Have you ever used a mat cutter? It's really pretty easy. I bought a mat cutter a few years ago and even my first attempt turned out well.
A couple weeks ago, when I was framing my prints I got for Christmas (see this post), I also matted and framed the items I referred to in my Christmas to do list (numbers 13 and 14 in this post).
Here is the mat cutter I bought. It has two pieces - a part that holds the mat you're cutting along with a straight edge to line it up squarely (at the top of the photo), and a separate blade. The metal bar that holds down the mat has a hole in each end that slips over the little peg shown at the bottom to keep the bar in place. (Click on photo to see a larger view.) To the left of the cutter in this photo is a scrap piece of mat board to put under the mat you are cutting. This even came in the box with my cutter.
You can't really tell from this photo, but the blade is at an angle in this holder so that the cut mat will be beveled. The blade can be retracted so it is not always protruding from the blade holder. And the round silver place for your thumb helps you hold the blade properly when you are cutting so the blade does not retract.
This was my project. A very old wedding picture of my in-laws. It was not in a frame when my husband found it after my mother-in-law passed away, so the corners were starting to curl. There was a back layer of paper taped to it with old scotch tape-looking stuff that was brittle and easily peeled away. But the middle part, the photo itself, was in good shape. Covering the not-so-good outer edges with mat board would end up looking just fine.
I bought a 16X20 frame and two colors of mat board for this project. I had to cut the mat board down to size since it comes in larger sheets, so I cut each into a 16X20 size that would fit inside the frame.
First I determined the size of the inner mat opening. For this picture, I decided to have the mat cover the edges of the picture. In some cases, depending on the color of mat and what you are framing, you might want to leave some of the white showing around the picture to add an additional white border around your print or photo. I decided not to do that for this picture. I measured the size of the picture itself and determined the mat opening size by subtracting a half inch from both the length and width so that the mat would overlap the picture by a quarter inch all around. Then I calculated the difference between the size of the mat opening and the size of the mat board. I split this difference in half (for both the length and the width) and that was how much mat board would be left showing around the picture. (Another way is to say I centered the hole to be cut out on the mat board.) I drew in pencil on the back of the mat where the cuts needed to be made.
Now I was ready to cut! I put the board under the metal bar, being careful to line up the top edge against the straight edge at the top. Not sure if all cutters work this same way, but for mine, because of the angle of the blade in the holder, it's important to make sure I line up the "hole" that will be cut out on the right side of the cut and the outer edge that remains on the left side of the cut.
Next, make sure the blade is retracted. Place the blade holder against the metal bar. See the little line in the middle of the blade holder? Line it up with the bottom pencil mark to insure your cut will begin at the right spot. Put pressure on the bar with your left hand so the mat cannot move. Put your thumb into the round silver spot and press down so that the blade extends. Now you are ready to cut! (I guess you'd just reverse these directions if you are left handed, but I haven't given that a ton of thought.)
It's important to keep pressure with your thumb so the blade will remain fully extended as you cut. Just push away from you, sliding the edge of the blade holder along the metal bar. Be careful at the end to stop when that line on the blade holder is lined up with the top line so you'll stop at the right place. Now retract the blade and the first cut is complete. Do this three more times, rotating the mat board 90 degrees each time, and you've cut the opening in your mat!
I wanted a double mat so next I cut my bluish colored mat, the outer mat. Same process as before, but the opening is one half inch wider and higher than the previous mat opening so that one quarter inch of the inner mat will show all around.
Here is my finished double mat. (The aqua color matches the shades in the wedding picture much better in real life than it looks like in my photo. I'm VERY pleased with how the colors turned out!) I stuck the two mats together with double stick non-acid tape that I use for my scrapbooking and attached the photo in the same way to the back of the double mat. (Note: I later started erasing the pencil marks I made on the back of the mat because when I put the aqua mat on top of the lighter mat, some of the pencil rubbed off on the lighter mat. Fortunately it was on a part that would not show.)
And here is my finished matted and framed wedding picture! We haven't decided exactly where it will hang yet, but it's all ready to go!
We bought these next two prints at a benefit auction. I felt kind of sorry for them because they didn't have many bids and I knew we needed some things to put on the walls of our recently finished basement rec room. I liked both of these because they are pictures of places in Kansas City. (I live in a suburb of Kansas City.)
This first print is a picture of an historic home in the area, the John Wornall home. This one already had a double mat. This is an example of leaving a white border showing inside the mat. Then it had the rusty-pink and white mats. I think I'll hang this in the basement guest bath, which has darker grayish-blue walls, so I added a blue mat. This is also a 16X20 frame.
This next print is of the Country Club Plaza (also known as just the Plaza), supposedly the first shopping center in the country. It's an outdoor shopping area, several square blocks, with Spanish architecture. (Check out the Christmas lights here if you're ever in Kansas City between Thanksgiving and early January - they're fabulous!) This was just the print itself, so I did another double mat, this time in a peachy shade and turquoise. And another 16X20 frame.
I bought my mat board for these last two prints at Hobby Lobby. They have a pretty nice selection of colors. Mat board comes in large pieces - 32 X 40 inches - so you will need to cut it down to the size you need. But it is only $5.99 at Hobby Lobby and is often on sale for 50% off. They also have a pretty nice selection of pre-cut mats in basic colors which will fit the standard size frames. JoAnn's has a handful of pre-cut mats and will order mat board for you but they only carry a very few colors of small pieces. And Michael's, who sold me half sheets of mat board quite some time ago when I bought my wedding mats, told me recently they only sold whole sheets and it was much more expensive than Hobby Lobby's.
With the cost of framing as high as it is, it is much less expensive to do it yourself if you have something that can fit in one of the standard size frames. Cutting mats is very easy and pretty foolproof if you measure carefully before you cut. I was kind of nervous about it when I cut my first mat, but now I spend much more time measuring than doing the cutting itself. It's fun to look at a framed print and know that you did the matting yourself. Give it a try!
5 days ago