View Full Version : How much of Colourfix paper is wasted when matted?

03-23-2010, 01:34 AM
I like Art Spectrum Colourfix pastel paper a lot and I use the size 9x12 inch. It is so nice that they have even around 5/8 inch beyond the 9 x 12 inch on each side for matting purpose but I can't find mats that would give me an exact 9x12 inch opening at retail shops. I have around 15 frames that are 11x14 inch and am wondering how to mat it properly.

The mats over here is 11x14 inch on outside dimension and has an opening for 8x10 inch inner dimension and meant for works of 8.5x11. Do everyone of you just draw images of 8x10 inches only to fit these mats?

At this Redimat place (http://www.redimat.com/products/museum.html), they wouldn't accept orders of less than $100 worth of merchandise.

What do you all do for these sanded surface paintings? What happens when you use Pastel La carte at 9.5 x 12.5 inch? You also only draw 8x10 inches also? And the Pastelmat is at 9.5 x 12 inch.

The frames for 12x18 inches are much more expensive and Michael's doesn't even sell mats for that size which could have been ideal. Do you all just cut ready made mats larger inside? I tried that the other day and bled quite a bit. :lol:

Any advice would be appreciated.

03-23-2010, 06:57 AM
I bought an inexpensive handheld mat cutter. I resized the inside of a couple of mats that I bought for paintings that I gave to my parents. On one painting I gave to my grandson when he was a baby for his room (it was a Winnie the Pooh painting) I centered the painting how it looked good and wasted part of the painting which didn't hurt the affect.

03-23-2010, 09:12 AM
I'm a little spoiled regarding the sizes of my paintings. I just paint what feels right, and mat off what doesn't work. I have a friend that is a framer, so I don't pay much for framing. He is an artist too, and he understands the stress the cost of framing can bring, so he takes care of his artist friends! :)

I buy Wallis 12x18 pads, and I usually cut each piece in half, giving me a 9x12 piece to paint on. I use Uart also, which comes in 12x18 sheets and do the same thing. Sometimes my 9x12 painting just ends up being smaller, if the composition goes that way.

That being said, I sometimes do paint to the confines of a particular frame/mat size, and just plan ahead. That is not my most comfortable way of painting, though. I'm not afraid to cut a piece of sand paper to an approximate size, and save the scraps. You can often make really nice miniature paintings (3 1/2 x 5, or 5 x 7) with these pieces, using standard frames and mats. You'd be surprised.

Another way to go is to buy Art Spectrum Colourfix Primer, and use it to prime hot press 140 lb watercolor paper, which is really smooth. You can cut your paper to the size you wish. If I use cold press paper, I lightly sand the paper with a fine grit sandpaper to smooth it out a little before applying the primer. The results are pretty good. It is a little different than the pre-made paper, but I do enjoy painting on it. If you did this, you could make your paper to a standard size and buy your mats and frames accordingly. Or just cut the pre-made paper, and save your scraps!

03-23-2010, 09:56 AM
It is definitely convenient to use the standard mat sizes - and then you can use standard frame sizes, too. In those cases, yes, your painting size will not take full advantage of the paper size. If you plan on matting a lot of paintings, then buying a mat cutter is definitely a good option. Since I have my own mat cutter, I don't plan my painting size in advance!


03-23-2010, 11:59 AM
If you are going to confine yourself to ready made matt\frame sizes, then you will need to mark off your finished size on the sheet before you start. Not hard if you are going to do this alot. Just use an old matt with the size opening you need. I know artist that do this in the filed when painting PA. They carry a couple of different tempaltes. Decide how the scene should look. Mark\tape off the boarder and begin patining.

