Some time ago, I wrote about the different kinds of glass one can use in picture framing. Today I would like to explain the differences in mat boards. Other than the myriad of colors one can choose, there are basic types of mat board; the first being, what is called in the industry, a paper mat.
Paper mats have been around for a long time. They have an acid free backing, but don’t let that fool you. They are not a preservation quality mat. While the backing paper may be acid free, the core of the mat is the problem. They are not acid free and also contain lignins. Lignins are the secondary cell walls that help give trees strength. They cause as much damage to the artwork as the acidity of the paper. They are less expensive than preservation quality mat boards but they will damage artwork over time. We do not carry paper mats here at Hazel Tree because they are more trouble than they are worth. You should feel the same way. Don’t ever let someone talk you into using a paper mat to save a few bucks. You will regret it down the road.
The next tier of mats is conservation mat board. They are made from wood pulp like the paper mats, but only high alpha cellulose pulp is used and it is treated with calcium carbonate to neutralize the acid. These mats will protect your artwork from damage for hundreds of years. They come in wide array of colors and are not that much more expensive than the dreaded paper mats. But, we can do better.
Next we have rag mats. These are constructed of a mix of short cotton fibers, called linters, and high alpha cellulose wood pulp. They also have a fairly wide spectrum of color choices. They are bit more expensive than the two aforementioned mats, but an affordable option for a little extra protection. But, once again, we can do better.
Last, and most definitely not least, we have museum mats. These are 100% cotton rag. They will not harm artwork in any way, ever. There is not a lot of color selection. They are mostly white, gray, black and some earth tones. The color of the core of the mat is the same as the top of the mat. If you are looking for the ultimate protection, this is your product.
In conclusion, you can’t really go wrong as far as mat choice (unless you choose a paper mat). The most important thing is to find the right mat to enhance the look of the artwork without overpowering it. That is what you friendly neighborhood custom framer is here to help with. A good one will lead you in the right direction so that you can make the right choices for your art, your décor and your budget.