French matting corner marking rule


CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
May 31, 2004
I have been searching for a corner marking rule so I can do French matting. I've read several articles that will mention a certain product, but I'm unable to locate anything.

One that I have read and heard about is a corner marking rule by Chartpak. I've been to their web site, but I can't find the product.

I would really appreciate it if someone could point me in the right direction for a corner marking rule of any brand!

Garnetta (what an unusual, beautiful name!) I inquired to our sponsor, United (above) and was informed that stock #4567 / Matline Mat Marker / $8.95 each, is designed with guide slots which enable graduated corner markings for french matting, etc. Contact them by clicking on their banner ad.
French mats are mats that have inked lines and/or panels around 1/4 to 1/2" or more away from and outlining the opening of a mat. They are usually inked with liquid drawing inks or watercolors and a ruling pen although some use of markers are used nowadays. Panels are usually painted on with a fine watercolor brush after inking the borders with a ruling pen.

They are a very traditional way of framing and are used often on botanicals and the like.

Dave Makielski
Very cool. Thanks Maria et al. Whereabouts in Groton are you (I am somewhat familiar with the town. Assume I'm coming in from rt 40)?
French mats are usually laid out with a very soft lead pencil, at least that is the way I have always done it. I use a woodworkers scribe that I have modified by removing the steel scribe and replacing it with a wood pencil by drilling a hole in the scribe. Lay out your mat with the scribe. Do your watercolor wash in the panel/s, then with a ruling pen, rule in your lines. Use an art gum eraser to remove any visible pencil marks.

I rule my lines in a similar fashion to John's technique, except I use a drafting compass rather than a scribe. But same idea.

Doctah, I'm pretty close to where RT. 40 meets Main St. But Groton is small and everythings pretty close.

If you ever want to come down, I'll take you through the back roads.
Never worked that way for me. I use as thin a line as I can make. Any over the line drifting with my brush is what determines just how wide my ruling lines are going to be made. After everything is dry, you can lightly erase right on top of the watercolor to get rid of any lead/graphite marks that my be visible. As long as they were light enough in the first place.

Funny, I always ruled the lines with the ruling pen first (mark with pinhole the corners), then the ruled acrylic paint lines acted like a dike for the watercolor.

Drawing the graffit lines serves what purpose? Maria, do I need to come out for a class?
And the best trick I ever learned for doing french lines is to have a post-it note at either end of the line. Start your pen on one note and draw through to the other note. No start or finish blobs that way!
I'm getting some great ideas here. Only problem is I hardly ever do French mats anymore. I haven't done one in years. The reason? From start to finish, pulling the materials, setting up to do one, then doing it, is incredibly time consuming.

It is rare when I have a customer willing to spring for a French mat. As a consequence, I don't even bother to suggest it anymore.

When I first started my business, I sold at least one or two a month, not anymore. I know if I pushed them, I would sell them. I can think of a lot more profitable things to do with my time, so I don't bother.

French mats are fun to do, now and then. I guess if you did them on a daily basis and were set up to do them all the time, then it would be no big deal. For the average shop, however, from start to finish, it's is a big deal.

Ellen's method with the post-it note sounds great. I have never used acrylic. I had always used a good quality water color such as Windsor Newton or Dr Martin. Using acrylic, would allow you to rule the lines first, since they dry permanent. Those two things alone would greatly speed up the process.

I guess I will have to dig out all my stuff and try a few again.

There is one thing I have always wondered about, whenever I see a French mat the was made in England, or thereabouts. I have noticed very small pin holes at the end of each line. I figure it must be some production tool they use. For the life of me, I can never figure it out. Anyone from across the pond want to jump in?

John, that is the way I was taught. Find your corners, and ***** the mat with a needle...

Not a deep hole, just enough to see and line-up on.
Most people view that mat from at least arms length, and therefore never see or notice the tiny hole.

I usually can dig out everything, mix the acrylic, unless my mat magic liquid color is a match, lay out , line and panel, and clean up in about an hour.

We charge the same as a mat for each line or panel or painted bevel.

So a mat with a painted bevel, single line, and double line with panel cost the same as a mat 6 deep.

That way, it's worth your while. and cost a heck of a lot less than 6 sheets of Bainbridge AlphaCare.