03-23-2010, 01:06 PM
I use standard sizes, as the cost of standard frames is *much* lower, and I do just as Mike says, mark off the area of the painting. For PA, I do the marking in advance and bring marked papers. And my margins are *well* used, for testing colours, and for making a mark of the colours I've used. This discipline doesn't fit all people, but it has become second nature. After all, the first four lines of one's composition are the edges of the image. :-)


03-23-2010, 01:39 PM
Charlie makes a good point about the "wasted" space being good for color tests. It's not that much and if you can use it to figure out your skin tones or exact foliage colors, it saves a lot of trouble on the painting itself.

The other alternative is something Blick carries -- I bought the Team System 2 mat cutter, which is just the bevel cutting head and the guide rail. The "2" means I got the 40" guide rail, which lets me save a little money buying full size mat boards instead of half size ones. I bought a separate straight cutting head to go with it. Total was about $60 including the straight cutting head and it's paid for itself many times over.

Archival mat boards are $10 to $13 for a full size sheet and I get lots of mats out of a big 32" x 40" board. Don't bother with the cheaper Crescent Regular mat boards because those have to be replaced in five years, they will degrade and damage the art too in the process. The nice thing is that if a board or paper is over $7, Blick will let you get just one instead of having to buy 10.

The overall cost of using my own mat cutter runs much lower than buying precut mats and it gives me the freedom to cut openings to fit what I drew, whatever that is. I do a lot of small sizes and odd shapes. Not working to a precut mat's standard size also allows me to finish a painting by cropping it to improve the composition, but if I started with a 4" x 6" or 5" x 7" opening, there's no way I could turn it into a square without making a new mat.

Deborah Secor
03-23-2010, 02:20 PM
It may not answer all your needs, but take a look at http://www.salinepictureframe.com/showroom/category/mats/ for a lot of different sized mats with custom cut openings. You choose the outside dimension of the mat you want, then plug in the size of the opening desired. An 11x14" mat with a 9x12" opening is $7. (I'd make the opening 1/4" smaller all the way around: 8 3/4 x 11 3/4".)

The have lost of reasonably priced frames in non-standard sizes too.


03-23-2010, 08:25 PM
Another source is http://www.americanframe.com If you buy a frame, their lowest priced mats are free. If you want only a mat, the prices for an 11x14 mat with 9X12 opening range from $2.45 for the non-archival mat to $3.43 for the middle value mat, to $6.55 for the archival mat. They custom cut all of their mats so if you want a different size opening in that 11x14 mat it won't cost you any different than what I've quoted above. They have some nice clearance frames with a deep rabbet that would be as low as $18.55 if you take the free mat, no backing board and no acrylic glazing. They also have a nice line of metal frames if you want something a bit easier for you to assemble. An 11x14 metal frame & free mat could cost you as little as $22.75.

Another thing to consider if you choose to get custom cut frames and mats is that you will be able to choose to have a mat a bit wider than the skimpy 1inch that you are limited to in an 11x14 frame with 9x12 image, and it won't be a whole lot more expensive. Above example: if you choose a 2 inch mat for that metal frame it would go from $22.75 to $24.25, and your artwork wouldn't look as though you tried to crowd it into a mat & frame that are really too small for it. If you are framing for a competition, the "packaging" is almost as important as the artwork.

I'm sure there are more online frame companies for you to compare prices. This is the one I've used in the past, and I know they are very responsive to their customers.


Deborah Secor
03-24-2010, 01:17 AM
BTW, I'm not necessarily recommending Saline--never bought from them--just showing what's out there... Shop around! Peggy has sung the praises of American for years, so they must be good.

I usually frame a 9x12" painting in a plein air style frame with a spacer, like this:
Easy-peasy! I like the look, it's less expensive and simple to do. :) I framed this one for around $40, with museum glass, doing it myself.


03-24-2010, 02:00 AM
Thank you, Linn, Chris, Mike, Charlie, Robert, Deborah, Peggy for the many ways I could do this.

Right now I'm still new to pastels and am still practicing on 9x12 inch and I'll draw it just slightly smaller so as to go with the standard mats and frames for now.

