Brighten your image

Color mats take photos one step further
Jess Chamberlain

Framing photographs with large white mats, gallery-style, limits their potential. Try a color mat ― or three ― instead. Travel landscapes and abstract botanicals especially benefit from this effect; triple matting (shown above) is a common technique used for images containing multiple colors.

Although you can do it yourself with store-bought or custom-cut mats, matting is a precision art form that takes practice. But even when you’re leaving the work to the pros, it pays to know what to ask for. Follow our tips on color-mat selection for a polished look that pulls a room together.

Choosing your mat

Framing expert Doug Poloway of University Art in Palo Alto, California, offers the following suggestions.

Keep the focus on the image. Think of the mat as an extension of the artwork itself; don’t draw too much attention to it.

Pick up colors in the image in varying degrees. “Don’t use large mats of a hue that’s already dominant in the image,” Poloway says. Instead, use a thin mat for prominent hues you’d like to accent and a wider mat for less conspicuous colors you’d like to draw out.

Avoid contrast. If your image is very light, stay away from dark mat tones; they’ll make the image appear even lighter. Ditto the reverse.

Accessorize accordingly. Although Poloway warns against matting an image to match a particular room’s decor, once framed art has been hung, consider creating a vignette with hues similar to those in your image and matting. This can make the whole room feel like a composition.