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Measuring for Mats

Whether you need a single or double mat, we’re pleased to offer custom mat cutting services for your special project. To help reduce confusion in the mat ordering process, we’ve come up with the following guidelines which we hope are helpful to you. If at any point you’d like to speak with a Customer Service representative, feel free to call us (Monday-Friday, 10:00AM-6:00PM EST) at 1-888-292-2323.

Please note that on our website and in our ordering system:

  1. The term landscape relates to width measurements or horizontal orientation.
  2. The term portrait relates to height measurements or vertical orientation.

Ordering a mat for your existing frame

Your mat size should be equal to your frame size. For example, if your frame has a 16x20 opening you need a 16x20 mat, it’s that simple. Another way to think about selecting your mat size is to ask yourself: what size piece of glass will I need? Your mat size will be the same as your glass size.

If you have a frame but aren’t sure what size it is, you can measure your frame very easily to determine how big your mat and glass will need to be. Just flip your frame over so that you’re looking at the back side and, with a ruler or tape, measure the width and height of the frame’s opening. If your opening measures 18” wide and 24” high, you need an 18x24 mat and 18x24 piece of glass.

Ordering a mat for a picture you have

To determine what size frame and mat you should get for a picture depends a number of things. These are a few guidelines:

Don't go with too small of a mat. Don't go with too small of a mat. Don't go with too small of a mat! Yes, we meant to say that three times! Depending on your picture size, a 2 - 3 inch mat (i.e. mat border on each side) is what we would consider a minimum mat but you can go bigger. A small mat will give the impression of cramping your picture, a larger one will open the image up and give it a bit more "breathing" room. We find that a good rule of thumb is whatever size you think your mat should be, add an inch!

If you are choosing a double mat, make the margins a little larger. If you have to go with a smaller mat and you want a double, make the inner mat reveal 1/8". An eighth inch inner mat is also good when you are using a strong color for the inner, it will give you a little zip without overwhelming the picture.

Whenever possible, make your mat margins the same all around.

For years mats have been weighted on the bottom. This practice started when pictures were hung higher then eye level. If the margins where the same all around, the bottom mat would look smaller due to an optical allusion. To remedy that, the bottom mat was made a little larger. These days pictures tend to be hung lower so it is not such an issue. However there is a trend to exaggerate the bottom margin on vertical pictures to give a piece a "gallery" look. This is a nice look but to pull it off you have to make the bottom margin significantly larger, by an inch or more. This does not work so well with horizontal pictures.

Picking out mat colors

If you need to go with a small mat, pick a color that will extend the background of your picture, or will blend in with the frame color. A strong, small mat will crowd the picture and your will see the mat first, then a picture inside.

Don't try to pull out a strong color that there is not a lot of in your picture. If you have a picture that is say mostly black and white, but there is a little touch of bright red in the middle, don't go with a bright red mat. It will overwhelm the red in the picture and the mat will be the most noticeable part.

If your are framing an older picture, make sure the mat is slightly duller then the picture. It will make the picture look brighter.

Bright color photos look best in Digital White or Black. It is always hard to find a color that doesn't look dull compared to the photograph.

When ordering a mat from our store...

Top Mat Color

Select your mat color. For a double mat, this is your top (or outer) mat - the one that is more visible.

Bottom Mat Color

This option only appears when ordering a double mat. This is your bottom (or inner) mat - the one that is less visible. This is the small band of color next to your artwork.


You can opt to receive just your mat, or you can choose to also receive regular or archival foamcore for use as backing behind your artwork in the frame. Foamcore is cut to the same dimensions as your mat.


Indicate whether your mat will be used in a portrait or landscape orientation. For example, pretend that you are ordering an 16x20” mat.

  1. If you want the 16” sides to be on the top and bottom, with the 20” sides on the left and right, you would select portrait orientation.
  2. If you want the 20” sides to to be on the top and bottom, with the 16” sides on the left and right, you would select landscape orientation.


This option only appears when ordering a double mat. This is where you tell us how much of the bottom mat you want to be visible between the top mat and your artwork. You may opt for the regular ¼” reveal, or you can select a thinner ⅛” reveal.

Opening Width & Height

This is where you tell us how wide and high to make the opening in your mat. When you specify the size for your mat opening you need to make it a little smaller than the artwork itself. We recommend that you overlap your artwork at least 1/4" on every side, meaning that 1/4” of your artwork will be hidden behind the mat in your finished product. To accomplish this, simply measure the width of your artwork and subtract ½” inch from that number in order to determine the appropriate width for your mat; do the same for the height. We will cut your opening to the exact measurement you specify.

As an example, if your artwork is exactly 8 x 10 and it is going into a 16 x 20 frame, then you would order a 16 x 20 mat with a 7 1/2 x 9 1/2 opening. We recommend making the mat a half inch smaller unless your image goes to the edge of the picture, then you could go 7 3/4 x 9 3/4. The more over lap you have on the mat, the easier it is to attach your picture.

Still a little unsure? Want some help?

Feel free to call us at 1-888-292-2323 for help over the phone, Monday through Friday from 10:00AM-6:00PM EST.