Robert, I looked at the Logan Team 2 systme and indeed it is cheaper to buy a full sheet of 32 x 40 inch and still be able to come up with 6 pieces of 11x14 inch at only $1 each at most. Perhaps I should get my son to do the cutting for me. I'm really very bad with sharp objects.

But already, I feel the need to draw bigger because these soft pastels are so big and so tempting to do big sweeps of color. Perhaps I should buy a huge tracing pad and stuff them in rather than hoping to plaster the entire house with my paintings. But oh, it's so tempting.

I read you, Deborah. So for colourfix 9x12 inch, even though they already give us an extra 1/4 inch, we should make the inner dimension to 8 3/4 x 11 3/4". That's 1/8 inch further in from the colored rim on all sides.

Peggy, thanks for all the price comparison. That's exactly what I've been trying to figure out all day. I looked at one of my piece that I fitted with only 1 inch or so matting around compared to those of standard opening and the wider mat looks a bit better still even though it cropped out a lot of my subject. I have a feeling that I am going to draw bigger and bigger because I want to put so much more details in it that perhaps as you say, I might have to move up with 16x20 inch soon. Pastels are getting more and more expensive. LOL.

03-24-2010, 02:03 AM
Deborah, where do you get spacers?

03-24-2010, 03:18 AM
Sandra, you especially would benefit from the Logan Team 2 System. The mat cutters are very safe to handle. The blade is nowhere near your hand and it's set in with a knob that you can adjust to different depths. The blade retracts completely when you aren't pressing the thumb control to cut. So it's actually a sharp object designed for you and me and other klutzes.

You have to be careful with the straight cutting head though, that one it just sticks down at a right angle from the handle and again you adjust its depth by screwing the blade into one of three different holes. There's a "safety" setting that pulls the blade up behind the cutter and that's the top one. So you may want to move the blade up as soon as you're done cutting out a mat or several in a session. So that no one steps on that and you don't slice someone's arm with an exactly 1/8" deep cut.

I tried to learn how to cut glass when I worked at a framer's and got it right only once, sliced my hand half a dozen times learning and wasted some museum glass not getting it right. The owner eventually just relegated me to mat cutting for my safety and his overhead.

If you start working bigger, the cost of mats starts to really go up. But if you get your own mat cutter, then making fancy mats with special cuts and designs starts to become its own crafts project and you can do three or four layer cool designs to set off your art. I used to do that when I went to art shows, would do all the mats in the same color combinations but make each design a little different. I guess I got bored with cutting plain rectangles.

03-24-2010, 10:57 AM
This waste idea bugs me.

I haven't ordered any PastelMat pads b/c of the strange sizes that lend themselves to waste. That and the too funky colors. What's the matter with white 9x12?

Same goes with the Dakota KOOOL Binders. 11x14 is a great size, except there are three notebook holes down the side, so you're down to 11x13.

It's frustrating. I think paper manufacturers are in cahoots with the framing industry and they want to keep us away from standard sizes. Ha!

03-24-2010, 12:58 PM
This waste idea bugs me.

Same goes with the Dakota KOOOL Binders. 11x14 is a great size, except there are three notebook holes down the side, so you're down to 11x13.

If you are willing to take some time, you can make your own binders any size you want. I use the glissine and cut to whatever size I need. Then I do pretty much as Dakota has done... staple the edges together and then cover them with artists tape. I don't do the "binder" method after that, but rather slide them into a simple portfolio. However, If you wanted to punch holes in one side that could easily be done too.

Deborah, I too have pretty much "abandoned" mats for the more simple wide frame "plein air" look. Your price of $40 with museum glass is terrific! The painting looks very nice in that frame.

gakinme, I think Paula Ford has given an online source for channel spacers - or frame spacers - they are similar, but different products. Maybe she can do that again if you ask her. They're super simple to use. I cut mine to size with garden sheers!


Deborah Secor
03-24-2010, 01:19 PM
Bonnie, Pastelmat is imported from Europe and is cut to metric sizes. I happen to like the colors a lot--but I've heard others say they didn't care for them, like you, so I guess it's not for everyone.

