Where can I learn about techniques for matting & framing -- specifically, the artistic aspects (ie, not carpentry)? I'd be happy to post questions like this one at a time, but if there's a one-stop place to learn about stuff like this, I'd be happy to go away and read for a while.

  • How should I choose a mat color(s) for color photos, B&W photos?
  • Are there guidelines for mat size vs. photo size?
  • How should I choose a frame size / color / material?
  • Guidelines for matching mat & frame to photo vs. matching to the room where it hangs?

This may not be what you're looking for, but I learned most of what I know about matting and framing (and I do a lot of matting and framing as part of my photography business... The 'carpentry' as well as the 'artistic' parts) by attending a few classes at the art supply store in my town. I think I took 3 or 4 of them, and they may have cost me $20 each plus materials.

In my experience learning matting and framing on the internet is kinda like learning photography on the internet... You can get some of the theoretical stuff on 'teh interwebs' but unless you're actually out getting your hands dirty practicing the skills it's not going to mean much.

Having said all that, if you're looking for a 'one complete resource' for everything related to matting and framing (yes, the carpentry, but also a lot of detail on the art and theory behind how and why) then I'd recommend checking out 'The Complete Photo Guide to Framing and Displaying Artwork,' which, despite the rather unwieldy title, is one of the best references on the subject that I've come across.

  • That actually looks like a very good place to start - thanks.
    – D. Lambert
    Mar 1 '11 at 5:09

These are all relative, idiosyncratic, aesthetic judgments. What are the characteristics of beauty? You can say that beauty's organization seems unified and that beauty imparts a feeling of transcendence. How to achieve that?

Have you looked after books on design, say, home design, books about how to dress or what to wear? There, you'll find examples of what shapes, patterns, textures, styles and colors go together. Though you aren't likely to find hard and fast rules, you'll find what the authors learned in art school and in making a living. You could go to a museum or a gallery to see how they present their photos. You could seek out someone who mats images for a living. They could tell you how they make a living at it, what they like and dislike.

When I choose a mat, I either want to make the image stand out or make the whole framed construction stand out. Sometimes I like it matching, sometimes contrasting, sometimes bold, sometimes understated. You have to learn when one or another is called for and to what extent, same for frames, same for fitting it to a decor.

You wouldn't want the photo to become lost in a sea of surrounding paper. A suitable border sets the photo off, separates it from its surroundings. For a B&W 14x17" print, a 3.5" border sounds OK. Depends on the image, depends on the message.


Art supply stores are one place to check for workshops or demos. Better, if your town is big enough, is to find an artists' group, one that puts on art shows for the public (malls, special events, etc) and meets often.

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