"Being an artist isn’t just a “right brain” activity---you must use ALL of your brain, body and spirit to create. When the creation is done, the whole is much more than the sum of its parts… and so is the creator." - Lyrae Perry

Matting Prints the Easy Way

Instruction on matting prints the down and dirty easy way! I’ve included pictures showing you what each step looks like along with detailed instructions on how you can mat your own prints for sale.

Tools Needed:


Paper cutter

Fine Silver Sharpie Pen – to sign your prints if needed

# 2 pencil and eraser

Metal ruler or metal T-square

Materials Needed:

Mats to fit your prints- acid free

Foam backing for mats – acid free

Mounting tape (aka Hinging tape) – 1-1/4” wide archival linen, self-adhesive

Clear protective bags to fit your matted prints

Certificates of Authenticity

Your business cards

Time to Complete:

This will depend on how many prints you plan on matting.  It takes me about an hour to mat and package 10 prints—so roughly six minutes per print. You’ll likely need to spend an hour preparing the workspace and setting things up so you can work efficiently.

Workspace Preparation

You’ll need a large flat workspace that’s super clean.  If you’ll be on tile or linoleum, clean the floors prior to the matting process.  If you’re going to be working on carpet, vacuum before matting the prints, and then dust your work table or counters using window cleaner, ammonia or vodka if you have trouble with the other two products.  Avoid soapy or oil cleaners or commercial dusting sprays.  These types of cleaners leave residue that will ruin your prints and dirty up the mats.

Paper and mats are very absorbent and while I know logically that paper is not supposed to be magnetic, I can tell you that my experience has been quite the opposite!  If there’s even one dirty,  goopy little thing anywhere in the room, the chances of it finding its way to the front of your pristine white mat or your print is an astronomical probability!

I like working on those large white plastic-top folding tables. The six-foot length is ideal.  And they clean up easily because very little sticks to the surface.  Kitchen counters and dining room tables are fine too, but no food or drink anywhere near the prints and mats…not even within splashing distance please!

Gather Tools & Materials:

Materials & Tools

If you’re going to use a paper-cutter to trim your prints, set it up on one end of your work table.  Put the rest of your tools at the other end of your table where you’ll be doing the actual matting.

Open your packs of mats and backing foam and leave them stacked on end, in the shipping boxes. They’ll be within easy reach and protected while you’re working. I generally leave these boxes on the floor and pull out what I need.

 Mounting Tape:

Mounting tape is the magic that safely holds the print in place behind the mat. I prefer archival linen, self adhesive tape, 1-1/4″ wide.  Prints can be mounted to the backing or to the mat with this tape and safely removed at any time.


You can pick the hard way or you can pick the easy way to mount your prints.  Below is a description of both methods.

The Hard Way:

If you mount the prints to the backing, you’ll need to measure and mark the backing precisely to correspond with the opening of the mat, so that you know exactly where your print should be placed.  This is where a ruler and T-square are crucial to identifying that place and aligning the print properly because there’s an edge around the print that doesn’t correspond to the mat opening or the backing…

Oh hell with it!

 I just spent an inordinate amount of time writing out the process and giving information on how to avoid the pitfalls of mounting a print to the backing foam.  I re-read it, and there were more words on what NOT to do than how to do it correctly.  I’d rather spend time providing helpful information, so I deleted everything except what’s above in italics.  I’m sure there’s someone out there that will be cringing and saying “this is the only correct, proper and official way to do it” and for them, that may be true. If so, bless you, and keep doin’ what you’re doin’.

However from my experience, mounting prints to the backing takes so much time and effort, that it’s just not worth it and it’s not worth it for me to tell you how to do it either.  Why would you want to waste your time reading about something you’re not going to be doing anyway?  Enough said, and let’s move on.


Preparation of Print and Alignment of Mat

  1. Place your backing on the table, lay your print on top of the backing, face up. No need to be perfectly centered at this point.
  2. Place a mat on the print to verify that they match for size on the inside dimensions. In most cases, there will be a small amount of print under the mat.  If your signature on the artwork can be included that’s great. If it’s partially obscured, you may want to move the mat to have it show, or if the overall mat placement is better, let your signature be covered completely. The alignment of the print under the mat is up to you.  I like to have the important elements of the painting showing, and to have balance in the space.  If that means my signature gets cut off under the mat, fine.  I’ll sign the print in fancy ink where it will show later.