Sandra, I went to Hobby Lobby and bought a 9x12" piece of Museum glass and 1/8" spacers from them. I used cotton gloves as I framed, and the woman at HL was kind enough to put a small piece of tape on the front of the Museum glass for me. The framing department at our local HL is well run, with responsible and knowledgeable staff.

You can order spacers from the larger retailers and use scissors to cut them. It's quite simple. Look at this page for a lot of information from Frametek: http://www.frametek.com/HTML/Articles/why.html (Watch the video, there's a link in the menu to the left.)

Oh, thanks, Peggy! :D


03-24-2010, 04:29 PM
Ah, Bonnie, Pastelmat is standard size here! The 30x40 cm fits perfectly in a standard frame, or mat -- in Europe. Just imagine how American sizes never fit our standards, and how we have to invent methods for using your products. I use cut-off strips of paper to do tests (keeps the aforementioned margins clean-er...) :) Well, when you guys see the light and embrace the easy and logical metric system, we'll all be happy as standard sizes will be international. :wink2:


03-24-2010, 09:34 PM
Ah, Bonnie, Pastelmat is standard size here! The 30x40 cm fits perfectly in a standard frame, or mat -- in Europe. Just imagine how American sizes never fit our standards, and how we have to invent methods for using your products. I use cut-off strips of paper to do tests (keeps the aforementioned margins clean-er...) :) Well, when you guys see the light and embrace the easy and logical metric system, we'll all be happy as standard sizes will be international. :wink2:


Oh graon Charlie, I'm much too old and disinclined to bother with "new math" to ever change... :lol: Besides, your suggest to everyone to use the cut off pieces to test colors is a good one so if you - or we - didn't have the "extra" than we couldn't do this time saving "test"... it's lots easier to test on a scrap than to put it on the painting and have to change it! :thumbsup:


03-25-2010, 01:41 AM
Charlie - I remember way back in Elementary School there was talk of changing over to the metric system - and I am almost 52 now and we are still working with inches and yards and everything else. They tried to teach me the "new math" too - it didn't stick so my Mom taught me the "old fashioned way" so I could take my tests and actually find the answers!!! New math for someone who doesn't even have a left brain (so says my children) just doesn't click!! If we ever switch over, I will have to have my children or grandchildren teach me how to do weights and measures all over again!! Yikes!!


03-25-2010, 01:59 AM
Oh, so some of you are going for the big fat frames now without mats. Now that might sound more workable. I could always pick them up at cheap outlets and thrift stores. Thank you for the tip. Now I get to paint the frames too if they are too old.

03-25-2010, 08:49 AM
Sandra, big fat frames are very nice, and the Sally Army, yard sales, etc, are great for finding them. Often they are quality frames, but need touching up. And you can find ones *with* glass too.

Metric: Teasing, just teasing! :-) We used to have the same-ish measurements as you guys, and every country, or even every region, sometimes from person to person, differed. How much is a gallon? US, or Canadian? An inch is really a 'thumb' (rule of thumb), that is, the top part from tip to joint, and rare would be the two that are identical. So Europe changed to the scientifical metric, but the Brits didn't, of course, as the idea was French. And you guys inherited the Brit way, which was the old way. So now the Brits need to drive on the right side of the road... :-)

Wouldn't it be easier to give measurements not as 1/8 of an inch, but as 3mm? Then there is 'space' for more precision, like 1.5 mm.

OK, I know, I know, the system one is used to is always the easiest and most self-evident.


03-25-2010, 09:32 AM
Thanks for the measurement clarification. I'll remember that next time I buy a metric frame in Virginia!

Deborah, I like to do underpaintings in watercolor, so I prefer white Wallis or even creamy Uart. The thought of a minimum order of five whole sheets of PastelMat in order to try it out is daunting and I can't think of anyone locally who might divide an order. Perhaps I'll pursue that angle anyway, though.