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Thread: Cutting mattes

  1. #1
    BetterSense's Avatar
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    Cutting mattes

    The problem I have is I seem to have a problem shooting and printing for standard frame and matte sizes, especially in 6x6 and 35mm. So I end up with completely arbitrary dimensioned prints.

    I suppose the thing to do is get a sufficiently big frame and cut a custom hole in a matte, but is this an expensive and difficult thing? Are matte cutters big and/or expensive?


    Another issue I have wondered about, is how unsightly it is to have an image with an aspect ratio that does not match that of the frame, which would be the case for me unless I ALSO made custom frames. How do you print full-frame 35mm and other images, and then how do you frame them?
    f/22 and be there.

  2. #2
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Logan mat cutters are reasonably priced. There are better cutters out there, but they are big bucks. After a bit of practice, cutting mats is not a big deal. You'll find a thread or two on the subject -- probably do a search in the presentation section of the forum.

    Square holes cut a little higher than centered on a vertical board looks good. General rule of thumb -- about 3 or 4 inches of matboard around the hole to let t he image breath. If I have a new or tricky mat cutting job, I like to draw it out to scale on graph paper just to get a feel of how it looks. I tend to stick to standard size mats (12x16, 16x20, 20x24) to make buying wood frames easier. Metal frames you can buy in sections and as long as you have even inches (no fractions), any size is easy to get.

    But the best thing to do is to try out some different mat sizes and positions in the mat -- hang it on the wall for awhile to see what feels best for you. Generally I place the print 1/2 inch higher than centered, unless I am doing the square image on a vertical board -- in which case I might go with 1/3 above and 2/3 below the image.
    At least with LF landscape, a bad day of photography can still be a good day of exercise.

  3. #3

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    I, too, cut my own mats and it's not too hard. I have a couple of Logan mat cutters and have been happy with them. One I bought new and spent just under $100 for the compact version with the frame and cutter.

    I am currently printing a lot of square images at about 8". I have used 12" X 12" frames and think they look OK with the 2" of border. The 12" frames are about the only ones that are readily available without getting the metal sectional frames. I get them at craft stores and some of them are advertised as scrapbook page frames. The ones that I purchased recently are wooden and come in black only.

  4. #4
    eddym's Avatar
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    I started out by buying an inexpensive kit from Light Impressions that included a hand-held mat cutter, straightedge, ruler, etc., plus the most important thing: instructions! I used it for quite a while before I upgraded to a 30" Logan cutter. I cut all the mats for my own work, as well as for my wife's pastels. It's not hard at all.
    Eddy McDonald
    www.fotoartes.com
    Eschew defenestration!

  5. #5
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    Google "Coupon for Michaels" and you'll always find a 40 pct off coupon and then get the best Logan you can find there.
    I have the Interminate + and it's just fine.

    Having a off ratio matte to image is generally normal. Also, never center your image, always leave more room at the bottom of the matte then the top. i.e. Matte should be cut center in the Horz. position but higher in the Vert.
    Good luck.

  6. #6
    bsdunek's Avatar
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    All the above is great advice. I get my frames from Michaels - as dwdmguy says, get a coupon and watch their sales. I use a center finding ruler http://www.dickblick.com/products/fa...inding-rulers/ to help with my layout and cut with a No. 3 Exacto knife. It goes pretty quick and I can make the opening any size I want. I too seem to end up with odd sizes when I crop my photos the way I want.
    Bruce

    Moma don't take my Kodachrome away!
    Oops, Kodak just did!
    For all practical purposes, they've taken Kodak away.


    BruceCSdunekPhotography.zenfolio.com

  7. #7
    RPippin's Avatar
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    I cut my own mats as well with a Logan mat cutter. My advice is to also get a self healing cutting board to put under the mat when you cut out the middle. I also shoot square format and have found an inexpensive way to frame. There is a local art supply shop in town with a framing section. They sell me pre cut (45 degree) gallery wooden frame stock that come with wedges to keep their shape. All I have to do is apply a little Elmers glue to the corners and drive in the wedges and hang up to dry overnight. The cost with glass is less than anything from Michaels and I can get a square frame 16"X16" for about $20.00. The only big cost is 4 ply acid free rag mat and the acid free backing. The mat and backing run about $18.00 each for a 30"X40". With the mat, the insert pieces I cut out give me something to frame 5X7 contact prints with, so there is little waste. For about a hundred bucks I can get four nice framed prints with some scraps to do small images with. The initial cost to set yourself up to do your own is well worth the expense. Check out your local art shop and see if they will work with you. They tag on my stuff with their regular order, mark it up a bit and hand it over with no more effort than it takes to write down the sizes I need. Works great for both of us. Good luck.

  8. #8
    DWThomas's Avatar
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    There is a web page with some info on positioning the print that has a calculator to figure out the margins and display an example. Clever and fun, I've played around with it a bit. I cut my own mats with a Dexter hand cutter and a straight edge, but am thinking I may invest in a Logan before the next major round of framing, as the current method can get pretty tedious.

  9. #9
    bowzart's Avatar
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    Buy the frame first, then make the print the right size to fit it. You can even take the frame into the darkroom and project the negative right on it, size, and there you go.

    We recently got some frames from Michael's. They were such garbage we couldn't use them. Fortunately, they took them back. They weren't wood at all, just plastic. Horrible! - but all they had. Check other craft stores. Fairly decent standardized wood frames aren't hard to find. If you don't quite like the color, shoe polish might correct it.

    About placement in the matte. It won't work right if the print is off center from side to side. It also won't look right if the print is ON center from top to bottom. It baffles me why people have formulas or rules about how much more space to leave below the print. The whole thing about placement is proportion. For example, if you were to matte your prints leaving the lower part of the matte 1/2 inch more than the top, or anything like that, it would be very different if you were matting a 2x3 inch print on a 5x7 inch board, than if you were matting a 2x3 FOOT print on a 5x7 foot board. In the first case, the 1/2 inch might be too much. In the second, the 1/2 inch would have no visible effect. Vertical placement is best determined by simply looking at it and finding where it looks right. Side to side placement must be measured carefully.

    One very quick and easy way of centering the print side to side if you are dry mounting with the margins trimmed off is to move the print to one edge of the board, so that the edge of the print corresponds with the edge of the board, then take a strip of paper and with it, measure the difference from the other edge of the print to the other side of the board, marking the strip with a fingernail. Then, fold the strip of paper from the end to the mark. What you've just done is to determine without a ruler the difference in size between the print and the board, then divided that difference in half. Then you can use the strip you've made to set the distance of the print from the edge on either side at the top and bottom of the side of the print.

    Then all you have to do is visually set the vertical position, tack it, and you are ready to press. It is incredibly easy. You've done it with no abstract math. I hope I've explained it well enough. Using this method, you can probably matte 4 prints in the time it used to take to matte just one.

    Unfortunately I know of no similar trick for laying out the overmatte. Wish I did!

    Cutting: I learned to cut mattes with a Dexter when I worked in a color lab back in the 1960's. Professional framers laugh when I tell them that, but the fact is, you actually can cut good mattes with it, as unlikely as it seems. Subsequently, I bit the bullet and bought a second hand C&H professional cutter. It's great, but I still mess up now and then, and with good museum board, that's distressing.

  10. #10

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    I think there's a fair bit of info in the Lee Valley Tools catalog about cutting mats [also on-line at Leevalley.com].

    Custom frame sizes on the cheap: I imagine [since I'm a professional woodworker] that you could buy an off-the shelf, ready-to-assemble frame and have it cut down and assembled [or not] for very little money by a hungry frame shop owner.

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