How to Choose Mat Colors

Choosing the correct colors when matting your art is one of the crucial parts of frame design.  If you get the colors right, your art looks its best.  If you get it wrong, the mat color overwhelms or draws the eye away from your art.  Different colors and textures of mats do different things to set off your art.  Some people like drama, some like soft low-contrast looks, and some like color unity.  Whenever someone tells you that the “only” way to mat your art is with a white mat or a black mat, they probably haven’t seen matting done right.  Let’s take a look at what kinds of effects different types of mats will have on your art.

Using the Dominant Colors in the Art

In general, using the dominant colors of the art in the mat draws the eye to the art rather than to the framing.  Often the artist has some focal point that contrasts with the background colors.  If you mat with those background colors, the artist’s intended focal point will still draw the eye to it.  Generally, the top mat will be darker on a dark work of art and lighter on a lighter work of art.  Often the accent mat, the narrow inner edge, will be another strong color in the art.  Below are some examples of this matting style.

Using Neutral Mat Colors

Sometimes using neutral colors will do a good job of setting off the art without emphasizing colors you don’t want to emphasize in your home decor.  Neutral colors can run the spectrum from warm to cool, from creams to grays, and they sometimes include adding texture to add visual interest without adding intense color.  Sometimes white mats work as neutrals, although white mats on dark art may be too much contrast for the art.  Here are some examples of neutral mats used well to set off the art.

Using High-Contrast Mats for Drama

Dark mats on light art, light mats on dark art, and strong colored mats  can sometimes work to give your art the punch you want.  You have to be careful that the mat colors don’t overpower your art.  Some brightly colored art is almost impossible to mat well in anything but white or black.  Multicolored art with no dominant color often looks good with dark mats.  Sometimes you just want the color you want, as in team colors or school colors, although sometimes even those can be toned down a bit.  Here are some examples of high-contrast matting.

Black and White

Don’t get me wrong, we use white mats on lots of art for which white is appropriate.  Often, there is a better choice, even if it is a white with a cream or a gray or a pink tint.  There are probably a hundred different white mats to choose from, all with a little bit of some other color in them.  When you get the right white, it is magic.  When you get the wrong one, it is painful to look at.  And black mats work when nothing else does.  There is something about black that makes it the often surprising choice.

Get It Right and Your Art Will Thank You

The right mats make a huge difference for how your art will look.  Let us help you select from over 600 different colors and textures of mats to give your art the presentation it deserves.