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Mat Cutting: How To Custom Decorative and Specialty Cut Mats

Updated on December 3, 2014

4 Ways To Custom Cut Decorative Mat For Picture Framing

This is for those do-it-yourselfers who like cutting their own mats and doing their own picture framing. Whether it's because you want to save a little money or rather that you like to have your hands on a project from beginning to end, learning how to cut your own decorative mats is easy and fun.

I have selected my 4 most popular and oft requested specialty cuts that we get in our frameshop and have created this how-to to show you how simple it really is. Specialty Decorative matting is much easier to cut using a table-top matcutter as opposed to a hand cutter but can indeed be done on either type of cutter.

The Decorative Specialty Cut Mats are listed in the order of difficulty. So the easiest mats are first.

The 4 Decorative Specialty Cut Mats You'll Learn To Cut Are:

Single Step

Double Step

Diamond Corner

V-groove

Also Found On This Page

Tips For Selecting A Mat Cutter

Picture Framing & Mat Cutting Terminology

copyright protected by copyscape
copyright protected by copyscape

All copyrights are retained by the artist,

Mona Majorowicz of Wild Faces Gallery.

The artwork or content in this lens may not be used or reproduced, either

in part or in whole, without the express written consent from the artist.

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For Cutting Specialty Decorative Mats You'll Need A Good All Purpose Matcutter

Professional Picture Framing Mat Cutting Supplies & Tools

Note:While you can do most of the decorative specialty cuts I've shown here with a hand-held mat cutter, it does greatly increase the difficulty of success with them.

Logan is a great economy brand of mat cutter and is the first mat cutter than I purchased for myself. A good professional grade mat cutter run in the thousands of dollars. But the Logan mat cutter did the job for me for decades and cost less. I upgraded when I opened my own gallery and frame shop.

For more information visit the Logan Graphic Productions Website

Tip: If you plan on doing any quantity of DIY framing I would strongly suggest investing in a table top mat cutter over a hand held. The extra money it costs will be earned back in mats that get cut right the first time. Not only in the time saved but also the matboard that gets wasted by mats that didn't cut well and had to be thrown away.

Single Step Custom Cut Mat

How To Cut The Single Step Decorative Mat - How To Professionally Cut Decorative Custom Mats

Single Step Mat - photo by Mona Majorowicz
Single Step Mat - photo by Mona Majorowicz

Steps For Cutting The Single Step Decorative Mat

How To Professionally Cut Decorative Custom Mats

Steps For Cutting The Single Step Mat

* Mark your first stop line (the Black line in the illustration below) in pencil on the back of the mat. In this case it's 1 1/2 inches.

* Mark your second stop line 1/4 inches from the first. (The Red Line in the illustration below) So in this example you'd mark it at 1 3/4.

* While the mat is set in this position in your cutter Cut from the 1 1/2 stop line (The Red Line ) from top to bottom. At this point a center fallout piece will actually fall out.

* Once all four sides are cut reset stops to the 1 1/2 and cut from the the 1 3/4 line to the bottom.

Single Step Cut Mat From The Back - How To Professionally Cut Decorative Custom Mats: Illustrated to make your mat cutting easier.

Single Step Mat (from the back) - photo by Mona Majorowicz
Single Step Mat (from the back) - photo by Mona Majorowicz

The Double Step Mat

How To Cut A Double Step Decorative Specialty Cut Mat - How To Professionally Cut Decorative Custom Mats

Double Step Mat  - photo by Mona Majorowicz
Double Step Mat - photo by Mona Majorowicz

Steps For Cutting A Double Step Corner Decorative Specialty Cut Mat

How To Professionally Cut Decorative Custom Mats

So for this mat you do the same first two steps as you'd do for the Single Step Mat

* Mark your first stop line in pencil on the back of the mat. In this case it's 1 1/2 inches.(The Black Line)

* Mark your second stop line 1/4 inches from the first. So mark it at 1 3/4. (The Red Line)

And Then You

* Move stops again to the 2 inch and mark your stop lines in pencil.(The Green Line)

* While mat is set in this position Cut from the 1 1/2 stop line from top to bottom on all four sides. (The Green Line) At this point a center fallout piece will actually fall out.

