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How To Professionally Mat A Photo Yourself: Step By Step Guide

Updated on August 3, 2012

How To Mat a Photograph

Matting photos isn't a major task if you take the time to learn the techniques involved. You can save a lot of money, especially if you happen to be trying to get a photography business off the ground.

Having a photo professionally matted can cost you quite a bit of money, especially if you have it framed as well.

Keep in mind that if you're only matting one photo for home use or a gift, it probably will not be cost effective for you to purchase the supplies to do it yourself.

However, if like me, you're displaying your matted photos for sale, it's a lucrative way to cut costs by learning to do it yourself.

The process isn't hard. It's just important to do it correctly so that your finished product looks professional.

Photo Matting Supplies

  • Photo

  • Mat (color should coordinate with photo) - single or double mat

  • Mat board or foam board - 3/16ths

  • Heavy object such as a glass or picture weight

  • Framing tape - called hinging tape

  • Double sided sticky tape for framing

  • Clear sleeve preferably with a flap if selling

  • Stickers with logo for back of mat board if selling

  • All materials used in photo framing should be acid-free and archival quality

matting supplies
matting supplies

How to Mat a Photo

  • Select the photo.

  • Select a mat that brings out the colors in the photo.

  • Cut foam board or purchase to match size of the mat. So if you're using a mat that's 8 x 10 for instance, cut the foam board to 8 x 10 size.
  • Sometimes mats can differ so it's "best" to cut the foam board yourself with a sharp razor tool.
  • You can also purchase foam board with the mat in some frame stores on sale. Just make sure they match up - the mat isn't bigger than the board or vice versa.

  • Put picture on foam board and slip mat over the top of it. The trick here is to position the photo exactly where you want it inside the mat.
  • Note that it does not have to be perfectly straight - it will be under the mat! It just must be in the position you want it to be when the mat is finally in place.

  • Carefully remove the mat from atop the picture which is still on the foam board and put a weight on the picture to hold it in place. A heavy drinking glass works well or you can purchase a professional picture weight (or make your own).
  • Make sure the object is heavy and most importantly is clean so as not to damage the photograph.

  • Leaving the picture in place, tear off 2 pieces of the framer's tape to make your picture anchors. Make a double joint of the tape, so 1 piece sticks to the foam board and 1 piece sticks to the photograph.
  • Place this at the top of the photo only. Carefully slip it under the picture but do not move the picture (it is still anchored by the weight). See the video for how to make your double jointed tape.
  • If a large picture, you might want to affix 2 or 3 spots along the top of the picture. If a very small print such as a 4 x6 and you are making a 5 x 7, this method isn't necessary (see below).

  • Put on the double sided sticky tape in strips in a rectangle – leave glass or weight in place.

  • Peel off sticky tape – leave glass in place.

  • Place mat over the photo - press down on all sides. Remove glass or weight.

  • The picture is now ready for framing.
  • If you're going to be selling your matted photo, attach your logo label to the back of the foam board.
  • Slip the matted photo into a clear plastic sleeve with a flap and seal. This keeps the photo clean from the atmosphere especially if you do outside shows and also keeps the matting free of fingerprints.

Tips on Matting Photos

  • You only anchor the photograph to the foam board with your double tape joints at the top because you want the photograph to "hang" not bubble or ripple. With a large photograph, use several joints across the top of the photo (maybe 2 or 3).
  • Photo corners are recommended by some framers but they can again cause rippling or bubbling under the mat. They also have to be placed "just so" as in perfect for the picture to sit right under the mat.
  • When double matting, you would follow the procedure above and then repeat the process starting with the sticky tape rectangle and apply the second mat.
  • Make sure your sleeves are archival quality so that they will not damage the photos.
  • Save even more money by purchasing a mat cutter and cutting your own mats and foam board.
  • Look into textured mats and order a sample from an on-line framing supply company for some great effects like suede mats, etc. However, keep in mind that the price of the mat may be prohibitive in recouping that on the sale end of it. If you're doing a special project though or something for your own home, the sky's the limit when it comes to style and color.
  • Check out precut mats at reputable stores. I've gotten some good quality mats on sale both double and single from Michaels. There are many on-line sites that sell mats in bundles as well.
  • A great source for me has been local frame stores who have mats and foam board that you can purchase at a discount if you buy in bulk. I select mat colors based on the colors I know I generally have in my photos and match them up accordingly.
  • Make sure if you are selling your matted photos that you don't expose them to extremes of heat or cold as the glues can become unstable and either freeze or detach or run. I also take great care not to display my matted photos in direct sunlight or store them in sunlight.

How to Mat Small Photos

For 4 x 6 photos matted up to a 5 x 7 size, use sticky back adhesive squares to affix the photo to the foam board.

Use either sticky back tape (if there is enough room around the photo) or use more sticky back adhesive squares applied around the photo and then press the mat into place over the top.

Due to the small size of the photo, it's harder to use a weight but generally it's pretty easy to line up the photo due to the small size and get the mat on securely.

You do not use a double sided tape joint at the top of these photos because they are too small. Small size photo matting works with attaching all corners if you prefer to secure the photo in place but truly all that's needed is securing it in place at the top of the photo.

