How to Cut a Mat for Art

Learn how to cut your own mat for framed artwork. With our simple steps and video, you can watch and see how to measure, cut, and install a mat in no time. Elevate your art and save money with our four easy steps!

Skip the mat cutting counter and make your own mat for framed artwork. Watch and see how to measure, cut, and install a simple mat.

Artwork and frames come in a variety of sizes, so a mat is often necessary to make the two seamlessly fit together. Or maybe you want to swap out the art in an old frame for something new, but it's a different shape. A larger frame for a small piece can add drama by making the art seem bigger and drawing attention to it. Professional framing can be costly, so we'll show you how to cut a mat yourself. You'll soon be hanging up your DIY wall decor!

What You'll Need

  • Frame
  • Art
  • Matboard
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Utility knife
  • Straightedge
  • Artists tape

Step 1: Cut the Matboard

Use your frame as a guide to measure the size of your new mat. If there is an insert (or back piece) that fits into the frame, use that to measure the outside edges. Trace around it on the back of a piece of matboard, then cut to size to fit into your picture frame. 

Step 2: Find the Center

Find the center of your new matboard by measuring each of the four edges with a ruler, making a small tick mark to indicate the halfway point on each side. Use the marks and a straightedge to help you draw two lines across the back of the board, one horizontal and one vertical. Where they intersect is the center.

Step 3: Cut the Artwork Window

Measure the artwork you want to mat. On the matboard, mark where you need to cut by measuring out from the center point you found earlier. For example, if you had a piece that was 4x6 inches, you would mark at 2 and 3 inches on either side of the center line, respectively. It may also be helpful to make your cut measurements 1/4 inch smaller than the actual size of the picture. Run the utility knife along a straightedge to aid you in making precise cuts.

Step 4: Secure the Art in the Frame

To frame the picture, use artists tape to tape the artwork to the back of the matboard. Start with just one piece of tape along one edge. Flip the mat over to make sure the art is centered before taping down the rest. If the new mat is too thin and doesn't sit level with the front of the frame, frame the old mat against the back or insert another piece of matboard to pad it.

Note: Artists tape is low-adhesive, so it can be peeled off again without damaging the paper. Other types of tape may be difficult to remove from the mat if you want to move the artwork to another frame later.

Art Projects to Frame

Need something to frame now that you've mastered the art of matting? Try one of these projects, then make it look store-bought with your custom mat skills.

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