Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tools for Matting and Framing

(Click on the thumbnail for the bigger, better version)

A part of my recent framing frenzy has been the discovery of a few tools that I had never worked with before. This doesn't mean the tools are new, of course, only new to me.  Fortunately, those tools have made matting and framing a much less onerous task.

I doubt that I am in the minority among photographers when I say that almost any aspect of photography is more enjoyable than matting the print and getting it in a clean and dust-free frame. Lately, I have found enormous satisfaction in the final product and that satisfaction powers me through the mundane tasks required to produce the framed piece. Clearly, if money were no object, I would turn this job over to a professional. Now, back to real life.

At the risk of beginning to sound like an infomercial, I am particularly enjoying using some of the items I purchase from Frame Destination. For example, I had never used a print weight. Now, I am a major fan. 

My other favorite inexpensive, yet indispensable, item is their hanging hardware. When I buy one of their complete framing kits (frame, backing, and mat) the hanging hardware is included. But, for frames that I have on hand, I no longer skimp. I spring for the extra buck (or a whopping buck-fifty for the hardware needed for larger frames). I am completely spoiled now. Love that plastic-wrapped wire. Having spent some time using the budget-model hardware store wire, I appreciate the difference. My fingers are worth it.

Finally, I like the Lineco linen hinging tape. I can't imagine myself ever getting the formula just right for the water activated tapes, but the self-adhesive one is easy to work with. Occasionally, I have trouble getting my nail under the edge of that backing; but, more often than not it is only a minor hassle.

The fact that I have yet to find a mat from this company that isn't pristine, with perfectly precise corners explains most of my enthusiasm for this company. I don't know about anyone else, but sloppily cut mats are a major turnoff for me. While viewing an artist's work recently, I couldn't help but be amazed that the man had his work displayed in a major venue; yet the mats were tacky. I didn't spot a single clean cut. Picky on my part, I suppose, but we all have our tolerance for compromise.

I don't expect that I will ever eagerly anticipate a session of matting and framing; but the task is far less a dreaded one these days. Now if this company could just come up with a piece of glass that repels dust.... Oh well, I can dream, can't I?


  1. Beautiful image, and clearly one that benefits from the white border.

  2. Andreas - Thank you for the comment on the image. I'm glad you like the border. I know you put a great deal of thought into the format of the images you post.

  3. I agree with Andreas, this is a beautiful image. I love that shallow depth.
    When I used to cut mats, it didn't take me long to find the "secret" to getting good cuts. A new blade for each mat.I don't bother with cutting mats anymore, there are others that do it way better than I can for not much more $. I, too, am turned off by sloppy mats. I'll definitely check out Frame Destination next time.

  4. Ken - Thank you for comment on the image. I love shooting shallow depth of field. If only I were more ambitious about getting out and doing it more often.

    In terms of savings on mats, I agree. By the time you buy proper equipment and the matboard, I don't think you come out way ahead of the "pros" who do it in bulk. It is nice to know that a new blade for each mat is the secret. That's just in case I have ever get silly and decide to cut some of my own.

  5. I once went through a project where I cut, matted and framed 30 photos,12x18 to 16x24 image sizes. It scarred me for life.

    I ultimately got pretty good at producing double mats and clean cuts, but it is a massive amount of work not to be underestimated. And the dust you mention.... enough to drive anyone completely to the funny farm.

    Then I went to a Annie Leibovitz exhibit and fell in love with the use of 8 ply mats. I figured ok, I will try to cut some 8 ply. I thought 4 ply mats got tough to cut after awhile even with sharp blades, doing 8 ply is asking for instant carpal tunnel surgery. But the look of 8 ply is very elegant in a single mat form - it has a very nice depth to the bevel.

    I outsource all of my mat cutting now (to Frame Destinations actually!), and don't even bother offering framing. They can use their robots to cut the 8 ply mats or whatever they use, and I keep my sanity.

    No doubt you can save a lot of money by cutting them yourself and buying the big sheets, but for me, I just valued the time too much. It was just more of a chore versus any part of the creative process.

    One tool I use extensively still is an ATG Tape gun. It is a great tool for adhering mats to backing boards or anything else you need to stick to a surface.

  6. The times I've tried cutting mats and and framing ended in frustration on my part. I mostly custom order them precut to specs now when I need one. I do admire those like you who have the skill, take the time and have the patients to do it but it's just not my thing. :-)

    A wonderful photo, rich in darker tones.

  7. Mark - I chuckled more than once reading your comment. Several years ago, I found 8 ply mats in an art store in LA and, since then, I have used them almost exclusively. Having already been cured of the notion of cutting my own mats, I never even thought of cutting 8 ply board. Shudder! Now there is something to have nightmares about.

    It is nice to know that you, too, are a "loyal customer" of Frame Destination. Until they let me down, I wouldn't consider trying anyone else.

    I have just begun to flirt with the idea of offering prints with mats, but no frames. Do you have a display rack, or is that even necessary for you? Maybe all your sales come from your website. Because my sales are coming from situations where customers see work being displayed, showing at least some prints in frames is important.

    An ATG gun sounds like a serious weapon!

  8. Earl - That frustration of cutting mats long ago put an end to my fantasies of saving money on mats. Oh, yeah, I cut a few small mats that were lovely. But, that was probably 2 ply board (a few years ago, I can't remember), and the few times I tried even an 11x14 ended in disaster.

    Nowadays, my back wouldn't allow me to even get started cutting mats. I am content to pay for the labor, save my back, and avoid all the unladylike language provoked by mat cutting.

    Thank you for your observations on the photo. I have to get back out shooting some more details. Since I have been able in the last few days to do a bit more walking, I am hopeful.

  9. My display rack is my website and happy customers that hopefully share where they got the prints from. :-)

  10. Mark - That's what I thought. And, I know there are plenty of happy customers! Thanks for the reply.


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