Understanding “Centered” and “Weighted” Matting Options
Using the same image of Star Trek’s iconic Enterprise – and the exact same sized mat windows – here are examples of a “centered” mat window on the left / a “weighted” mat window on the right. While the top and bottom borders of the “centered” mat on the left are absolutely identical, the image might look a bit “low” to some people (while not to others). This is an optical illusion, and can be corrected if one choses to “weight” the bottom border of the mat as illustrated in the photo on the right. This option to “weight” the bottom of the mat is fully explained below, and is a very simple procedure included as part of Step 4 of the Custom Mat Cutting template.
You may think that every window cut into every mat should be located in the exact dead-center of the mat. While this may make “logical” sense, it often doesn’t make “visual” sense.
When an image is “centered” in the exact middle of the mat, sometimes the image may appear to look a bit “low,” as if there is less of a mat border on the bottom than there is on the top. This is an optical illusion, but it can be visually distracting to some people.
In order to counter this, window mats are quite frequently “weighted” at the bottom, which means that the same size window opening as measured for a “centered” mat is cut, but this window is “moved up” slightly so that the bottom border of the mat is just a bit wider than the top border. This “weighting” of the bottom border counteracts the optical illusion sometimes seen in “centered” mats, and therefore the placement of the image within its mat borders seems “visually correct.”
As with everything else, the choice to “center” or “weight” your mat is a personal preference. You can elect in Step 4 of the Custom Mat Cutting template (see screenshot above) to “center” your mat window or to “weight” it in increments of 1/4″ or 1/2″ or 1″ depending on the overall outside measurements of your mat.
In “standard practice,” a smaller mat (8 x 10″ / 11 x 14″) might only need 1/4″ of extra weight at the bottom, while medium sized mats (14 x 18″ / 16 x 20″) might benefit more from 1/2″ of additional weight at the bottom, and large mats (20 x 24″ and up) should probably have between 1/2″ and 1″ of extra weight. While all of this is dependent upon the specific size of the artwork you are matting and the size of the mat you would like to use, when in doubt go with the “standard practices” mentioned above.
Now, I’ve just gone into a lot of detail about numbers and fractions and relative positions, but what’s really great about the Custom Mat Cutting template is that it calculates all the math and dimensions for you, which then allows us to easily cut a perfect mat for you! All you have to do is enter the correct measurements for the exterior size of the mat you want and the size of the window you want (please see Part 3: Outside Measurements / Inside Window Measurements / Cropping for more information). Boom! Done!
If you still have questions or need clarifications, we hope you will feel free to contact us to sort out all the options available to you or to discuss your particular needs.
If you would like to learn more about the differences between a “good” mat and a “bad” mat / choosing the best color and mat board thickness for your mat / choosing your outside measurements & inside window measurements / and what hinging is all about, please visit the other short yet informative blogs in our Matting series for a deeper understanding of each step of our easy-to-use Custom Mat Cutting template.
• Part 4: “Centered” or “Weighted” Mats (you’re here now)
The overall goal of our Matting series is to take the mystery out of enhancing your family photographs, collectible images, or your art portfolio – leaving you with a stunning, archivally matted presentation and the peace-of-mind that comes with knowing that you’ve done things right! This series will be followed by a similar set of blogs that will explain everything you need to know to mount your work in your new mats. Stay tuned!
If you have questions or would like more information on matting or on the archival storage and presentation materials that are right for you, please contact us here at Archival Methods. We’re always there to help with any archiving, storage, or presentation questions you may have.