What to do with a mat that is ugly, faded or damaged

So! You got caught with an ugly mat. (Well how ’bout that.)

Well babies, don’t you panic, because I am going to show you three ways to AWESOME-FY your hideous or damaged mat.

1. DUCT TAPE

Yes. Evenly wrap your mat in duct tape, leaving the beveled edge on the inside window uncovered. Sounds crazy, right? But if you use an appropriate color and evenly apply the tape in pleasing, straight lines, no one will even know it’s duct tape. It looks like some really cool, textured mat with a light sheen. Of course, this is merely what I did…all you duct-tape wizards out there can no doubt find ways of creating criss-cross and plaid patterns, or using a busy duct tape pattern that somehow goes with your art piece and makes the overall framed piece more complete and fabulous. The possibilities are endless.

A caveat: this approach may be better suited for “edgy” shows and venues. In my own experience, I used this approach in a cyberpunk-type solo show and I found that telling customers about the duct tape was a selling point, not a drawback. Both of these pieces are gone now.

2. TISSUE PAPER

That cute, crinkly green mat you see there is a mat wrapped in tissue paper, then gone over several times with mod podge. Again, something that people liked and appreciated when they came across it. Tissue paper comes in all kinds of colors, so you can have a field day with this. As with the duct tape tip, just make sure your crazy, unique textured mat is appropriate for the piece inside it! This one is also “cute” enough to merit most venues.

An alternate version of this would be to creatively cover your matboard with attractive paper (origami paper, etc), like beautifying a damaged or ugly wall with wallpaper. Just make sure everything is straight and glued down perfectly, no bubbles.

3. EXTEND THE ART PAST THE WINDOW

I’ve done this plenty of times with perfectly intact mats. It’s a great approach to take with many pieces that just can’t be contained in that rectangular little window alone! But as you can probably guess, this approach can be ideal when you have an unsightly gouge or scratch on your otherwise pristine mat. If my matboard here had a nasty gouge underneath that origami pine there, you’d never know it.

Collages lend themselves well to this technique. You already have tons of interesting elements in your picture, and some of them may extend past the main body of the image and have graceful or interesting forms that you just cant bear to cover up. Don’t!!

My only caveat with this technique would be to make sure you take an even and consistent approach. If you just have one little element pasted onto your mat in an odd place, people are likely to guess why it’s there. But if you artistically extend your composition past the mat in a way that is visually pleasing and improves the picture, “making sense” to you and the viewer, you will not only have covered your mat’s damaged spot but you will have made a better piece of art! This should always be the goal regardless of what you are doing to your picture.

I hope these 3 little tips have given you some ideas of how you can stretch out your money and use those “unusable” mats moldering in the back of your art cabinet. Do you have any tricks you employ to get more mileage out of your matboards? I’d love to hear them in the Comments section!

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