Mat Cutting Tutorial

Have you ever taken something to have it framed? It’s expensive! One of the most practical things I’ve ever learned is how to mat my own art. Read on to learn exactly how to cut beveled mats with our classroom’s Logan 302 mat cutter. (Other brands and models utilize a similar technique.)

Step 1:  Cut your matboard

For our purposes we cut a uniform 2″ mat, so we make the measurement based upon the size of the art. Length + 4″, width + 4″. If you’re matting to fit a frame, you would cut the board to fit the frame and adjust the width of the mat’s border accordingly. 

Tip:  Don’t have an enormous paper cutter? Cut against a metal ruler with a box cutter or pen knife. Make several shallow cuts rather than trying to muscle through the board in one swipe. Be careful!!

Step 2:  Set your border width

Adjust your mat cutter to the desired border width, and lock that baby in! This photo shows the whiteout I used to mark a commonly used width.

Step 3:  Mark your board with guide lines

Before cutting, you have to mark where to cut so you know where to start and stop the blade. Slide the board under the metal guide, making sure it’s upside-down (back surface facing up) and flush against the back of the guide.

Draw a line against the guide all the way down. Repeat on each side. When you’re done it should look like this:

Step 4:  Check your measurements

Do not skip this step! Matboard is super expensive, and you need to make sure your art will fit without leaving any gaps or cutting off something important. Check by centering your art between the drawn lines. Make sure to check the top/bottom and sides. Your piece should be slightly wider than the drawn lines.

Step 5: Time to cut!

Clip the bevel cutter to the mat guide.

Match the silver line on the bevel cutter to the guide line you drew.

Push the plastic blade guard down with your thumb to begin the beveled cut.

Hold down the mat guide firmly with your left hand to keep the mat from moving. Push the bevel cutter away from yourself with your right hand, using a smooth, steady motion. Keep your thumb pressed down on the plastic piece of the bevel cutter. Stop when the silver line reaches your other drawn guide line.

Repeat on the remaining sides and…presto!

Look at that lovely beveled edge!

Tip: if the bevel cutter is hard to push and/or edges of the cut are ragged, you need to change the blade. 

Step 6:  Attach the mat to your art

Place tape on the back of your art on all four corners, sticky side facing up.

Adjust the mat over your art until you’re happy with placement, then press it down.

Carefully flip it over and press firmly on each piece of tape to make sure it’s secure. You might need additional tape if it’s a large  art piece.

Cut a piece of thick paper (we use 6-ply railroad board) that is slightly bigger than your art, but smaller than the mat board.

Secure this backing paper on all sides with masking tape.

Check out those professional results!

Tip: If you are selling work professionally and want it to last the ages, make sure to use archival (acid-free) paper, matboard, and tape. It’s more expensive but won’t fade, yellow, or deteriorate over time. There are other pro techniques for attaching the art that are less likely to cause damage if it needs to be removed, but that’s another tutorial 😉 

A basic mat cutter costs around $100. That’s a good chunk of change, but I’ve had my personal mat cutter since high school and it’s still going strong. (And that makes it…um…almost 20 years old…?!!)  Shop around and you might be able to use a coupon! Frame a few pieces for some cash and it’ll pay for itself.

Mat cutting. A skill every artist should have.


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