Selecting the Best Mat Size for Your Art Print

Thu, Feb 24, 2022

I started my print shop after searching for affordable, high-quality reproductions of vintage art for my home, and realizing the options available weren’t my style. The muted tone trend that’s so popular right now isn’t me. I like colors, character, uniqueness. So, through trial and error, I developed my own process of sourcing art, digitally enhancing it in Photoshop to make it print-ready, and experimenting with different papers and printing styles until I was completely happy.

Since I’m not a professional designer, I had to teach myself a lot of basics. A big question that kept popping up, especially as I’ve decided which print sizes to offer in my shop, is how do you figure out the right mat size for an art print?

Initially, I assumed the mat should have the same ratio as the print. So if the print is 5x7, the mat size would be 10x14 (double the length and width), or if the print is 8x10, the mat size could be 12x15 (1.5 times the length and width).

Turns out, it’s not ideal for the art and the mat board to have the same ratio of length x width. Take a look at what I mean:

Here’s our Mexican Vaquero print in 5x7, with a 10x14 mat added:

It doesn’t look right – the top and bottom are too thick compared with the sides. Instead of matching the ratio of the art and the mat, it looks much better if the top, sides, and bottom of the mat are all the same width.
Now here’s our Mexican Vaquero print in 5x7 with a 1.5 in mat added on all sides, for an overall mat size of 8x10. It looks much better, doesn’t it?
That’s the biggest rule of thumb when matting a print – add the same width to all sides of the print. Beyond that, it’s a personal choice whether to go with a skinny mat or a thick mat, relative to the art itself. Both have different effects.
But if you’re looking to take the guesswork out, here are suggested mat sizes for our standard art prints:
 Print Size Mat Width (Add to All Sides) Overall Frame Size Needed
5x7 in 1.5 in 8x10 in
8x10 in 2 in 12x14 in
9x12 in 2 in 13x16 in
16x20 in 3 in 22x26 in
18x24 in 4 in 26x32 in

Not all of these end up being standard sizes for framing, which makes framing a bit more expensive. That said, there are lots of frame shops online that will sell you a custom size frame, and you can pop in the artwork yourself. Doing it that way – buying a frame from a manufacturer and inserting the print yourself, versus having the art inserted into the frame by a frame shop – saves a lot of money.

Here are some more examples of each size:

8x10 Print with 12x14 Mat. This is our Reclining Tiger print, paired with a dark gray coordinating mat.

9x12 Print with 13x16 Mat. Our Portrait of Woman with Cactus print, with a darker, tan-colored mat.

16x20 Print with 13x16 Mat. Our California Foothills print, displayed with an off-white mat.

18x24 Print with 26x32 Mat. And last but not least, our L'Argent Theater Program print, with a neutral mat.

To buy a mat for your print, I recommend Etsy -- there are lots of shops selling mats in a variety of colors to your specifications.

Main image via MyDomaine / Laura Metzler Photography.

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