Thursday, August 29

How to Cut Your Own Photo Mats

Have you ever had trouble matting a photo? I love how clean and professional frames look with a mat, but it's hard to find mats for large frames or odd-size photos and artwork. And when standard sizes don't fit you're stuck looking at pricey custom mats.

But there's a better way! You can cut your own photo mats right at home, in just a few minutes, for a fraction of the cost. Today I'll show you how!

This project started with a cool poster my sister gave me when I helped her clean out her attic. I had a nice wood frame I wanted to put it in with a mat (my favorite way to hang a poster!) but, go figure, I couldn't find a mat to fit it anywhere! Here's what I know about custom mats:

A custom mat at Hobby Lobby is around $15 for a 16x20" frame. It's not terrible for one photo, but a larger frame like mine would cost even more. Plus if you have several things to frame it can really add up! HOWEVER. You can buy a large sheet of matboard for only $10 ($6 if you use their coupon!) and you can get FOUR 16x20" mats from that one board (and basically save $50). Or in my case, it was getting one huge mat for $6 instead of paying $20+. So I bought a sheet and cut my own. And I'll probably never look back.

Here's all you need to start cutting your own photo mats:
Step 1: Cut the mat to fit your frame.

My frame was 24x30" so I started by cutting a piece of matboard that size. Make sure you work over a cutting mat (or cardboard) so you don't scratch your table. Double check to make sure it fits the frame before  moving on!

I just held the yardstick along the line I wanted to cut, then cut along the yardstick with the exacto knife. Before you move the ruler, go ahead and cut along the yardstick a second time to make sure you make it all the way through the matboard. I did accidentally shave off a few little splinters from my yardstick in the process. That's where a metal yardstick would come in handy.Watch out for fingers!

Step 2: Cut the photo opening.

You want the mat to slightly overlap the photo, so measure an opening 1/2 to 1" smaller than the size of the photo you'll be matting. I was framing a 28x 20" poster (this celestial chart poster from paper source) so I wanted a 27 1/2  19 1/2" opening.

You can offset the opening near the top of the frame, or even cut two openings like I did for my DIY floor plan art, but for this poster I wanted the opening centered. The easiest way to do this is to subtract the opening size from the overall size, then divide that number in half. That will tell you how much space to leave on each side of the mat. This is how it worked out for my frame:

30" total width - 27 1/2" opening = 2 1/2" extra mat
2 1/2" divided in half  =  1 1/4"  space on each side

24" total height - 19 1/2" opening =  4 1/2" extra mat
4 1/2" divided in half  =  2 1/4" space at top and bottom

So I marked off those measurements on my matboard - 1 1/4" on each side and 2 1/4" along the top and bottom - then double checked to make sure that left me with the 19 1/2" x 27 1/2" opening I wanted. It's always good to double check! Make sure you mark with a pencil so you can erase any lines when you are done. Then I used the yard stick and exacto knife to carefully cut out the opening. Try not to cut past the corners of the opening!

Step 3: Add your poster.

Or photo or whatever you're framing. Lay the matboard face down in the frame and center your poster/photo over the opening. Tape it in place along the top. Then add the frame backing.

It's ready to hang! This was so much easier than I expected. I'll probably never buy a mat again!

What would you love to mat?


  1. I have an odd-sized print I've been wanting to hang in our guest room, but I need to cut a custom mat for it!