A interesting prospective on the origin of weighted mats


SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Founding Member
Nov 23, 1997
Mandeville, LA USA
Recently we got into a discussion about the origin of Weighted mats . We had a lot of reason and some were accepted and some not. However I remembered a very old theory that I read in a text book which I can't recall. I have lost all my reference books to the ravages of Katrina.

So I emailed the Experts ( XprtFrmr) Paul Fredricks,and Dianne Day.Paul told me it had some basis on optical illusions and when I questioned him about a ratio and proprtion formula he told me it was based on the "Golden Section" theory.

I couldn't remeber what that was so I called Dianne Day Of the PPFA Hot Line and she emailed me some relavent information which contained the following reference that I think will amaze the most mathimatically inclined and design orinated of any of you.It seems the "Golden Section" is a ratio on which all good design of any kind is based ( if i can understand this text( all 200 pages ).

Check it out and maybe you will have a better understanding of how this all got started .Or maybe you will be as awe struck as I.LOL

BTW when last I spoke to him ,Paul was desperately attempting to rejoin the ranks of TFG and maybe he by now has. It seems he needed some help signing on .He can be contacted at XprtFrmr@aol.com for any who wish to speak to him privately and maybe help him sign on.

This is the excerpt from Dianne's message;

If you want more info on the Golden Section see: www.ewersarchitecture.com/golden and for more than you ever wanted to know go to: www.goldenmuseum.com


I couldn't get the first link to open.
Artist's are taught (or should be) to place their focal point at or near the "Golden Mean" for most images. (Obviously any guideline can and will be broken at times.) Weighting of mats can impact (destroy?) the artist's intent. Sometimes, with a cropped image (usually done to a master work by a publisher) I try to weight the mat to "relocate" the focal point closer to the golden mean.

Once you decide on bottom weighting, I can understand using a golden mean ratio to decide on how much weighting, but I don't understand how a godlen mean calculation can/should be used to justify the weighting in the first place?
Thanks Mecianne,sorry about the typo. It was a cut and paste thing. However I was too interested in the second sight.

Cliff ,What I did was click on ENGLISH then,Click on The Golden Section In Art then,Click on The Proportional Scheme Of The Golden Section,then scroll down and read the instructions. In them you should fins a ratioand formula for finding it but the no.13 says ;

The constant ratio 1.618 of the "golden" division expressed with rather small error the ratios of the integer numbers: 8:5, 5:3, 3:2, which corresponds to numerical values of consonance intervals of the octave, the diminished sixth, the sixth, and the quint.

this seems to indicate that there is a set ratio of 1.618 to the base which could??? mean that if you have a set top and sides then the bottom should compute out to be 1.618 times that.

The only other thing I remember being taught about this and other design elements is not to skimp.When you make it too close it can sometimes look like it was an error instead of a intended design element.

In the words of another old time Framing Instructor ( Bill Pairie) Paint it RED ( make it stand out don't hide it)In fact I always wondered if that was what Bill's First shop's name meant "Pare Rojas".
I've always heard it called the Golden Mean, but that doesn't mean it is the proper title. I think there is something about it in in FACTS. Dan Brown wrote about it in either The DaVinci Code or Angels and Demons.
Jo, that's what I thought, too. Golden mean.

Then I figured I was just probably wrong.

But it looks like the same principle with a slightly different name?

(I'm blonde, so type s l o w l y ....) :D
Jo and Gumbo you are correct it does have other names.The reason you may remember it from The DaVinci code is the reference to a Fibonacci Code( or something very similar for the code first found on the scrap of paper in the story) in the Book which is another name the ratio can go by.Read the second web sight.

I not suggesting anything supernatural or clandestant it is a mathamtical ratio that is proported to be the best/most perfect known to man. Hence the way one might want to design a weighted mat or anything else as there are many examples of on the sights.If I undertsand all that stuff.

My point was it wasn't just because it looked good on a tall wall or that it gave the illusion of being even when viewed from below, but originally becasue it was the most correct proportions devised .
Buddy, Thanks for bringing this up. I had the second site on my favorites and several books that predate the interneet, including Woodson's "Human Factors Design Handbook" where he comes up with the term "ergonomic".

the "Golden Mean" is the ratio. It is this ratio that allows us to design or draw Golden Triangles, Golden Rectangles, and Golden Rules...

Ok, so I was just kidding about the Rules.

At Christmas I had quite a discussion with my brother-in-law about the architect's, in his firm and others, use of the "Mean" in building or space design. And to explain to the wives what the heck we were talking about... we tried to use the table as an example.... but no 1.618.

Then his wife got that wonderful look on her face [not the one after the third glass of wine] and asked.. "what about the little night stand we like so much?"

Sure enough: Golden Rectangles everywhere... 3-5-8 drawers, sectioned top... incredable piece.

$20 at a garage sale. Built pre 1860.
Buddy, you're right. It is interesting that we do it for a reason and not because it just looked right. There's reason behind the rightness, like so many other things in life.

