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How To: Custom Photo Mats

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Have you ever had a piece of art or a photograph professionally matted and framed? If you did, you probably paid out the wazoo for it. I know at Hobby Lobby a custom mat will run you upwards of $20 and I’ve heard they can cost up to $100 from professional framing stores. If you’re a cheap-ass thrifty like me, this is not exactly ideal. Well, my friends I have a cheap and easy solution for you.


Materials Needed:

Mat board (same size or larger than frame)
Picture Frame
Art or Photo to frame
X-ACTO Knife

1. Start with a blank piece of mat board in your desired size. These can usually be found in the painting section of craft stores and come in a wide range of colors and thicknesses.  If available, choose a board the exact size of the frame you’re going to use. That way, you don’t have to trim the outer border of the mat. My mat cost around $3.


*Here’s a close-up of the thickness I chose for my mat. You want something thicker than regular paper but not so thick you can’t cut through it or that the mat won’t fit in the frame.

This is the print that I was cutting the mat for. I gave it to Jacob for his birthday (back in March, oops) and it was an odd size so a pre-cut mat wouldn’t work.


2. Place the mat back-side up.


3. Use your ruler and some simple math (yuck, I know) to figure out the middle of your mat and where the art should be placed to in order to be centered. I added in a small padding so the print sits behind instead of flush with the mat.


4. Trace the (slightly smaller than the print) measurements onto the back of the mat board.


5. Using a sharp X-ACTO knife, slowly cut along the lines you just traced.


matboard8 6. Gently remove the inner board from the mat and, if necessary, fix any rough lines or corners.


7. Attach your print to the mat with tape so it doesn’t shift in the frame.

8. Re-assemble frame and hang!
Tip: frames are almost always 50% off at Hobby Lobby so check the online ads and you’ll never pay full-price.


Ta-da! This would have cost me probably $100 with the custom mat cut and a full-price frame, but by cutting my own mat and getting the frame on sale I spent less than $25.


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  • Marilyn Spriggs November 18, 2020, 1:12 am

    Thanks for the tutorial. Not only am I on-a tight budget but I wanted to learn how to do this anyway.

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