Mat Your Photos Like the Pros

Materials Needed:

  • Push Style Handheld Mat Cutter
  • Self-healing Mat
  • Mat Cutting Blades
  • Metal Ruler
  • Mat Boards
  • Acid free Framer’s Tape
  • Pencil


  1. Mat boards can be found at any arts and crafts store for $8 to $10 dollars each. Make sure the mat board is acid free to prevent yellowing and damage of photos. Mat boards come standard size 32" x 40." Cut the sheets down to the size of the frame you are using.
  2. Use the following formula to figure out the inner dimensions of the hole you will cut: Frame Measurements – Photo Measurements / 2 = Cut Dimension. For example, an 11 x 14 frame, minus an 8 x 10 photo: 11 x 14 _ 8 x 10 __________ 3 X 4 / 2 = 1 ½ X 2
  3. Measure in 1½ inches from each side, and 2 inches from the top and the bottom. Trace that with a pencil and you have your cut marks for the mat cutter.
  4. Always use a good sharp blade. The general rule is one blade one mat. The more mats you cut with the same blade, the duller the blade gets, the less exact the cut. Blades are very inexpensive, about $1 per blade. And you can flip the blade over to use the full blade.
  5. Lay the ruler down with equal pressure so it doesn’t slide. Mats are cut at an angle, or beveled. The blade sits at an angle within the handheld cutter. Be sure to over cut your line ⅛th of an inch so that each cut comes into the corner cleanly; you don’t want any hanging chads. Over cutting ensures that the corners are cut cleanly.
  6. Lower the blade into the mat. Slowly and evenly, pull the blade toward you, or away depending on what is comfortable to you. Whatever you do don’t go back over your cut; the sides won’t match and the lines won’t be clean. Practice on scrap board to get comfortable. Practice makes perfect. Once you’ve made your cuts, pop the center out of the board and you have your mat!
  7. Tape the photo to the back of the mat with Framer’s tape. You only need to tape the top of the photo. There’s less damage to the photo. Pictures will warp with the weather like anything else. If your photo is taped on all four sides, the warping can stretch the photo. And you don’t really need to tape more that in order to keep it in place.
  8. Be sure to use Framer’s Tape. They also call it Artist’s tape or Archival tape. What makes it special is the tape is acid free. With standard Scotch tape the acid in the adhesive will eat away at the photo, causing it to yellow and turn gummy. If it’s the only photo you have, or if it’s an old photo use acid free tape. If the photo isn’t special, you just printed it off your computer and you have that digital file, you may not care and Scotch tape works just fine. As a general rule anything that touches your photo needs to be acid free.
  9. Pop the mat with the photo into the frame and you are done!
Matte Your Photos Like the Pros

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