January 10, 2013

To Mat or Not to Mat? That is the Question...

So, do you or don't you?  Mat your pictures, that is....  It's an age old question.  OK, maybe not an age old question... but it's been something we've been talking about in the store lately, and I thought it was a great topic to bring up as part of our beginning scrapbooking series.  Let's start with the basics.

What is a photo mat?  A photo mat is an additional layer of paper that is made to go behind a photo, separating the photo from the background.  My photo mats are generally about 1/4" bigger than my photo, so if your picture is 4"x6", than your photo mat is 4.25"x6.25".  That way when you adhere the picture you get a very eye pleasing 1/8" border.  Here's a great example from one of our Quickutz classes:

Notice how that crisp, even white border around the photo creates a distinctive break between the photo and the background?  Of course, there are lots of option for photo mats - they can be thinner or thicker and sometimes they're even shaped or large blocks of paper.  They can be made from cardstock or patterned paper.  Really, there's a lot of creative options.   This is an older layout I did that illustrates a few different matting options:

Notice on the left page I did one large black mat that included multiple small photos; then I elevated one picture with a red mat so that it would stand out more than the others. This was great because I had a lot of small photos taken from far away that I couldn't enlarge easily, and it also allowed me to include a lot of shots in one layout.  On the right page, one group of pictures takes up an entire side of the layout, so I separated it from the background paper with a half mat in the center.  The I elevated another photo with red matting again.

Mats serve a lot of useful purposes: they can add much needed pops of color, they can help the photo "pop" from the background, they can help train the eye to the focal point of the layout, and they add dimension to your layout.  Additionally, if you are using product on your layout you can make sure your photo will remain undamaged by separating it from the page with a mat. 

Still, I notice in a lot of magazines that photos remain unmatted.  Sometimes it really aggravates me - I am a consummate matter.  I almost always mat, so when I see published layouts without mats my left brain thinks, "My - that layout is unfinished!"  Then my right brain pops up and reminds my left page to take a chill pill - photos don't HAVE to be matted.  Or do they?  That has been the debate in the store lately - Michelle is a matter, like I am.  Nancy, who doesn't particularly like to cut mats, can live without them.  So who's right?  What's the answer?

Well, truth be told, it's really just a matter (hee hee - pun intended!) of personal preference.  Take a look at these two nearly identical layouts I did for my children - one with mats, and one without:

In the top layout, the background paper is patterned and the pink matting gives the pictures a nice lift and distinction from the pattern; in the bottom layout, the unmatted pictures give the layout almost a textural, magazine feel.  I like both layouts; they both have different feels but they still communicate effectively.

So, what do you think?  Do you have a matting preference?  Leave us a comment - we'd love to hear what you think!


Shelley said...

I prefer matting my pictures.

Cindi (aka iring) said...

I would probably be a matter. But then when I see your unmatted layout, I like that too. I wouldn't have been able to describe it, but you described it perfectly, "it has a magazine feel".