Design 101: Mat Colour Choice

Newfoundland Canvas red mat

Ok this is a long one as I am getting up on my soapbox to preach, so bear with me.

One rule that I have here is that I don’t finalize a job until I am sure that the design will work.  It is a personal rule that has done me well over the 14 years that I have been a professional picture framer (Certified Picture Framer for the past 8 years) running a retail framing shop.

Of all of the designs that we have designed at Walkerworks, from our early years in Perth, to our last 8 years here in Stittsville, I can count on my hands the frame jobs that have come back into our shop because the client wasn’t completely satisfied with the design.

Oh, people just aren’t coming back in, you say.  No. I don’t think so.  Our clients know our policy:  if you aren’t pleased with your framing job and eager to hang it on your wall so that you can admire it and tell all of your friends what an awesome job we do…. then please come back in!  We will fix it, no problem, no fuss, no extra charge.

This is why I don’t hurry you through the design process.  We make sure of every little detail because I know that if we come up with a great design, the framing part is easy.  Bad design…well, framing your piece will be a nightmare from start to finish, and no one will be happy in the end.

So my rule — it’s not a big secret really but I don’t usually come out and say it– is:  I need to like the design.

Sometimes our clients have no idea what they want, and that’s fine, I am here to show you different options and to guide you into a design that will complement your artwork and fit with your personality and style.

Sometimes our clients have firm ideas.  This is also fine.  Sometimes their ideas are excellent and we incorporate them. These framing projects can turn out truly fantastic because not only does the finished product look good… because we incorporate their idea while making sure  it will  work…but also because I have gotten a fresh idea from a client.  Take for instance the job I blogged about here.

So onto my story… last year, I designed a job with a client who had very definite ideas.  She wanted large mat borders to make her piece more square then rectangular…. and she really wanted a red mat.

I love red, but because it is such a strong colour, it rarely gets to be the top mat on a job.  I laid out various other options and made my subtle case as I usually do, explaining that when we use such colours you can sometimes get very tired of your piece very quickly.

Overpowering colours are great for short term “decorator art” but not for long term “frame it once, like it forever” custom framing which is what we try to strive for.

Regardless of my warning, she really wanted the red and although it works, I was pretty sure she’d get tired of it.  Or paint her wall and it would no longer work.

She came back a year later and said I was right.  “Toot Toot!”


Here’s what her job looks like now:

Newfoundland canvas rematted