Take mental note of where the mat needs to be placed on your print, using landmarks in your painting top, bottom, right  and left. Then take the mat off and set it aside, face up.

  1. Trim your print, leaving approximately 1/4″ to 1-1/2” border all the way around.  You can use a paper-cutter or scissors.  If using scissors, I recommend that you draw your border lines lightly in pencil and then cut.  Those lines are going to be under the mat and won’t show if your scissor work isn’t perfect.
  2. It’s best to have at least ¼ inch of the printed image under the mat.  You don’t want your print paper going all the way to the edge of the mat either. So plan on leaving one or more inches space from print paper edge to outside mat edge, depending on the size of your mat of course.
  3. If you need to sign your print, now is the time to do that.  I like using a fine point metallic silver Sharpie pen. Make sure you sign above the mat edge, and please don’t sign the print while the mat is in place.
  4. Next, we’re going to use the smooth surface of the backing to protect the delicate printed side while we’re working, so flip the print over on top of the backing, with the top of the print closest to you.


Mounting the print

From an archival perspective, it’s best to use the least amount of mounting tape possible to get the job done.  You are going to put mounting tape on the top edge of your print paper only.  I like to use 1-1/4” acid free mounting tape.

The other three sides will be loose and will lay flat on their own under the pressure of the mat.  Resist the natural urge to put any more tape on your print.  The paper naturally swells, buckles and shrinks according to the temperature and humidity of the environment.  The more tape you use the more obvious the changes will be,  because the paper is being held in too many places…and eventually the print  will sustain permanent damage.

Cut a length of the tape to fit the top edge of the print paper.   If your print mounting edge is less than 15 inches, you don’t need the full 1-1/4” width of the tape.

Cut tape to match measurement of top edge on print


I split the tape by cutting it in half lengthwise, giving me two 5/8” strips.  If you are mounting many pieces, cut as many mounting tapes as you need and set them aside.

Cutting mounting tape in half length-wise


A. To mount a print, grab a strip of mounting tape and peel the paper backing off of the adhesive linen strip.


B. Lightly place the mounting tape on the top edge of the back of your print, overlapping approximately ¼” of the tape.  Smooth it out where it touches the print paper only. You don’t want the tape to adhere to the backing.


C. Lift the print and flip it over, placing it roughly in the center of the backing. The sticky side of the tape will be facing you as will the printed image. If the tape is curling, gently adjust it to be as flat as possible.


D.  Carefully place the mat closely over your print, without touching it to the print or tape. Line it up based on your mental notes about where you want the mat to be. When you’re happy with the placement, gently set the mat down. If you’re happy with the placement at this point, press the mat down in the area of the tape edge.


E.  Gently lift the mat and turn it over. The print paper should be sticking just enough so that the print won’t fall off.  Run your finger along the entire surface of the tape to make sure it’s completely adhering to the mat and the print smoothly.


F.  Turn the matted print back over and align the edges with the backing, top side up to allow gravity to keep the print lying flat against the mat.  At this point you can place the matted print and backing in a clear bag, or you can attach the matted print to the backing so they are like one piece.


G.  Place the mounted print in the protective clear bag.  Before sealing the bag, put your Certificate of Authenticity facing out so it can be read when you turn the print package over. Be sure you include a business card behind the print too.  Seal the bag and put into the mat shipping box or other storage box.


H.  Repeat this process for all of your prints.

Hey…did you notice that we didn’t have to use a ruler, a T-square, and a pencil to do matting the easy way?  Isn’t that great?!


# 1 – When I have a lot of prints to mat, I don’t bag each one immediately after mounting the print.  To speed up the assembly line, I stack the matted prints with their backing mats until I have at least 20, and then I start the bagging process, inserting Certificates and business cards at that point.

# 2 – Bag the prints so that the flap is at the back.  It just looks prettier and more professional.

# 3 –  If you have to take a print out of the bag and re-insert in that same bag, fold the sticky edge backwards and roll it so it sticks to the outside of the bag.  Then slide your print back in the bag.  If you try to put the print back in the bag without doing this, the sticky edge will grab onto the face of your print and mat and wreck the surface of either or both and it may tear your bag too.

# 4 – Most of my buyers frame the prints themselves, and the print can easily get damaged when they take it out of the package if the mat is not attached to the backing.  I want to make it easy for my buyers, so I mount the mat to the backing with double-sided tape.  I put only 2 small pieces of tape on the back of the mat edge, avoiding the print paper completely.  Stand the print on end lining up the bottom edges, and carefully press the matted print to the backing.