* Reset stops to the to 1 3/4 inches and cut from the 1 3/4 top to bottom on all four sides. (The Red Line)This should result in little bars of matboard falling out.

*Reset stops to the 1 1/2 and cut from the the 1 3/4 line to the bottom.(The Black Line)

Note: The colored lines on the mat cutting illustration below indicate the start and stop points for cutting that particular line. As you can see the lines drawn in pencil run the complete length of the opening cut lines. This is important for figuring out exactly where you are in regards to the mat

The Custom Cut Double Step Mat From The Back - How To Professionally Cut Decorative Custom Mats: Illustrated to make your mat cutting easier.

Double Step Mat (from the back) - photo by Mona Majorowicz
Double Step Mat (from the back) - photo by Mona Majorowicz

The Diamond Corner Cut Mat

Diamond Corner - How To Professionally Cut Decorative Custom Mats

Diamond Corner Cut  Mat - photo by Mona Majorowicz
Diamond Corner Cut Mat - photo by Mona Majorowicz
Mat Cutting: The Finished Diamond Corner Mat
Mat Cutting: The Finished Diamond Corner Mat

How To Cut A Diamond Corner Decorative Specialty Cut Mat

How To Professionally Cut Decorative Custom Mats

So for this mat you do the same first two steps as you'd do for the Single Step Mat

* Mark your first stop line in pencil on the back of the mat. In this case it's 1 1/2 inches.(The Black Line)

* Mark your second stop line 1/2 inches from the first. So mark it at 2.(The Green Line)

* Move stops again to the 2 1/2 inch and mark your stop lines in pencil. (shown here in short stroke pencil lines)

And Then You

* Draw a diagonal line through the outer boxes as shown by (The Red Line )in the below illustration.

Note: The trickiest part of cutting This mat is being sure you get your bevels pointing in the right direction.

* Cut your diagonal line. (The Red Line)

Mat cutting - photo by Mona Majorowicz
Mat cutting - photo by Mona Majorowicz

*Then Cut the 2 inch line (The Green Line)making sure that your bevel is facing the correct direction.

Note: See layout in photo left to understand where your cutting head should be.(I have included a large photo at the very bottom of the lens for a better view of the mat cutter placement)

* Then Cut Your 1 1/2 inch line (The Black Line) being careful to stop and start your cut lines correctly. After going through all this work you certainly don't want to cut of a point now.

Note: The colored lines on the mat cutting illustration below indicate the start and stop points for cutting that particular line. As you can see the lines drawn in pencil run the complete length of the opening cut lines. This is important for figuring out exactly where you are in regards to the mat

The Backside Of The Diamond Corner Specialty Cut Mat - How To Professionally Cut Decorative Custom Mats: Illustrated to make your mat cutting easier.

Cutting A Doamond Corner Mat
Cutting A Doamond Corner Mat

Don't Be Afraid To Try Cutting This Mat, It's Not Nearly As Complicated As It Looks.

Okay I know this looks complicated but it really is just a slight variation from the two step cut.

The V-groove Custom Cut Mat

Mat Cutting: How To Cut The V-groove Specialty Cut Mat - How To Professionally Cut Decorative Custom Mats

V-groove - photo by Mona Majorowicz
V-groove - photo by Mona Majorowicz

Note: It's called a V-groove because the cuts needed to create the white line form a V shape trough in the matting.

Mat Cutting: The Finished V-groove Mat
Mat Cutting: The Finished V-groove Mat

Steps For Cutting The V-groove Decorative Specialty Cut Mat

How To Professionally Cut Decorative Custom Mats

Steps For Cutting The V-groove Specialty Cut Mat

* Mark your center opening cut line. For this example it's at 1 1/2 inches. DO NOT CUT.

