The Purpose of a Mat Board: Make Your Images Stand Out

Are you a professional or amateur photographer who wants to have a beautiful display of your photos? Maybe you are an artist who has created stunning pieces of artwork. Framing these images is more than just choosing a nice frame. If you want them to stand out and get the attention they deserve, then you need mat boards. Also known as matting or matting board, this cardboard-like material plays a crucial role in the world of art, photography, and framing. The boards serve both functional and aesthetic purposes, enhancing the visual appeal of artworks and protecting them from damage.

In this exploration, we will delve into the various types of mat boards, their uses, and the importance they hold in preserving and presenting valuable pieces of art.

Different Types of Mat Boards

mat board

The mat boards come in different varieties and have distinct properties. Some of them are suitable for decorative uses only, others have neutral pH levels that make them ideal for conservation framing. Learn more about their characteristic and find out the specific type of mat board that would fit your needs depending on what you want to be framed.


This is probably the first variety that comes to mind when we refer to a mat board for framing. Paper mat boards are among the most common types used in framing due to their affordability and versatility. They are available in a wide range of colours and textures, making them suitable for various framing projects. Paper mat boards are usually made from acid-free or archival-quality paper to prevent degradation and discolouration over time.


Rag mat boards are crafted from high-quality cotton fibres that make them exceptionally durable and resistant to yellowing or deterioration. They are often considered the gold standard for archival framing, ensuring the long-term preservation of valuable artworks or photographs. The common standard size is 32” x 40”, but you can also find 40” x 60” or 48” x 72”.


Linen mat boards incorporate linen fibres, adding a unique texture and elegance to the framing presentation. This type of matting is especially favoured for more formal and traditional artwork.

Suede and Fabric

Suede and fabric mat boards provide a luxurious and soft-textured surface. These materials can add a tactile element to the framing, making them ideal for artwork that benefits from a touch of sophistication.


Metallic mat boards come with a metallic finish, adding a modern and sleek aesthetic to the presentation. They can be particularly fitting for contemporary pieces or photographs with a futuristic vibe.


Bamboo mat boards offer a sustainable and unique option. They have a distinct natural appearance that works well with environmentally conscious artwork or pieces with an organic theme.

The Various Uses of Mat Boards

mat board
  • Artwork Enhancement: Mat boards create a visual buffer between the artwork and the frame, serving to draw the viewer’s attention to the piece. They provide a clean and polished look that can elevate the perceived value of the artwork.
  • Colour Enhancement: The colour of the mat board can influence the perception of the artwork. A well-chosen mat colour can complement the hues in the artwork, enhancing its overall impact.
  • Framing and Protection: Mat boards help keep the artwork from coming into direct contact with the glass or acrylic of the frame. This prevents the artwork from sticking to the glass due to humidity and safeguards it against potential damage or degradation over time.
  • Spacing: Mat boards create a gap between the artwork and the glass, preventing the art from getting pressed against the surface. This spacing allows for proper air circulation, reducing the risk of mould or other moisture-related issues.
  • Focus on the Art: A properly sized mat board can help centre the viewer’s focus on the artwork, creating a balanced and aesthetically pleasing presentation.
  • Customization: Mat boards can be cut in various sizes and shapes, allowing for creative customization. This is especially valuable for non-standard artworks or when trying to achieve a specific visual effect.

Preservation with Museum Boards

High-quality mat boards, especially those made from archival materials, protect artwork from environmental factors such as light, humidity, and pollutants. This preservation quality is essential for maintaining the longevity of valuable pieces. Conservation boards that are made from purified wood pulp core also known as alpha cellulose boards, have an acid-free surface that is bleed-resistant and highly fade. 100 % cotton boards or rags are specific museum boards made from short and long fibres and buffered for more longevity. They are more durable but not available in many colours since the agents must be acid-free, pure, and fade-resistant.

Should I Frame With or Without a Mat?

Any piece of art needs to ‘breathe’ in the frame. The mat allows expanding and contracting, serving as a layer of protection between the artwork or photograph and the glass. What’s even more amazing about mats is the way they make a picture stand out by adding dimension and depth, focusing the eye on the image. It’s a handy trick to make your piece look larger and more engaging. Fine art pieces like pastels, shiny photographs, or needlework not only look more attractive but will be protected from yellowing and damage over time. The only time picture frames look nice going all the way to the edges of the piece is when you have a larger painting or poster.

Final Word

Mat board frames are essential tools in the realm of art and photography. They serve as both practical protectors and aesthetic enhancers, allowing artists, photographers, and collectors to present their works in the best possible light. The diverse types of mat boards available cater to different artistic preferences and requirements, ensuring that each framing project can be customized to achieve the desired effect. Whether it’s a classic paper mat, a luxurious linen option, or an innovative metallic design, these boards contribute significantly to the visual impact and longevity of art and photography.