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Vintage Posters - Framing Terminology








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Picture framing terminology

In order to reduce the confusion about the orientation of mats and openings, the following explanations will assist when placing orders and in references to mats and frames.

Orientation of a mat and opening

  • Landscape: The mat or opening is wider than it is tall.
  • Portrait: The mat or opening is taller than it is wide.
  • Square or Circle: Both dimensions are the same. NB: at all times, the vertical dimension should be stated first. e.g. 8x12" means 8" high by 12" wide.
  • Bottom weighting: When the image is matted and framed, the bottom border of the mat is wider than the top border.

Glossary of Terms

Acid Free: A term used to describe paper materials with a pH at or around 7. Acid-free materials are more permanent and less likely to discolor over time. The term Archival or conservation quality more accurately describes true acid-free conservation quality matboard.

Archival: The framing procedure where all materials are acid free. This is the same as Conservation framing.

Adhesive Transfer (ATG) Tape: A double-sided tape used to stick mat boards and other materials together. Usually used with an applicator or "ATG gun", available at art supply stores.

Beveled Edge: The 45-degree cut on a matboard. This allows about 1/16" of the core to be seen. A reverse bevel means the core will not be seen from the front of the mat.

Bottom Weighting: A term used when additional border is applied to the bottom of a mat but not the top. In some instances it can look very good. A disadvantage is that the mat cannot be used both vertically and horizontally.

Conservation Framing: The framing procedure where all materials that come in contact with the artwork are totally acid free. This minimizes the effect of adverse atmospheric conditions.

Double Mat: Two mats are used. The top mat has a slightly larger opening than the bottom mat; the difference being called the reveal. When ordering, define only the exact opening you require and the reveal.

Floating Artwork: A double mat (or more) is used. The bottom mat does not have an opening. The opening in the main mat is larger than the image. The image is attached to the bottom mat, so a small portion of this mat can still be seen.

Foam Core: A stiff light material used as a backing board to give rigidity. Foam makes up the center of the board with a layer of paper on its surfaces. Foam core is usually 3/16" to 1/8" thick, and is very smooth. Excellent for mounting posters and lighter paper.

Hardware: The materials used with metal or wooden frames to make them ready to assemble and hang.

Image Size: This is the size of the actual image, not the surrounding border. Unless part of the border is to be shown, the window of the mat should be smaller than the image size in order for it to be attached to the back of the mat.

Mat Board: A board comprised of two parts: the core and the paper face. Most matboard is 4-ply or about 1/16" thick. Occasionally 2-ply or Ultra-Thick (8-ply) is used. Mat board is available in many forms.

Mat Board Core: The center area of mat board. Usually 1/16" thick. It can be regular or conservation quality.

Mounting Board: A board used to mount images when this is necessary. Regular or acid-free foamcore make excellent mounting boards.

Plexi-glass: An acrylic material used instead of glass. It is very light in comparison to glass and much more resistant to breakage. Regularly found in 1 mm plexi (.04") and 3 mm plexi (1/8").

Profile: The term used to describe how a frame looks when viewed from one end. It will describe the width and height of the mat, and the dimensions of the rabbet. The rabbet describes the 90 degree cut made to house the glass and mat package.

Regular matboard: This is good quality mat, and the least expensive. It is often termed "acid-free" but should not be confused with conservation quality mat.

Reveal: In a double mat, the reveal is the amount of the bottom mat that will show. The rest will be behind the top mat.

Shadow Box: A term used when thicker items are framed. This can be anything from a medal which may only require 1/4 inch of depth to a baseball bat requiring 3 inches. Or perhaps much more.

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