This is a question I have heard repeatedly. It’s not just buyers who ask, surprisingly I have heard a number of artists ask the same thing. More often than not it is a new or emerging artist who wonders if they really need to mat their artwork.
The short answer: depending on the medium, yes!
Generally speaking most paintings do not need to have a mat and are not framed behind glass. Oil paintings and acrylic paintings need to “breathe” so if they are framed there won’t be a mat or glass.
If you work in watercolor, graphite, charcoal, pastels and colored pencil then you MUST have your work matted before placing it in a frame. You also need to be careful of the type of mat that you use. The cheap, flimsy cardboard mats that come with picture frames at the store are not acid free or archival. Your best bet is to go somewhere that frames artwork or an art store and purchase a mat in the size you need. I will purchase a nice frame i like at a regular store, then I pick up a mat at my local Dick Blick store. The mats I purchase are acid free, archival and not that expensive.
Why do I need a mat?
When artwork is placed in a frame and covered with glass, the artwork can become damaged. Normal humidity changes where the artwork is hung can cause the artwork to stick to the glass. Any movement could cause smudging or smearing of the artwork as well. Artwork done in graphite, charcoal, colored pencil and pastel are particularly at risk.
The mat acts as a spacer, keeping the artwork from directly touching the glass. It forms a nice barrier so your art doesn’t end up sticking to the glass. Take colored pencils, quite a few colored pencils are wax based. What happens to wax when it becomes warm? It melts. If you place a colored pencil piece in a frame with no mat the temperature alone could cause it to stick to the glass. There’s nothing worse than taking a piece of artwork out of a frame only to discover part of it has stuck to the glass and as you peel it off it ruins the whole thing!
So whether you created the artwork for yourself, are preparing it to sell or have purchased the artwork always make sure to mat it before putting it in a frame with glass! Protect what you’ve worked hard to create or purchased, you want it to be beautiful for years to come!
- Side note: You will also want to make sure to never hang your artwork in direct sunlight!
Until next time,