And you would get to use your new eyes!! :D
I'm doing a lot of them lately (55 for one client and about 40 for another). I've used the pinprick method and the drafting pencil method. Both seem to work. I still mask for the watercolor panel with a low tack (kind of like post-it note) tape, though I am going to switch to the acrylic lines on the next order. I've gotten pretty quick at masking though, and for production work I can turn out about 3/hour with 4 pin lines and 1 wash panel.

I made my own marking tool using acrylic that I cut at a 45 on my saw. Glued a ledger that rests on the bevel and has a stop that puts the 45 right in the corner. I scribed a grid on to the 45 in 1.8" increments, but find that attaching a post-it note with the pattern on it works just as well. For large orders I make a dedicated marking tool with holes drilled in for the corners.
Wally wins! 95 mats! :eek: You da man!

I'd be blind by the 40th... :D

One thing that helps when I'm doing a lot of lines that are the same color.
I mix up the acrylic and get it just right, then stick it all in a 100cc suringe that I have from the horse vet. That way I can just milk it onto the ruling pen and keep going.
Another case of being careful what you wish for. It is pretty mind numbing after a while.

I got some tapered plastic syringes from the local art supply store...they work great. My problem now is keeping the inks from coagulating between sessions. Got some small plastic vials with air-tight lids, but the pigments settle out and gel. Any hints on keeping that from happening?
Can't do it two days in a row.
Pack the vials in a shoe box, on top of a 12" vibrator with 4 brand new "D" cell batteries.
The vibrator must be left on when you're not using the vials. It should keep it all shaken up.

I'm sure someone will come along and see this posting as vial. But, hey, you gotta keep your gel shakin' or you end up mixing a fresh batch...

And I don't even want to go into Dye Lot problems.

As to the syringe tip, I put a little felt piece in the bottom of a glass and dampened it. The syringe tip down, is in that glass until I need it. Which is about every other line.
I think I have Wally beat on quantity. 2004 I did about 1,200 french mats. 2005 will beat that by a good bit. But that's what I do...french mats for those of you who don't want to or can't do it but still want to offer it to their customers.

Baer, I don't think you need lessons. Sounds like you've got your own technique down. Ruling acyrlic lines first is probably the more common way along with the pinholes. I think John and I are in the minority with our pencil lines and putting the wash in first.

Hey, whatever works.

Wally, kudos on your homemade mat marking thingy. You should post it in the homemade equipment section. People ask me where to get one all the time.

I'm curious...what kind of paint or ink are using that coagulates?
Maria, I'm just a hack. I've done less than a few hundred. You on the other hand are the goddess of lines......

I've long admired you work. I should have you do one for me.... as long as you will sign it.
I'm using adrylic paint thinned with water. I've tried adding gel medium as well, but only recently. I have been using the Mat Magic inks for a while, but am concerned about running out of a particular color when doing these larger jobs (did I mention that the 55 were all exactly alike
I use Windsor-Newton watercolors for the panels, and they seem OK with resting and being remixed as long as they don't sit long enough to grow mold.
Garnetta, now you see what can happen when you 'tickle' the talented minds on The Grumble - many quality responses on a subject that is still somewhat foreign to some of us.

Free framing classes and worth every dime of your subscription cost!
I have been decorating mounts with lines and colour wash for more than 30 years. I have always drawn the ink lines first - without the necessity of pricking holes as a guide - and then laying in a clear water wash where required - which helps the colour wash to be laid whilst the board is still wet and thus avoiding any premature drying of parts of the colour band.
I have always used a drawing board (in the horizontal position) which is fitted with a parallel-motion rule.
All my mounts are drawn up on this and then cut on a bench using a straight-arm C&H cutter.

My method is to place the cut mount onto the drawing board - place the rule aligned to the nearer horizontal cut bevel and place two heavy glass weights on the two side margins.
Next move the rule toards yourself say about 3" and with a 45 degree set square and a sharpened HB grade pencil draw a faint line from the corner of the mount at either end. Turn the mount around and repeat the process at the other two corners.
Cut pieces of mount board - say 2" x 3" - and place the rule the desired distance fron the mount opening for your first line. Place one of your small pieces of card onto the mount surface tight up against the top edge of the rule and mark in pencil the position of the opening onto your card.
Now, starting at the 45 degree pencil line draw in your ink line until you reach the corresponding pencil line at the next corner.
Decide the space between your first and second lines and place the rule there. place your small 'marker card' against the rule and mark where your first line is. Draw in your second line from one corner pencil line to the other as before. Repeat the procedure with however many lines your design requires and reproduce your lines on the others three sides.
When your ink lines are properly dry,erase your 45 degree lines at the 4 corners and HEY PRESTO you are now ready to apply your colour.

