Sunday, April 15, 2012

DIY: Frame Mat cutting

At the Andrew Bird concert I went to a couple of weekends ago, I picked up this awesome art print made for the show date.  

 Since I want to get this baby hung, I thought I would share how to cut your own frame mats at the same time.  This is a skill I picked up after paying out too much $$ for Michaels to cut mats for my own art back in the day.  I quickly realize it was SO much cheaper to do myself, and rather easy.

With my print in hand I make a quick trip to the local Michaels and headed straight for the framing section (I try to put blinders on or I will buy art stuff…and lots of it.  I can’t seem to help myself it is the artist in me). 

 I flipped through the mat corners on the counter which are usually arranged by color. 
Now it is great to work with something that has lots of color so you have multiple options, because not all mats are available for straight sale.  Some certain colors or textures can only be ordered if they cut the mat for you, which is too expensive.  It can be 50+ bucks for one mat and generally a whole sheet is under 15 dollars (plus a whole sheet can be used for multiple mats).   I quickly decide to go with a light teal shade, which complements my print. 

TIP: Always look your mat over before you purchase!  At times I have seen smudges or bend corners…and depending on what I needed it for…I may have purchased it with those flaws…BUT! Always asked and received a discount off the price because of the imperfections.

I’m sure 95% of people don’t have a mat cutter, but if you think you will cut more than a few mats it is worth it.  I have an inexpensive one and have used it for the past 8-9 years and will continue to use for years to come.  The only thing I have to do is occasionally change the blade. (I think I have changed it once.)  I priced them at Michaels when I picked up my board, the one I have was available for 30 dollars, but there was a cheaper option as well..

Now I’m ready to do the actually cutting so I gather everything I need which include:
·         Pencil (Use a pencil NOT a pen.  There is the potential to smear ink everywhere.)
·         Push style Mat cutter
·         Longest ruler I have
·         Mat Board
·         couple sheets of foam board

Step 1: Planning and deciding on the measurements of your mat
When it comes to deciding how wide you want to make the mat around the picture, there are a few things you might want to think of first.  The outside size of your mat will be the size of frame you need. So if you want to use some of the precut frames, or frames lengths available
(i.e. buying two sets to make a frame, an 18” length plus a 40”length will give you a 18” x 40” frame that you just screw together in the corners using the hardware provided) then factor this in when measuring.  I personally order custom frames from a woodworker on Etsy, because I can get them made out of birch to match my Heywood Wakefield items. (He does excellent work if anyone wants the name!)

  Step 2: Measuring and drawing the frame on the BACK of the board
I also will quickly shade the void that will be cut out so I don’t get confused while cutting (It has happened!)

Step 3: Cutting
The first thing I do is put my piece of foam board on the floor, and then place the mat on top face down. (I do all my cuts on the floor, instead of my table.  I use the foam board so that the razor will have something to sink into once it has cut through the mat and I use the floor because when I think about cutting stuff on my Heywood Wakefield Triple Wishbone dining table I get hives!)

Foam Board...kinda smalls so used two.  
The foldout presentation boards are perfect but couldn't find one.
TIP: I save on cutting by using the corner of the board for two of my sides when I measure out my frame. This time I was extra lucky and was able to use three sides.  Cha-ching!

Now comes the cutting.  Always cut around the outside of the void from the inside  The cutter cuts at a 45 degree angle so you want the angle to be in the right direction. 

This type of cutter is pushed so I place my ruler along the cut line, line up the white line on the cutter a LITTLE below the bottom end line. 

Once I’m ready to cut I push the razor button on the cutter which sinks the blade in (remember to push it ALL the way down.) then push the cutter while holding the blade down straight along the ruler until the white line passes a LITTLE above the top cut line.  Release the button so the blade slides back and rotate the board and make the other three cuts. 

TIP: I usually cut a line from a kneeling position so I can put a good bit of body weight on the ruler to keep it from sliding as I push against it with the cutter. 

Viola! The finished product! 

  What I like about this is that sometimes wall art can be inexpensive.  You can do a lot cool stuff without spending lots and lots of money.  One of my favorite set of wall hangings are my Elvgren pinups.  

These images are from a 365 day calendar that I bought for 8 dollars.  It worked great since the images are roughly about the same size.   I could easily figure out what arrangement I wanted to do. All I had to was pick my favorites, which was actually more difficult that cutting the mat (although the annoying part was measuring it all out to cut).


  1. Thank You! I've got a ton of things I want to mat & frame, but didn't have a clue how. This post is so helpful!

  2. Great tutorial! I didn't know about the small mat cutters.

    1. Thanks! Yeah they are really handy and easy to tuck away.

  3. your print turned out great! I'm definately going to try this, and doing it yourself lets you also change the look as your decor changes. thanks for all the info

  4. Can I find out from you who makes the frames (the Etsy woodworker?)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...