Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lesson 4: Mountin' Them Fine Pictures - Finding your Mat

So what is a mat? As I walked around the trade show floor, I heard vendors calling all kinds of different things a matted album. Technically they are all right because a matted album can be loosely defined as an album where the photographs within the album are surround by some type of frame. Problem is, there are many ways to create a frame around a picture that results in a variety of qualities. Translation? Costs passed onto you.

Starting with the basics, there are three parts of the matting process to be aware of:

1) the photograph - self explanatory
2) the page - or also known as the backing. This is what the photograph adhered to or in some cases, just literally a backing
3) the mat - the frame around the picture.

In this lesson, I'm going to focus on the types of mats you might find. Although mats all perform the same essential function - to frame the picture - there are many varieties of mats that an album binder can use. Here are some that I've seen:

The Cardstock Mat. This is a mat that is made of heavy cardstock. Album makers will use card stock as a more cost effective alternative to a heavier (thicker) mat. Not only is the mat itself less expensive but so is cutting the mat. No special blades are needed to cut card stock.

This example shows a card stock mat that has an embellished edge. The embellished edge sets off the picture better and is printed onto the card stock.

This is an example of how the cards tock and the page mount work together to set off the picture. The mat itself (in black) is made of a textured cardstock. The picture is mounted onto a gold colored page. Therefore, the picture is actually being framed by the negative space created by mounting the picture about 1/2 inch away from the mat. The gold colored page mount creates a border around the picture. This is also a cost effective alternative to traditional mats.

The Traditional Mat.
Most photograph mats are made of wood pulp, or in other words, thick paper. Although the thickness of mats may vary, most traditional mats are about 1/16th of an inch thick.

The traditional mat frames a picture, like this example. The map is beveled, or in other words, cut at a 45 degree angle, to give the photograph depth. Mats come in many colors, usually with a white or cream core. The core is the beveled part of the mat.

The Double Thick Mat.
A double thick mat is approximately 1/8th of an inch, roughly double that of an traditional mat. Occasionally, two traditional mats stacked together is also called a double thick mat.

This double thick mat really shows off the beveled edge and gives the photo even more depth.

This is an example of a double thick white mat with a black core. In this case, the mat itself is made from black paper. The top layer of the mat is covered in white paper. That is way when the album maker cuts into the paper, the mat core is black. Another way to make a colored core is to paint the core once it has been cut. This is much more time intensive and therefore, probably more costly.

The Double Mat.
The double mat is two mats stacked on top of each other. This gives more depth to the picture and provides you the option of mixing and matching colors. By choosing two different colored mats, you can create unique borders.

This example shows two mats stacked on top of each other, creating depth. If you choose a different color for the bottom mat, for example - black, then there would be two borders around the the picture -- the black created by the second mat and the white beveled edge of the second mat.

In essence, you can mix and match any combination to make beautifully matted albums. Depending on the type of mat you choose and the way the mats are mounted (next lesson!), you'll be able to better determine the quality and value of the album.

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