How to Cut Your Own Mats for Framing

11th Apr 2021

How to Cut Your Own Mats for Framing

There is nothing like original art to add personality to your home. But, framing is so expensive! Learning to cut mats for framing yourself will give you the custom look you want and save you tons of money.

I first discovered Janet Hill Studio on Etsy and loved every single print in her shop. They have a winsome, vintage quality but they are witty as hell. I could have bought ten without batting an eye…and will definitely be back for more. But, I finally settled on The Other Eleanor Roosevelt and Not Even Tragedy Could Come Between Lady Saarsgard and Her Prize Winning Garden.

Eleanor is pure spunk, a woman with equal parts wit, whimsy, and fire. When I showed her to my husband, he laughed and said “That’s so you”! I think she will bring the perfect amount of sass to the family room. As for Lady Saarsgard, well…I could not love this print more. Because, when you see it…

I ordered both prints from Artfully Walls since Eleanor wasn’t listed in Janet Hill’s Etsy shop at the time.

Materials Needed

Measure and Cut Your Mat To Size

I purchased the matboard at Blick Art Materials so I could pick the exact color I wanted for each print. You can order any of their custom matboards as a full sheet, so the options are endless!

The navy for Eleanor is a stock color for about $10 off the shelf. For Lady Saarsgard, I ordered a sheet of a deep green called Black Watch. The custom matboard was more expensive at around $22, but compared to the cost of custom framing, it is still a bargain!

Plus, each matboard measures 32″ x 40″, so I will get multiple mats from each one.

Use the cardboard backing frame as a pattern for the size of the mat. With the matboard wrong side up, draw the outline of the frame backing. Line the straightedge along your pencil lines and cut the matboard to size with the pen blade.

Measure and Draw The Cut Lines

Next, you want to decide how wide to cut your mat border. The general rule of thumb is that the mat should be at least 1 1/2 times wider than the width of the frame. My frames are 3/4″ wide, so I needed the mats to be at least 1 1/2″ wide.

The prints measure 9 x 12 and my frame openings were 12 x 16, so after a little more measuring and some wonky math, I decided to cut my mats 2″ wide for an even border all the way around.

The mat cutter has a cool little ruler with a small pencil lead on the end. This lets you draw the cutlines exactly where you want them. Slide the ruler out to the desired width of your mat. I set mine to 2″ and tightened the screw to keep it steady.

Place the edge of the tool against the side of the mat and drag the length of the mat while applying some pressure to the pencil. You will have a perfectly placed, perfectly straight line!


Here is an overhead shot of the mat cutter set up to draw the cut line. With the mat cutter pressed against the side of the mat, drag straight down to draw the last cut line.


Cut The Mat Opening

I ordered the Logan Graphics 4000 Mat Cutter because it looked easy to use and had great reviews. I am an Amazon reviews junkie and usually skip to the reviews before I even read the product description! You tend to get more honest info from actual users.

This little tool takes some practice, but once you get the concept it is pretty easy to cut your own matboard. There are more expensive (and higher quality) cutters available, but for a few pieces of art for a DIY framer, this one was perfect.

The mat cutter comes with 5 blades, which is great because paper dulls blades fast. Plan to use one blade per mat. Insert the blade into the holster on the front and tighten the screw to hold it in place.

To make the cut, press down on the lever as you drag the tool across the mat. The blade slides through the think safety slot and cuts the mat at the perfect angled bevel.


To cut, line up your straight edge and secure it to the table with a clamp to keep it from moving. Carefully set your tool so the angle of the blade cuts toward the outside of the mat, leaving the beveled border. Speaking from experience, you may want to have a couple of extra pieces of matboard handy for practice. Honestly, I messed up three before I got all four cuts right. Hopefully, my diagrams will help save you the same struggles! The key is to cut the line with the blade angled toward the outside of the mat. 

Here’s an overhead shot to help that make sense.

And, she’s done! I love how the navy mat picks up the blue in her glasses. I wish I could take credit for the brilliant color choice, but Jason picked it out. He sees color better than I do, so I drag him along for advice on projects like this. Thankfully, he has fun with it. While we were at Blick, he actually helped a sweet lady at the custom framing counter pick out new mats and frames for her artwork. I should hire him out.