Note: By marking the center opening first it's easier to visualize your v-roove placement.

*Mark your v-groove line at 1 inch. Indicated here by the The Red Line

Note: A good rule of thumb is having your v-groove approximately 1/3 of the total width of your mat. Of course you can make it closer or farther from that distance as your personal preference.

* Create a strike through line for orientation when reassembling the mat. Just draw a line that intersects your v-groove. Anywhere on the mat is fine. It's only for a point of reference.

*Cut mat at the 1 inch opening.

*Adjust you mat cutter to have a Zero margin cut. (Example being if you want a 1" mat you set the stop at 1" So For This You Set it at Zero)

* Take The V-groove fallout piece and place it face up in the cutter (see example below)

Note: If you place a scrap piece of matboard in cutter butted against and above the V-groove blank (see blue mat in the illustration below) it will allow for a perfectly straight V-groove. You begin your cut stroke in the scrap mat and it adjust for the drag so by the time you are cutting the actual v-groove piece it is in perfect alignment. You may have hooked corners without it.

V-groove Demostration - photo by Mona Majorowicz
V-groove Demostration - photo by Mona Majorowicz

* Begin cutting by starting in the blank (about 1/2 inch in is adequate) and pulling downward in a single smooth stroke. This should produce a thin triangle shape sliver to be thrown away.

* Turn both the blank and the V-groove Fallout and repeat until all 4 sides are cut.

* Lineup the cut matboard with the fallout using the hash marks and tape into place using an acid free tape.

Note: By using the strike-through or hash marks you can line up your v-groove perfectly. It your board is even slightly off-square the centerpiece won't look flawless and so by lining it up you create a flawless looking mat even if it's not perfectly square.

*Return it to the matcutter and cut the final opening.

The Backside Of The V-groove Specialty Cut Mat - How To Professionally Cut Decorative Custom Mats: Illustrated to make your mat cutting easier.

V-groove (from the back) - photo by Mona Majorowicz
V-groove (from the back) - photo by Mona Majorowicz

Professional Picture Framing Mat Cutting Tools & Supplies

V-Grooving Tool - Professional Picture Framing Mat Cutting Supplies & Tools

I have not actually tried any kind of V-grooving tool so I've no real experience to say whether this is far superior to the methods I showed you above. However I would think if you plan on doing large quantities of V-groove cuts it would be wise to invest in a tool specifically designed for the job.

Use Acid Free White Tape To Bind Your V-groove - Professional Picture Framing Mat Cutting Supplies & Tools

Whenever I am doing any sort of picture framing or mat cutting I always use all acid free products. This ensure not only that the matting stays clean and white but so does the artwork being framed.

What To Look For When Selecting A Mat Cutter

Professional Picture Framing Mat Cutting Supplies & Tools

Here's a short list of a few of things that I use most of on my mat cutter. Again not all of these things are necessary but if you plan on doing any great quantity of mat cutting this will make it so much easier and saves time to boot.

* Squaring Arm

* Fixed cutter head on a rail

* Both angled blade and straight blade on the head

* Preferably metal base

* Can cut a 40 inch mat. This is the standard length for both matboard and foamcore. While it is rare to cut a mat this long you will be cutting your blanks from this size sheet.

Since I don't use stops they are not something I look for.

Professional Grade Picture Framing Mat Cutters

Fletcher Terry

C&H

Note: I have used all three brands of mat cutters mentioned on this page, Fletcher Terry, Logan and C&H. Of Them I liked C&H the least though it is considered a very high-end high quality cutter. Logan was a good cutter that I used for a very long time and it did the job adequately. By far my favorite is my Fletcher 2100 though. It does everything that I want it to and has held up admirably over the decades.

The Complete Guide to basic Mat Cutting

Picture Framing & Mat Cutting Terminology

Picture Framing & Mat Cutting Terminology

ATG - Adhesive Transfer Tape - The professional framers double sided tape.

Blank - An uncut piece of matboard

Double Mat - Where two mats are cut for one item. Usually the inner mat is cut at 1/4 inch.

