a certain frame that doesn’t quite conform to the dimensions of your print, a custom cut mat can help you bridge the difference.

Susannah Bee abstract original painting framed with mat


The image here shows how a little 4” x 6” original can be boosted to become an 8” x 10”. Please note that my prints are created with a 1” white border and I sign them in the bottom white space so you would want to have your mat cut a little less tightly to the image as compared with this picture.

As a rule, I suggest that people keep their mats simple and white.  Double mats might be nice for some pieces of art but there is a risk of distracting from the print, they can make it more formal and of course, they add extra cost.  Something simple and white is the best way to ensure your print will look just as fresh in 20 years as it does today.

A second approach to framing that can give the same feeling of ‘breathing space’ between the print and the frame is called floating. An image floating over a mat is something that you often see when the paper has an interesting texture or is finished with a detailed edge.  However, even with straight-cut paper like my prints, floating style framing gives you a feeling of depth, as it creates some shadow between the print and the mat.

Photographic print floating frame

 Whereas framing a print with a mat keeps the print perfectly flat, when you float a print in a frame the edges have some ‘play’ to them as they are not secured underneath anything.

The choice of framing style is a matter of personal taste, and there is no one right way to do it but good framing will help preserve the print by separating the image from the glazing.   Your framer can help you visualize your options and create a presentation that will highlight the beauty of the art on your walls!