Picture Framing Lingo

exploded frame

Here’s a short lesson in picture framing terminology.  We hope this is helpful.

What is a mat (or matte)?

A mat is a heavy paper border that goes around a work of art on paper.  The mat material is called matboard.  The mat serves two functions.  It holds the glass up off the art to protect it, and it provides a space for the art to be in, buffering it from the frame and its surroundings on the wall.  Mats are sometimes used singly or in multiples, showing a much smaller amount of the lower mats.  Mats are either 4-ply (the regular thickness) or 8-ply (double-thick).  Using multiple mats or 8-ply mats can give your art more depth and dimension.  Different mat widths can be used for different effects.  Mats can have white, black, or colored surface papers.  They can be solid-core (same color throughout), white core (colored surface paper with white inside, or black-core (colored surface paper with black inside).  Some mats have special textured surface papers or even fabrics like suede, silk, or linen.  Getting the right mat for your art goes a long way toward setting it off in the frame.

What is glazing?

Glazing is the clear protective sheet put over your paper art to protect and support your art and mat.  It is usually glass or acrylic.  There are several different kinds of glass and acrylic designed to solve certain framing problems.  UV filtering glass and acrylic absorb most of the UV light in order to slow the fading of your art.  There are a couple of different kinds of non-glare glass, as well.  Micro-etched glass reduces glare by softening the reflection, but has the disadvantage of distorting color and detail in your art.  Museum glass cuts glare by using an optical coating to reduce reflection.

What is moulding?

Moulding is the material that frames are made from.  Moulding can be wood or aluminum and comes in 8-10 foot sticks that are mitred, which means cut precisely at a 45 degree angle to create a frame.  Mitred pieces of wood moulding are then joined with a pneumatic v-nailer and glue to create clean and strong corners with no nail holes.  Metal frames are mitred and joined using special hardware.

What is a fillet?

A fillet is a small accent frame that is used inside the lip of a mat or frame as a decorative element.  It often is made to coordinate with the frame in color and style.

What is a bevel?

In framing, the bevel is the inner edge of the mat where the mat cutter cuts the mat at a 45 degree angle to expose the interior of the matboard.  If the matboard is white-core, the bevel will be white.  If the matboard is solid-core, the bevel will be the same color as the surface paper.  The matboard can also be cut with a reverse bevel, which cuts the bevel away from the inner edge of the mat and makes the bevel invisible from the front.  This is most commonly done when using white-core mats when the art is best served without showing the white bevel.

What is backing?

Backing is usually a rigid board that supports the art in the frame and helps to protect it from punctures from behind.  Backing is often foam board, which is light and rigid.  If the backing is not rigid enough, art will often buckle in the frame.

What is mounting?

Mounting refers to how the art is secured in the frame.  Posters and inexpensive prints may be dry-mounted, or glued to the backing board using heat, pressure, and a heat-activated tissue adhesive to keep the art flat and rigid.  Dry mounting eliminates wrinkling and rippling.  Other mounting techniques include hinging, using photo corners or strips, and stretching (for needlework and fabrics).  There are a number of special techniques for mounting artifacts in shadow boxes including sewing, wiring, gluing, and using specialty mounts.

What is a shadow box?

A shadow box is a frame deep enough to accomodate three-dimensional objects.  The objects to be framed are mounted, usually to the backing, using specialty mounts to support the items without being distracting.  The insides of the frame are usually lined with the same material as the backing.

What is stretching? 

Stretching can refer to canvas stretching, which is pulling a canvas taut over a wooden frame called stretcher bars and stapling the canvas to the stretcher bars.  The traditional canvas stretch is stapled on the side of the stretcher bars and then framed.  A gallery wrap is a canvas stretch that is stapled on the back of the stretcher bars.

Stretching can also refer to needlework stretching which is stretching the needlework on a board to straighten and secure the needlework in preparation for framing.  Blocking is pre-stretching the needlework before stretching it on a board.

What is conservation, preservation, or museum framing?

All three terms refer to the use of framing materials and techniques that are non-invasive, reversible, and acid-free.  These types of framing are used to preserve and protect the art being framed.  It also includes UV filtering glazing to slow fading.

What is fitting?

In framing, fitting refers to the final assembly of the framing package into the frame, including cutting and cleaning the glazing, shooting nails into the frame to secure the package in the frame, putting on a paper dust cover, and putting on a hanger and bumpons, small silicone buttons that are placed on the back lower corners to protect the wall.

Framing glossary by Larson Juhl