Fall-out - The left over piece of mat board from the center of the previously cut mat.

Foamboard (also Foamcore and Foam Board) - The backer board used in framing. It predominantly comes in 1/8 inch thickness and 3/16 inch thickness. It also comes in regular, acid free, black and gator styles.

Mat Cutter - Either hand held or table top cutter with a fixed blade used for cutting mats.

Mat Board - A dense board usually comprised of 8 white papers bound together. The top most layer is the colored portion that you see.

Over-cut when the blade go past the stop line.

Stops Setting on the table-top mat cutter than can be set for setting the places for you to start and stop a cut line.

Stop LinesThe lines drawn on the back of the matboard indicating your pace to start and stop the cut of the mat.

Squaring Arm - The extension on the mat cutter which allows you cut cut mat board blanks with ease.

Undercut Starting or stopping the mat board cut line just short of the stops.

V-Groove A specialty cut where there is a trough cut into the mat in the shape of a V in order to create a white line for decorative purposes.

Mona Majorowicz demonstrating technique at a gallery reception.
Mona Majorowicz demonstrating technique at a gallery reception.

About The Author Custom Cutting Decorative Mats

Mona Majorowicz of Wild Faces Gallery

My name is Mona Majorowicz I am a professional artist who has been making my living selling my work for some time now. I am an animal artist, (meaning I paint critters) who works primarily in Oil Pastel or Water Soluble Pencil.

I own and operate Wild Faces Gallery with my husband Mike in a small rural town in Iowa. There we sell my original artwork and prints, as well as do quality custom framing and offer Giclee printing for other artists as well as for ourselves. I have over 20 years in ate art and framing industry both as a business owner and as a working artist.

I maintain a blog called Fur In The Paint, as well as write a regular column for the equestrian magazine Apples 'N Oats about painting horses.

Animals are my passion and art is how I chose to express it.

Diamond In Cutter

Diamond Corner Cut  Mat - photo by Mona Majorowicz
Diamond Corner Cut Mat - photo by Mona Majorowicz

I'd Love To Hear From You - Custom Decorative Mat Cutting Table Of Contents

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    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 4 years ago

      What great directions. I think I could do this.

    • WildFacesGallery profile image
      Author

      Mona 4 years ago from Iowa

      @anonymous: I have never used a v-groove cutter. I've done all of my v-groove cuts using my tabletop cutter as shown in the photos above. I also don't use stop settings for most specialty cuts. Stops tend to "over cut" the ends and I strive for as little to no over cut as possible. That's why in the photo illustrations above everything is marked out in pencil lines and I start and stop with those. Pencil is a pain to erase but being an old person myself this method works for me so why change it. :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I have a Logan 850 mat cutter and a Logan 706 V Groove cutter, the trouble is how do you set the bottom stop? You can not use the zero because it is to far back, so where do you start? Or being an old person am I missing something?

    • Gayle Dowell profile image

      Gayle Dowell 5 years ago from Kansas

      I do my own framing, but cutting mats I have not tried. Thanks for the information.

    • chezchazz profile image

      Chazz 6 years ago from New York

      Just so happens I have to cut a mat later today. This will be a huge help. Thank you.

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 6 years ago from UK

      Woah! It might seem easy with years of experience but after the first technique I staretd sweating. I ting I will be sticking to the basics for a while yet. Or at least until I have some better equipment. THanks for the lens and for a very etailed and informative rundown.

    • profile image

      CreativeMind2011 6 years ago

      Great lense! nice of you to post a very detailed instruction for creating a custom mat board for your readers/visitors to learn. Keep it up!

      ***** stars

    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 6 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      It always amazes me how much Micheal's charges for something that is so easy to do if you have the right equipment. It's obscene. Great how-to!

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 6 years ago from Central Florida

      Must rush off and email this link to my friend who's matting up some watercolors this week.

    • profile image

      SofiaMann 6 years ago

      Thank you for teaching how to make these frames. Nice lens.