I am sorry that it takes so many words to describe such a simple process but I hope that in a few weeks my new website will be up and running and as we all know, a picture is worth a thousand words. Which is just as well as we would all be out of a job.
Yes, indeed! This list is a wealth of information and I've truly enjoyed this thread. I've learned several wonderful tips I can't wait to try! And, of course, the answer to my original question where to find the mat corner marking rule.

Thank you fellow Grumblers!
I must be seriously behind the times! To think that all these years I've been doing my lines with watercolor diluted just enough to flow from my ruling pen, and then diluting that to a tea wash! Acrylic, eh? I'll have to try that once I get the job that will end my sabbatical!
Decorations around works of art on paper started
with Vasari in the Renaissance, in Italy and in
France they are called lavis et fillet or Marie
Louise, if a cartouche is included. In the past
they were done with iron gall ink and the corners
were pricked. One can make designs that are likely
to work well, using inexpensive materials. A strip
of mat board, 2"-3" wide, which has been cut from
side to side at a 45 degree angle makes a perfect
lay out device. It works best if that cut is on a
bevel. The intervals for the lines are marked on
the bevel and the strip is laid along the edge of
window, those spots can be marked onto the corner
of the window, with graphite or pricking. Drawing
the lines with acrylic first, has two advantages.
If anything goes wrong, it is likely to be in the
drawing of the lines and the acrylic will be water
proof, allowing for the later addition of the wash. Gouache is formulated to go on evenly and
this makes it an ideal medium for doing wash panels. A well done mat decoration adds more to
a framing job than almost anything else and it
should add to the bottom line, since it takes nothing but a bit of time.

Another trick to making your waterbased inks or pigments is to use "ox gall" as a medium to increase the viscosity of your inks or watercolors. Ox gall makes water "wetter" and will make the pigments or dyes flow off your ruling pen much smoother and with less skipping problems. It is available in fine artist material stores. Winsor-Newton is one manufacturer of this product.

Be aware that ox gall is just what its name implies...a fluid from the gall bladder of an ox and it is one of the foulest smelling substances known to man.

Just another interesting tidbit...the pigment "Indian Yellow" is actually dried ox urine. The ox has contributed many interesting substances to our profession and we should be thankful!


Dave Makielski
Using just a little bit of sugar, completely dissolved in your watercolor wash will do much the same thing as that stinky ox gall. I use about a 1/4 teaspoon in about 2 oz. of water.

Never heard of that one, John...but don't the hummingbirds make you nervous?


Dave Makielski
Ellen's method was taught in Atlanta several years ago. Forget the instructor. Same instructor also "cheated" a bit by using a fineline Pentel marker. I was using the traditional drafting tools with the liquid inks in golds, silvers, etc. But the Pentel markers looked just as good. Sometimes it just doesn't pay to be TOO traditional. Plus, like John, it's way too time consuming for most jobs. that said, though, they look WAAAY cool on a Gould botanical, smaller Audubon quatro edition or something like that. Now for those, I'd drag out the original inks and the drafting pens and the watercolors and powders, etc etc.
On a daily basis, though, have better things to do and people in this part of the country for the most part don't really appreciate all the fuss for antiquity's sake
Originally posted by deaconsbench:
stock #4567 / Matline Mat Marker / $8.95 each, is designed with guide slots which enable graduated corner markings for french matting, etc.
I received my Matline Mat Marker from United yesterday, and it is absolutely what I wanted! It has the 1/16 measured pinholes for border marking exactly as the other posts show/describe AND the corner slots for additional mat markings, french matting, etc. Too cool! Thanks, United!
Originally posted by deaconsbench:
I received my Matline Mat Marker from United yesterday, and it is absolutely what I wanted! It has the 1/16 measured pinholes for border marking exactly as the other posts show/describe AND the corner slots for additional mat markings, french matting, etc. Too cool! Thanks, United!