Mat Color: Black vs White

Discussion in 'Presentation & Marketing' started by sscottbrown, Sep 10, 2005.

  1. sscottbrown

    sscottbrown Subscriber

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    I see a majority of mat's for B&W are white. I am relatively new at this but wondered why black is not used more. Are there circumstances where black mats would be prefered over white? What are the accepted conventions on mat color?
     
  2. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

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    for me it has always come down to personal preferance, certain images look good in one, and others look good in the other, I would think it comes down to what you like 99.5% of the time.

    Dave
     
  3. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    They are white, or more likely an off white, because most 'museum quality archival' mats are (not pure) white.

    It also may be because it is so hard to get a black black in B&W, and who wants to be shown up by their mat?
     
  4. reellis67

    reellis67 Subscriber

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    I think that a black mat closes in the image while a white mat give a more open feeling. Some images work well with black mats, but not all. Pick up a mat with an opening the size of your most common print dimensions in both black and white and lay them on some of your prints. You should see the print differently with each mat.

    - Randy
     
  5. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Member

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    I went to an opening last night that was at a frame shop. The frame shop had done all of the framing and it felt to me more like an advertisement for the framing and matting than the photography. The black and white images were all matted in black and to me it detracted from the images. I don't want the matting and framing to attract attention away from the image.
     
  6. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    White for prints, black for transparencies to be viewed on a light table.
     
  7. Troy Hamon

    Troy Hamon Member

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    I know lots of people must agree with David, because I see lots of black and white prints matted white. But you can in fact find fully archival museum quality matboard in black, though it requires some careful searching. That's my preference, and it's the only matting I use. My complaint with white matting is that it's like having a transparency on a light table without any mat. The glare around the image detracts from your eye's ability to discern detail. White matboard is like an overwhelming glare on any but the most high-key of images.

    IMHO.
     
  8. jimgalli

    jimgalli Subscriber

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    I once paid Al Weber a fee to critique my portfolio. He loved the work but scolded me for having some mounted on black board and matted with black board. He said while it's currently trendy to do that a museum curator would consider it amatuerish. He also scolded for having the telltale format edge be included in the photo. Apparently the pro's aren't impressed that you have made a contact print from an 11X14 neg and left the edges on to prove it :wink:

    I would add that in my own home, more than half the photos are on black board or matted in black, just because that was what pleased me most.
     
  9. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    One issue for gallery owners and museums is that they want the work on display to have a relatively uniform mode of presentation, and if everyone uses a different mounting style and different colors of mat board, then the whole ensemble looks sloppy.

    If it's all your own work hanging in your own home or a solo show, then it's a different story.
     
  10. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    I have had prints that have lots of delicate detail in broad highlights but when I print them with sufficient tone, the print looks a bit dull. Mounting them in a dark grey matt visually sets off the lightest tones and snaps up those highlights. That said, I very rarely use anything but White.
     
  11. Earl Dunbar

    Earl Dunbar Member

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    I have used a middle grey matte fairly consistently. But an (off) white matte would work for a lot of my prints.

    Earl
     
  12. BWGirl

    BWGirl Member

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    Is there a reason that mats must be black/white/gray? Can you use colors? I've always wondered this... :confused:
     
  13. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    Be aware of the various whites that mats come in. Consider warm tone papers and neutral cold tone ones and the variety of 'whites' available and you will see that the 'wrong' white doesn't work well at all. When possible, see if you can get a set of samples (lightimpressions, for instance, sells a 4x5 set at nominal cost). It can make an enormous difference when you make the best match.
     
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  15. Scott Edwards

    Scott Edwards Member

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    Great care should be taken when choosing your mat board. Black may have a tendency to make your prints appear washed out or discolored. The dmax in your images may be toned and a black mat will bring out the toning in these areas a bit too much. An overly yellowish mat will definitely highlight selenium toning because yellow is the complimentary to violet, and as such will make your dmax seem overly purple. The best solution I find is to use cotton rag mat which is natural in color, that is to say, almost pure white and is archivally sound. Bainbridge makes this as well as Crescent. This particular board does not detract from your highlights and will present your image in a professional manner. There are quite a few venues that will only present fine art photography in white rag mats.
     
  16. mark

    mark Member

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    Jeanette

    I have found that color mats seem to compete with the BW like oil and water.

    On the the other hand I knew a lady whould hand color only one very small part of her BW images. She would mat the picture in a mat very close to or contrasting with that one color and it was really neat.
     
  17. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Member

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    Coloured card can be used for mounts, but they usually distract from the image. I follow Henry Ford's dictum that mounts can be any colour you like as long as they are off-white.
     
  18. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    I generally use an off-white. Most of my prints are warm, often lightly sepia toned and a plain white matt looks "wrong". I think cold toned prints look better with a plain white matt. I've never tried black. I'll have to get some next time I am buying to see how it looks.

    I suspect a dark, warm colour might look good but it would shout "gimmick!" to me. Probably I'm just too conservative...


    Cheers, Bob.
     
  19. Rlibersky

    Rlibersky Subscriber

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    One thing I have noticed when buying print most are mounted on the same mat board that wraps the print. Is there a reason for this rather, then using archival foam board which doesn't deform as much in humid conditions.

    Also some bring the mat up to the print. While others leave an 1" or so around the print.

    Thanks, Randy
     
  20. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Just an opinion but...
    The former may be due to the fact that many don't believe that foamcore is truly archival and also because of eas. The latter issue may be a matter of taste.
     
  21. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    i tried mounting a project on formcore and didn't like it, the core is much too soft and the images did all sorts of unlikely things.

    as to the backs being the same color as the window.
    Many people cut their own windows and buy board in large amounts and so one has the board handy and available.

    On the other hand, we have used different shades of white as the back board if the window overlays the print, as it will not show.
    If one floats the print within the window, it visually looks better (IMHO) to have the back board the same as the window.
    Just a personal opinion
     
  22. Rlibersky

    Rlibersky Subscriber

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    I will agree it is easier to work with the mat board.
     
  23. colrehogan

    colrehogan Member

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    What about white with a black core?
     
  24. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    I used to use this all the time. It gives that nice line of separation when you have very light areas of the print adjacent to the white mat.
    The pieces cut out of the mats make great burners and dodgers in the darkroom too. White on the top so that you can see the projected image on them, Black on the bottom to prevent reflected light from bouncng back onto the paper.
     
  25. lee

    lee Member

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    my opinion is if you want to use the colored matt boards go ahead and use it but dont complain when galleries and museums dont think much of your workor take you seriously. You can defend your matt choices all you want but the museums and galleries are generally not too impressed with colored matts. A lot of frame shops will lead you in the belief you need color to blend with the frame and the dominate colors in the print if color. This leads me to believe this leads to "couch art". Interior designer art. no thank you

    lee\c
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 12, 2005
  26. Scott Edwards

    Scott Edwards Member

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    Again, when using cotton rag, most of this is the same color (natural, almost pure white) and galleries and museums like to see mat and mount in cotton rag. This makes the image more valuable because of the real and perceived archival stability in the presentation. Therefore the mount and overmat will be the same color by default. I would never use foam core as a mount. I do, however, use it as backing behind the mount to keep out contaminants and humidity.