Saturday, March 10, 2012

How to Cut a Matte Board

I used to wonder about matte-cutting professionals. Have you ever seen their offices in craft or frame stores? I wondered if cutting mattes was hard and decided that it probably was if they needed professionals to do it. I also used to wonder if it was something worth learning to do and thinking that it might actually be kind of fun.

Turns out I was right on all accounts! We learned how to cut mattes in our typography class recently, and while most of my class seems a little annoyed by the process, I've actually been enjoying it!

I guess it's not hard so much as it is slightly tedious and time-consuming. Basically you just have to double- and triple-check your measurements before you cut or you've ruined the matte board that you just bought!

First you start by marking out the back of your matte. Measure, measure, and measure again! Make absolutely sure that your marks are correct and that the windows you're cutting are the correct size. Make sure you've considered any extra widths that are going to be added between your artwork and the matte board, such as liner paper. Use a triangle and t-square to ensure that your marks are perfectly squared off.

Next, get one of these circle thingys (I don't know the technical name for it). For the matte cutter we have at school, we need to use the 15/64th circle, but it will depend on your machine. When you're cutting on a cutter that has a beveled edge, you need to mark out where your blade will enter and exit the matte. Basically you're cutting at an angle, so when the blade swings down, it will exit the front side of your matte further in than where you put your blade in on the back. The circle marks make sure that the blade comes out exactly in the corner of the window that you've measured out.

Finally, you take your matte to the matte cutting machine! It kind of looks like a giant paper cutter, but it uses a razor blade to slice through the matte. Always put a scrap matte board underneath where you're cutting and never re-cut in the same groove on the scrap board. This will keep your cuts clean and without little nubbins on them. It can also help to cut a practice cut on another scrap to make sure your blade is sharp. A sharp blade will leave a smooth, clean cut! Trust me, it's easier and cheaper to buy a new blade than to ruin a matte with a dull blade.

Okay, so now that your cutter is set up, make sure that your board is FACE DOWN and that the window where your art will be is lying AWAY from you when you make the cut (if you cut a matte backwards, the bevel will come out backwards!). Take your time lining everything up perfectly, lightly tapping down the blade on either end of your pencil line to make sure that when the blade swings down that it's going to cut exactly on your line. Adjust as necessary.

When everything's perfectly lined up, press your blade down all the way through your matte in the outer edge of the first circle. Pull the blade along your matte until you get to the outer edge of the second circle. Repeat this on all four sides of the window, rotating your matte so the window is AWAY from you at all times! If the window doesn't fall out when you're done, carefully use an exacto knife at the same angle as your cut to notch out the corners. Be careful not to tear your matte!


  1. Great tutorial. I've always wondered how they did that. Is the machine expensive?

  2. What? No "finished" picture?

  3. Now you're making want a matte cutting machine!

  4. What great tips! Thanks for sharing with us! Hope you will join us again tonight!

    Take care,


  5. Great tutorial! Thanks so much for sharing at Mom On Timeout!


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