Making fine prints in your digital darkroom
Matting and framing
by Norman Koren

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Making fine prints in your digital darkroom
Understanding image sharpness and MTF
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Photographic technique
Image editing with Picture Window Pro

A simplified zone system
Digital vs. film
updated Feb. 18, 2004
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Table of contents

for the Making Fine
Prints series

Getting started | Light & color
Pixels, images, & files | Scanners
Digital cameras | Printers | Papers and inks
Monitor calibration and gamma
Printer calibration | Scanning | Basic image editing
Black & White | Matting and framing
Tonal quality and dynamic range in digital cameras

Color Management: Introduction | Implementation
Profiles with MonacoEZcolor | Evaluating profiles

for Image editing with
Picture Window Pro
Introduction | Making masks
Contrast masking
Tinting and hand coloring B&W images
Example: Sunset, Providence, Rhode Island

Matting and framing

I can't blame anyone for sending out prints for matting and framing. It's tedious and time-consuming. But I'm a fanatic; I've gotten good at it and I like saving money, so I do it myself. The more you do the easier it gets.

Prints mounted for display should be overmatted, particularly if they are to be framed behind glass. An overmat prevents the print from pressing against the glass-- very important for longevity. I like simple mat design-- a legacy from a Minor White show I saw at least thirty years ago. I'm not fond of elaborate mats, particularly when they disguise mediocre prints. Besides, they require extra work. I purchase most of my supplies from Presto ( in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Here are some of the supplies I get from them:

Other supplies include a mat cutter, extra blades and a diamond sharpener from a local hardware store; a cleaning brush (8 inches of soft 2 inch bristles) and custom cut glass from a local art supply shop. A T-square with a true 90 degree angle is indispensable. If you're comfortable cutting glass yourself, you can save a lot of money purchasing old frames at garage sales. I won't go into details of how I measure and cut mats because it's too tedious and individual. You have to find your own way through experiment and practice. Here are some matting tips: If you print on Resin Coated (RC) paper-- most any paper with a glossy or semigloss surface and a "plastic" feel-- you must make sure the print is thoroughly dry before mounting it behind glass. It it is not dry, the glass may become fogged due to outgassing of solvents in the inks. This is rarely a problem here in dry Colorado, where 24 hours drying should be sufficient, but can be a significant problem in humid climates, where accelerated drying (with a hair dryer, very carefully) may be necessary. To learn more, check out

Dale Cotton has written a very nice page, Matting and Framing Crash Course for the Amateur Photographer, that differs in equipment and details.

Superior Archival Materials sells mat board, foam board and storage cases that provide better protection than standard acid-free materials.

Light Impressions sells custom cut mats. The savings in time may well justify the modest added cost.

Paper Mart is an excellent source of boxes for mailing prints. I use their Five Panel Folders as tubes for maling large prints (rolled up). Their 0.080 inch thick tubes look excellent.

Uline has some particularly nice boxes for shipping matted prints from 20x24 inches to 26x38 inches. Also of interest: Easy-fold mailers. Tri-Star Stayflats®mailers look very nice for unmounted prints (much cheaper than Office Depot mailers). Thanks, Don Hall.


Images and text copyright (C) 2000-2013 by Norman Koren. Norman Koren lives in Boulder, Colorado, where he worked in developing magnetic recording technology for high capacity data storage systems until 2001. Since 2003 most of his time has been devoted to the development of Imatest. He has been involved with photography since 1964.