How to Mat a Watercolor

What do you do when you finish a watercolor?
I’ve painted lots of watercolors and only matted a few even though I learned how to mat a long time ago. I prefer painting, not cutting out windows in matting board.  Recently I’ve started to mat some of them because I was thinking about framing a body of watercolors and showing them at one point or another.   I went out and got the tools and decided to post a ‘do it yourself’. 
Fiished Watercolor

Finished Watercolor

Slip proof ruler for cutting

Slip proof ruler for cutting

Safety First:  Use the right tools.  The blade on the cutter is extreemely sharp, so you must use a slip proof ruler with a cutting edge.  It’s better to cut through little by little with more passes than to cut deeply all at once.

Matting Board Cut to Size

Matting Board Cut to Size

Start by putting the mat board face down.  I’m going to mat a watercolor for a standard frame.  This is for a 16 in x 20 in frame. I want the window to be smaller than the paper so the board holds it down.  Always double check the measurements before cutting.  After I draw the cutting line, I put the watercolor on top to make sure the measurements are correct.

Make sure the measurement is correct

Make sure the measurement is correct

Looking at the corner, assures me that the window is the right size.

Slip Proof Ruler and Bevel Cutter

Slip Proof Ruler and Bevel Mat Board Cutter

When using the bevel 45º mat board cutter, place the cutter as in the picture above or the bevel will be the opposite of the desired result.  The blade has to be changed often or it will become difficult to cut and start ripping the board.  When cutting the corner, cut a little bit past the corner so the corner has a clean cut.

Matted Watercolor

Matted Watercolor

This watercolor has been matted for a 16 in x 20 in standard frame.


Here is a video of some of the small watercolors that I matted first.  If you are out of practice like me or doing this for the first time, it’s a good idea to start matting small watercolors until you get the hang of it.


One thought on “How to Mat a Watercolor

  1. Pingback: Glass Bottles in the Rain 2015 | Watercolor and Tempera: Painting Life and Myth

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