It's also fun to hear what framers have concocted over the years as to the reason for the weighted mats. I was told (taught?) it was a holdover from pics being hung so high, and the extra at the bottom made the optical illusion of an even mat.

Thanks for the sites. Fun stuff.

I've never read "The Da Vinci Code."

On my list to read this year - "Insights of Genius: Imagery and Creativity in Science and Art" - Arthur I. Miller
I was told (taught?) it was a holdover from pics being hung so high, and the extra at the bottom made the optical illusion of an even mat.

If that were the case, you'd need to weight the top of the mat. To make it look even, the farther away part of the mat would need to be weighted.
Some additional reading on the topic ( especially for those who call it the "Golden MEAN" and for those who like I have some trouble interpeting the previous text ,in which the 1.618 ratio is given in examples of 8:5 ,5;3 etc if you delete the sixth????) can be found at: http://community.middlebury.edu/~harris/Humanities/TheGoldenMean.htm

or just do a search under "GOLDEN MEAN"for some unknown reason this sight won't allow quick recalls but it was the one I accessed when I did the search.

Be sure to note that it mentions among it's uses picture frameing.This is a bit easier read.

Happy reading
this seems similiar to the teaching in my old art/photograpghy classes. We were talk the "third" rule. For example, a horizon line is more visually interesting at 1/3 or 2/3 top to bottom; or a tree placement at 1/3 from either the left edge or right edge; when you draw a face - it is loosely based on the third rule for placing the eyes 1/3 from the top of the forehead, the nose a 1/3 lower and the mouth and added 1/3 lower.

When I design narrow verticle framing projects, I also add top and bottom weight to compliement maintain a vertical presentation. My customers love it!
sorry for the verbage error - we were "taught" not "talk" the third rule. Although the learning was due to talking.....

Oh well
Happy Friday
MnSue- you can edit your replies within a half hour if you click the paper/pencil icon above your reply.
Just yesterday, a customer (also a painter), was selecting matting proportions and weighting.

She asked me to draw a number "3" and try to make the top/bottom equal size. Hard to do, the bottom is larger than the top, hence weighted,

While we are on the subject of mats and weighting, Here is a question,

I always make my bottom mats(if there is more than one) different sizes. I was taught to do that, because of the visual effect is more depth, is this how everyone does it?

Also, I was taught never to make the mats the same width as the frame. Also a bad visual effect (although I don't know what the effect is).

Are these questions along the same lines as weighting the bottom? I mean are the reasons based on the same theorys from above or this another subject all togather?

Or am I the only one who was taught these things?

(please don't laugh if these are stupid questions)
I was going to suggest anyone interested in design, buy my book and read it because I covers weighted mats with illustrations but it seemed self serving so I did not. BUT, it covers the Golden mean, briefly, enough for framers purposes, proportion and visual balance.

There are no rules when it comes to design. Anything you can come up with for a rule, I can find a way to break it and get it to work and so can most good framing designers. There are so many factors that influance the use of weighted mats, or any mat proportions. In the end it is visual balance and harmoney, When it looks right it is.

One framer said they never weight mats, hate the look. I can't imagine, but to each her/his own. I say if you never weight mats you are wrong and if you always weight mats you are equally wrong. read my book and it will tell you why. Available just about anywhere including Amazon.com. $25, and I get so little of it after spending so much of my life writing and researching color and design, you won't be lining my pocket by much, but the info needed to be covered for framers. Color & Design for the Picture Framer by Nona Powers.

As long as I'm being self serving, I was up unitl 3 this morning working on my basic color class I will teach in Orlando for the PPFA, they offer a full two days of color and design so the subject gets covered in depth. I can show things with a power point presntation, that I could not with slides and overheads. if you are in Orlando, any of the classes would be helpful, all four would be invaluable and I know that from past students comments. I've been teaching and writing about this for over 25 years now, I'd better know the topic by now, and I do.

One more, in Vegas I am teaching an advanced color called Lanuage of color. Again I can teach things with the power point I couldn't before, including wall colors, signage and working with customers.

As Ellen says, take what you can use and leave the rest. Forgive me if i seem self serving.
Not self-serving in the least Nona. Since I can't attend your classes anytime in the near future, I will buy that book.....sounds great!
Nona in my dictionary "Self Serving " is when something only serves your own interest. Your classes and tips and instructions as well as your efforts to further FACTS has served everyone in the industry. So that term just doesn't apply to you.

I urge any and everyone to attend any instructional effort( in person or by text,or any other medium) given by Nona .You will never be disappointed.
Hey Nona, I have your book and loved it. (Hopefully in a "future" edition more color can be used in the samples, as the color samples were awesome.)

I actually re-read periodicaly as there is so much in it, great color information, things I haven't seen as well presented since my long ago collage days.

Thanks for the book

PS TheDoctah:thanks for the "tip"