The next step in matting and framing your photographs is to determine the size of the mat and the size of the window that you're going to cut in that mat to display the artwork. In this case, for the student work, in order to be a unifying factor in the exhibition we decided to take all the smaller works on paper and mat them in 11x14 mats. There are all mostly a round letter size and there will be some variation in the size of the windows, but the consistent mat size will lend a nice rhythm when we start to hang the exhibition.
So with that in mind we need to first measure the work in order to determine how large a window it's going to be. We'll take a straight edge, and in this case, if you look at the straight edge the first inch starts with a mark that in set slightly from end of the ruler this makes this ruler inherently more accurate than one were the first inch starts the beginning of the metal edge. If you do have a ruler that starts at the first leading edge of the metal always burn an inch in your measurements that will be more accurate. The other part of its ruler that's important is its backed with a soft foam, this foam backing allows us to place the ruler directly over the photograph without causing it any damage.
Another aesthetic we need to consider in choosing the size of the window is whether or not we want to expose any of the white paper around the edge of the actual image. Sometimes you will cut a mat to overlap that edge, sometimes you'll expose that edge. There is no tried and true aesthetic for determining whether you want to expose the white or not. But in this case, since the edges are so clean, and we also have works that will be in this exhibition where the edges become sort of decorative parts of the work. For consistency's sake we're going to go ahead and expose the edge, another way you can determine whether or not you like it is just to take a corner sample of matboard and lay it directly on the work.
And you can see here if I expose about an 1/8 of an inch we get that nice, crisp white line around the work, where if we cover it we kind of lose that little extra dimension we're gaining. So I want to go a head ahead and measure the window to expose an 1/8 of an inch of the white around the image. So in order to do that I'll take my ruler, and I will place it on the edge burning an 1/8 of an inch for the gap, and I'll measure over here. So again, the horizontal dimension we want our window to be 10 & 1/4 inches wide, its good right these things down so you get the math right.
Then I'll go in the other direction, and once again an 1/8 of an inch, and that gives me 6 & 1/2 inches in that dimension. So the next step we're going in an 11x14 mat, so I will subtract 10 & 1/4 from 14, and that leaves me 3 & 3/4 inches and then I'll subtract 6 & 1/2 from 11, and that leaves me 4 & 1/2 inches. Then we will divide those by two to determine the width of the legs on each side of the mat.
The one problem we have here is we have got 3 & 3/4 divided by 2 equals 1 & 7/8, and 4 & 1/2 divided by 2 equals 2 & 1/4. If we cut the legs that way the mat, the appearance of the mat is going to not be as attractive as if we make three of the legs match in dimension and leave a slightly wider leg on the bottom. This technique is called bottom waiting, and it serves as a nice visual aid to the ground the work for the viewer.
It really help stabilize the lower edge of the work of art and helps the viewer understand top and bottom, it seems a little bit more stable on the wall when it's hung. The way I like to do that is made for free sides match so we'll take the 4 & 1/2-inch dimension and subtract 1 & 7/8 from that, and that leaves us a dimension of 2 & 5/8 inches for the bottom of the mat. So now we have the dimensions that we want to use for the mat. So let's set the work aside and cut the matboard down to size first and then we will cut the window for the artwork.
Matboard comes in a standard size of 32x40 inches, here is a full sheet of board, and you need to think a little bit before you cut the board down the size. If we do it properly we will be able to get six 11x14 mats out of this one 32x40 board. I'm going to start out making a cut in the 11-inch dimension out of the 40-inch width if we do that three times that will use up 33 inches of the 40 inches. If I try to go in the other direction, the 32-inch direction, we'd yield two matboards and a lot more waste.
So I'm going to that my ruler, and I want to make too little marks at 11 inches. And an important note, the pencil I'm using to make these marks is an architects pencil, a 6h, and it's a very hard lead. The advantage of a hard leaded pencil for this kind work as it leaves very little graphite residue. Notice also that I'm not drawing a line to cut along I'm just making two tiny, little marks so I don't make any extra mess on the surface of the matboard.
And then I'm going to line a heavy steel straight edge on those marks, I'm going to cut with an X-Acto knife with a brand-new blade in it. Some people prefer to do this with a heavier knife, such as utility knife, but I don't think the blade quality is as good. I am going to keep the blade at an angle with the handle perpendicular and cut straight through, drawing the blade towards me in a smooth motion, it'll take a couple of passes to get all the way through this four ply matboard.
Once again keep in mind that the point of the blade is not the sharpest part of the blade, so I'm keeping the blade perpendicular to the paper or to the matboard but add an angle so I'm using the sharpest part of blade to make the cut. And once again, it takes a few passes to get through. But you can kind of feel it when you get to through that last layer. And we just got a little bit that's stuck here at the end, and then I have got this board cut in the 11-inch dimension.
Normally I'll go ahead and make all my 11-inch cuts and then all my 14-inch cuts, but I'm just going to slide this to the side. I am going to turn the board 90 degrees, I'm going to get my ruler, and once again, make two little ticks at 14 inches, rather than the 11 inches. And it's important that you always measure from the same side of the board as sometimes humidity can cause the board do expand and contract, and this becomes even more critical when we start measuring for the window. Once again, the heavy straight edge, carefully line it up on my marks, and then draw the blade towards me in smooth motion, using the sharpest part of the blade cut the 11x14-inch board.
The next step is to mark it for the window we're going to cut, this board has a front and back surface to it, it's slightly different colors on the front and back, and you always want mark the mat on the back. So we're going to turn it over onto its backside, we're going to take our straight edge again, in our hard pencil, and measuring from one side we're going to come in and make our marks at 1 & 7/8 inches, we'll make another mark at 1 & 7/8 inches on the other side. Notice my 0 reference point is the same for both marks, once again 1 & 7/8, coming up from both sides. It's important, too, to keep your ruler parallel to the edges of the mat.
If it's an angle like this, it will change the positioning of the mark significantly so work very hard at keeping that ruler parallel. Now I am going to rotate this 90 degrees, and I am going to measure my 1 & 7/8 for the top and remember the bottom dimension is a different at 2 & 5/8. So I am going to come up to 2 & 5/8 once again, 1 & 7/8, 2 & 5/8, and once I have made all those little marks I am going to take my photograph, and I'm going to place it against the marks just to double-check to make sure I have mark the window to right size, and it looks perfect. So the next step is to connect the dots.
It's one my favorite things when I was a child, and I'm glad I still to get to connect the dots as an adult. I'm going to take the pencil and draw it towards myself, and another thing I am going to do in order to keep my pencil marks really consistent is I'm going to rotate the pencil in my fingers while I make the line. What this does is it serves the where the lead down evenly so that the pencil line will always stay the same distance from the edge of the straight edge. And when I'm working with a knife I attend to draw towards myself when I'm working with the pencil I more comfortable going side to side, okay.
So once again, now here's the window, and you can see the bottom waiting here, the three equal legs on the sides and just to be sure I'll always double-check again just to make sure I didn't do anything wrong. And what I'm doing is as I am just holding this up and visually verifying the alignment of where I am going to cut the window.
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