Frame your matted photo or ready it for display and sale.

Attach a logo label if desired to the back of these photos and slip into a clear sleeve preferably with a flap and voila - you have a matted small photo.

Matting Sizes

Size Photo
Mat Size
Ready to Frame Size
4 x 6
5 x 7
5 x 7 matted photo
5 x 7
8 x 10
8 x 10 matted photo
8 x 10
11 x 14
11 x 14 matted photo
11 x 14
16 x 20
16 x 20 matted photo
16 x 20
24 x 30
24 x 30 matted photo

These are standard sizes – you can pop them into a standard frame and be good to go

Other sizes would require a special cut mat and specialized frame


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    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Lela - Isn't it amazing what the rest of the world looks like? My dream life? Give up the house and all the stuff in it....take my favorite guy and my mals in a motorhome and just travel around, shoot stuff (with a camera of course), write, do some transcription, teach some transcription, stop in for some swim aerobics every day - life would be s-w-e-e-t! There are so many fantastic places to see in our country and I only wish I had the time to see them all~~~ I've never been to Texas and it is on my bucket list~ OMG - my mals are panting twice as hard already....

      Angelo - Nice to meet you - thanks so much for stopping by and it is an easy process to learn~

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Interesting article on using mats to frame photos.

    • Austinstar profile image


      8 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

      I like your website - I had no idea central Oregon looked like that. Of course I love the mals. If I were decorating a home, I would love to have some of your framed prints. Amazing!

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Hey cactus - thanks for dropping by~

      Thanks, Writer 20 - glad you liked.

      Hi Virginia - bummer - that's what I need now - the mat cutter. Since we are doing them professionally, it makes more sense~ I love the colors too though I see a lot of photographers with very "basic" mats. Somehow I just get pulled in by all the colors - and textures! Thanks for the pin~~

      BJ - you are too busy to be messing around with mats~ I only do it because Bob needs my help in this one avenue. He seems to be all thumbs when it comes to matting photos - or so he claims. He gets out rulers and the "fun" begins. He is too meticulous I think to do it as you have to be able to "adjust" and make the mat accent the picture not the other way around....or so my little old lady self thinks. Anyhow - thanks for stopping in.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      You certainly covered the waterfront on mat making, Audrey. Thank you for the easy to understand instructions and clear how-to-do-it photos. Some day I may even try this myself thanks to your engrossing, encompassing tutorial.

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 

      8 years ago from United States

      Thank you so much for these wonderful step by step photos. I've been looking forward to this Hub! I actually have a mat cutter I've never used that I got as a gift--and a bunch of photos I've been meaning to mount. Now I know how. Pinned, voted up and useful!

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 

      8 years ago from Southern Nevada

      Marvelous hub now I know how to frame a photo well, thank you.

      Voted up, useful and interesting, Joyce.

    • cactusbythesea profile image


      8 years ago from Seattle

      Nice hub with easy explanations and quality pictures. Thanks for sharing this!

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Good deal chin chin - thanks for stopping by~

    • Chin chin profile image

      Chin chin 

      8 years ago from Philippines

      Like so much this step by step tutorial. After moving, I found that I have so many pictures I want to frame. Now, I can do-it-myself. Thanks.

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Hi Lela~ I wish I had a gallery but I'm in one - small one here in Prineville. We do have a website yes and Bob and I both take photos and sell them. We started out with photo greeting cards this year and have moved on to framed photos and also matted photos. It's fun and something Bob has always wanted to do.

      We even forget who took what photo most of the time....though I try to remember which are mine just because it doesn't come as "second" nature to me and I've only been taking pictures for the past couple years whereas Bob has always been the photo guy in the family.

      You can see some of our photos on Facebook - Central Oregon Photos or - I need someone to revamp my website though as I simply do not have any time left these days - gosh I wonder why~~~

      Thanks for stopping by Lela - and I believe that photo was mine~~~and the top one is too of Smith Rock..... Not that I'm paying attention mind you....we just drove down to Crater Lake last week and got the most awesome pictures. I want to go back!

    • Austinstar profile image


      8 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

      Thank you for the great instructions and photos! Bonus video too! That is a lovely photo you are framing. Do you sell your photos online? or do you have a gallery?

    • akirchner profile imageAUTHOR

      Audrey Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Washington

      Thanks Dexter~ Glad you liked. It seemed to take me forever to do this one~

      Sharilee - Thanks for stopping by - glad you liked too. Good deal on the format - I wondered how to do it!

      Vocalcoach - Thanks for the kudos as well.

    • Dexter Yarbrough profile image

      Dexter Yarbrough 

      8 years ago from United States

      Great hub! The instructions and photos are outstanding. Very helpful!

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 

      8 years ago from Canada

      Wow, akirchner, this is such a beautiful hub! I love your use of full size photos. It is easy to read and so well laid out. I will definitely keep this hub in mind for the next time I need to mat a photo. Thanks for sharing your expertise. Voted all the ups but funny.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      8 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      This is a fantastic hub on teaching mat making. I've always wanted to know how to do this. Very well done and voting up, useful, interesting.


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