White Versus Colorful Mats

Seven months ago, I found a beautiful vintage dresser on Craigslist, begged Ben to come with me to buy/haul it, and have loved it since.  In that post, near the end, I had taped up a gorgeous Emily Jeffords print that I planned to frame and hang above.

Craigslist-Dresser-with-Emily-Jeffords-Art-VerticalBecause this wall is large, I knew it needed a proportionately big piece of art to fill it.  I ordered a 30 by 40 inch print, but, turns out, that size is hard to frame.  Initially, I wanted to build a frame, but never took the time.  After extensive searching, I didn’t find any affordable framing options and let it simmer on the back burner.  Well, it only took me seven freaking months to get it done, but now that it is, I adore it.


Recently, while browsing Goodwill, I spotted a large chrome frame with near perfect dimensions.  The simple profile was exactly what I had in mind, keeping the focus directed at the art instead.  As a bonus, it was only fifteen bucks.  Once I got it home, I took the glass, mat, and backing out to give the frame a couple of coats of white paint.  Then, for a little drama, I decided to paint the double mat an olive-green.  Nothing as saturated as the colors in the painting to detract from the art, but enough to add interest.


But, to give the art a little buffer, I added a slim white mat inside to give visual separation between the mat and art.


White mats are readily available, an easy go to, and go with anything and everything I’ve ever framed.  Let’s face it though, it’s a safe, standard choice.


Colored mats add unexpected boost to art, and can highlight the art more than a white mat could.  However, colorful mats don’t belong around all art.  Generally, I like to use colored mats when the art is neutral, like these black and white leaf prints.



Do I think a white mat would look pretty?  Absolutely, but I also think the green gives more visual weight to the art, also bringing a touch of green from the curtains over to this side of the room.


If you’re not quite ready to go that bold, layer a colored mat beneath a white one.


A slim grass-green border, just a quarter to half-inch reveal will emphasize the art without being over bearing.


For a more subtle contrast, pull a color from the art to make a small piece of art seem a bit larger.


White frames are better suited to busier, smaller, or more colorful art because it allows the art to be the stand out.


For extra oomph with white mats, I like to use a thicker board or double up.  I found a precut 11 by 14 inch (inside, 16 by 20 inch outside) double white mat at Hobby Lobby for only five dollars to surround our new house portrait from The Littlest House.

3 thoughts on “White Versus Colorful Mats

  1. Boy, do you have willpower/patience to wait it out and find the right deals. I so admire that. I am too impatient and want it yesterday. Congrats on the great find. The picture looks great.

  2. Where do you find affordable colored mats? I always need odd sizes (inside cut) and end up paying a fortune, even when using an Ikea frame.

    1. I have had success with framesbymail.com. They will do custom mats that are reasonably priced and come in a variety of colors and mat styles. They’re carefully packaged so I’ve never had an issue with them arriving damaged or bent. Sometimes they have a 10% coupon if you stalk their site or sign up for their emails.

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