When the buyer takes the one- piece matted print out of the bag to frame the print, it easily drops into a frame.    Most buyers will never re-mat a piece, so sticking the mat to the backing isn’t much of an issue.  Those buyers that want the print re-matted will take it to a professional framer to get the job done, and they know what to do to pull it apart and re-mat the print.

NOTE:  Double sided tape is not archival, but as long as it’s not touching the print, it’s not going to do a lot of damage.  If all the other materials are acid free, the print should last between 50-75 years or more.

# 5 – Choose mat outside dimensions according to standard frame sizes. Why? Your buyers will be grateful and you’ll increase your sales and your profit margin in the long run.  Standard size frames come in a larger variety of colors and designs and are the most economical to buy.  It’s good for you too because you can frame prints to hang in your booth with minimal fuss. Framed prints show buyers what a piece could look like in their home, and often they’ll buy the already framed piece over the matted print. Charge at least 50% more for the framed print above hard costs of materials and frame to cover your time in mounting the work.


Below are my favorite suppliers for matting materials. They sell quality products, carefully packaged and they ship just about anywhere. I’ve dealt with these companies for over ten years and enjoyed exceptional service.


Http://www.clearbags.com – clear bags for art prints and photos, mounting tape


Http://www.redimat.com  – mounting tape, double sided tape, mats, backing foam, clearbags


  1. I have photos that have been stored which have accumulated bugs between the plexiglass and photo mat. Is there some way to cover the entire back including the back of my metal put-to-gether frames to prevent this from happening. I have seen paper that was glued to wooded frames and don’t know just how to do this and what kind of paper will work on metal frames. Thank you for any info you might have.Lorraiane

    • Lyrae Perry says:

      Hi Lorraine!

      You can use double sided tape and add a dust cover to your pieces now, but it’s not going to stop eggs hatching that may have been laid inside the framed pieces. Your current photo environment will continue to be attractive to other bugs looking for a nice residence to take over. Many times, they go after “used homes” and eat the dead bugs and eggs, then lay their own! Eggs may have been laid in the matting — and certainly the smell will be there for others. While I don’t have great news for you, you do have a couple of choices in how to move forward…

      If you can get new photos made, that will be your best option.
      If these are the only copies of the photos, your best bet is to take the photos out of the frames and de-bug them. Carefully wrap your photos between paper towels and then put them on top of a thin layer of moth crystals in a shallow box with a lid. The idea is to kill any bugs or eggs, but not let the moth crystals touch the photo paper. Don’t over-do the moth crystals. A couple of 2-6 weeks should do it.

      Toss them out and get new mats cut for the new photos, or after the originals are de-bugged. They can’t be saved. They are too porous and will likely discolor.

      This is a nice opportunity for you to re-frame your photos to update the look or go with nice wood frames. It’s a well-kept secret, but you can get custom framing done at Michael’s with the least expensive frames when they are on sale for 60% + 20%, or the 70% coupon deal works too, and it’s a lot less hassle for you. The least expensive custom framing will be only marginally more expensive than buying ready-made frames and doing it yourself.

      Tip…stick with the regular glass, and yellow band frames. Michael’s always puts a dust cover on the back of all frames too.

      If you absolutely love the metal frames you have now, you can still use them, but they will need to be thoroughly washed and I’d pack them in a box with moth balls for 6 weeks to kill anything in the crevices. Again, don’t let the moth crystals touch the frames–it will ruin the finish. Put the moth crystals in a shallow box with a lid, put down a layer of paper towels over the crystals and set the frames on top of the paper towels. Eggs usually follow 6 week cycles, so if they are present, they’ll hatch and die in the mothball atmosphere.

      Dust covers:

      It’s a little trickier with metal frames in the areas where the hanging hardware is attached, and you may not get a complete seal around these two areas. This is why wooden frames are superior and easier to work with–because you can put the dust cover on and then attach the hanging hardware.

      If you do it all yourself, you’ll need to put the dust covers on. Use heavy brown paper, and double sided tape.

      Plexiglass: Plexiglass scratches and can turn cloudy unless cared for properly.

      Your Plexiglass will only need to be cleaned. Use a cleaner specifically for plexiglass–not ammonia or window cleaner. Also, use an old t-shirt or soft cloth, not paper towels.

      I hope this works for you….please let me know if you have any other questions I can answer, and I wish you all the best!

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