Matting is a board of compressed cotton that can be placed around or behind the artwork, to enhance either its size or its appearance. There are two issues to consider when deciding whether to mat, says Daniel Beauchemin, owner of Chelsea Frames, in New York City: physical properties and aesthetics. “If someone wants to make a piece of artwork look much larger, then it should be matted,” he says. “But aesthetically, matting is not always appropriate.” For example, if you are framing a vintage print from a book, you will probably want the mat to cover the page edges―unless the image goes to the edge of the page, in which case you might not.
The process of attaching the photograph (or other artwork) to the mat is called hinging. Make sure the framer you’re using works only with archival materials. “This means something that’s going to protect the artwork,” Beauchemin explains. “Everything needs to be acid-free.”
The glazing on a framed artwork is simply the transparent material―either glass or Plexiglas―through which you see the artwork. “Plexiglas has the advantage of not being breakable,” Beauchemin says. “So if something is being shipped, we’ll always insist it be Plexiglas. Sometimes size is a concern, too―glass is only made in sizes up to 40 by 60 inches.” Another question to consider is whether your artwork needs glazing at all: An oil canvas, for instance, does not, Beauchemin notes.
“Framing should really complement the art―it should be an extension of what the artwork is,” Beauchemin says. “It should not compete with it.” He suggests that when choosing a frame, you try to match it to the style of the work. “You won’t want a heavy frame with a delicate image,” he explains. “But if I were framing a black-and-white photograph of a strong landscape, I could be stronger with the framing.” And, he adds, don’t concentrate on making the frame fit the room; instead, make sure it fits the artwork.