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painted mat boards

manny costa

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Jun 12, 2020
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i'm hoping to try something different for an upcoming project and paint a mat board backing with either traditional or artist grade gesso.

the reason for this is because i've submersed into water gilding and simply love the soft matte texture of sanded gesso.

the art work will be presented in a shadow box frame with only 2.5'' of white space around the art peice. so i will be only painting along the edges

i think the proper term is called a "tip n mat"?

my main concern however is if the matting will waver or curl once it's wetted

has anyone done this and any tips would be appreciated! i also hope to create a sample test on off cuts.
 

wvframer

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I have painted matboards for years using acrylic craft paint. As long as the water content isn't too high, you should not have any problems.

And please accept my belated welcome to the G!
 

Framar

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Sounds like a cool project.

Any time I experience warping with painted matboard, I have found that a coat or two of the same paint on the back of the board will equalize the pressure and the board will flatten back out.
 

nikodeumus

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This sounds very interesting, I've never heard of the technique.
Please share your tests and final product with the rest of us.
 
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Keith L Hewitt

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For most of the last century all mat boards were painted in Denmark. Some still do it today. They stock just one mat, a white one. They have a large tub of some "white stuff" - (sorry never asked what it was,) and lots of very small and strong dyes ( or pigments) and mixed what ever colour they needed. They usually did the painting at the end of the day, and left the mats all over the workshop to dry during the night.

Do we have any members from Denmark who can give us an update please?
 

wvframer

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When I first started framing, some framers in West Virginia were still using an airbrush setup to paint white matboards. Without a distributor close by, even the colored matboards available were pretty much out of reach since shipping was an issue.

Now I sometimes print surface papers that I bond to white rag board. Not much different really. The Epson print head is pretty similar to an airbrush. I only do this for colors that are not available, and there aren't many of those these days.

I would really like to learn about this method in Denmark.
 

Framar

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I have seen painted mats from a hundred or more years ago. Metallic gold and dark green seemed to be very popular. And, if they were very lucky - the gold mats would turn green!
 

Jim Miller

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The chemistry of the colorant matters, too. I've created many calligraphic works on alpha cellulose (Conservation, PPFA Class II) and cotton (Museum, PPFA Class I) matboards, sometimes with added background colors. Mind you, my applications are not generally over the whole board surface, but only parts of it. However, if an overall-painted surface were to have uneven coverage - more or less coating - the results would likely be similar.

If the paint/writing fluid is water-based, such as watercolor or traditional gouache, then it could re-hydrate if the interior of the frame were to experience moisture, such as dew point condensation. If that happens, the matboard will probably become wavy or cockled, and it may or may not flatten again when it dries out.

If the paint/writing fluid is acrylic, such as acrylic gouache/airbrush color, it dries as a thin layer of plastic, which would not re-hydrate or respond to moisture.
 

wpfay

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Gesso coated mat boards is a thing. I have seen recent (in the last 10-20 years) efforts by Baer Charlton, and Maria Nucci (she has since retired). I would imagine that Linda Wassel and some of the other practitioners of French matting are familiar with it.
It is used as a base for bole and leafing on the bevel of mats, and I have worked on a frame with a leafed mat on a John LaFarge watercolor. It can also be painted (gouache) and incised, and with certain sizing creates a natural crackle.
As Mar mentioned, treating both the front and back of the mat, at least with the initial primer layers, is essential for the mat's stability.
When finished, the glazing should be shimmed so it doesn't contact the surface.
 
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wvframer

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So the gesso acts as a bole and not a base for paint?
 

wpfay

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Gesso acts as a base for either bole or paint. Only use bole when leafing. Maybe not only, I guess you could paint on bole if you wanted to.
 

RoboFramer

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I've created many calligraphic works on alpha cellulose (Conservation, PPFA Class II) and cotton (Museum, PPFA Class I) matboards,
Time out! It's all alpha cellulose, right? Not alpha cellulose and cotton, which is how it reads without the brackets.

New topic brewing in my head.
 

Jim Miller

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Time out! It's all alpha cellulose, right? Not alpha cellulose and cotton, which is how it reads without the brackets.

New topic brewing in my head.
Conservation boards are made of alpha cellulose, which is highly-purified wood pulp. Museum boards are made of 100% cotton, which is not the same. I have used Conservation boards and I have used Museum boards in my calligraphic work.

Not sure of your point, Robo, but looking forward to the new topic brewing in your head.
 
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RoboFramer

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Conservation boards are made of alpha cellulose, which is highly-purified wood pulp. Museum boards are made of 100% cotton, which is not the same. I have used Conservation boards and I have used Museum boards in my calligraphic work.

Not sure of your point, Robo, but looking forward to the new topic brewing in your head.

Is this still true " Alpha cellulose from cotton and virgin alpha cellulose from wood pulp are both considered suitable for retail preservation framing" ? Otherwise the topic in my head might be a bit silly :-(
 

wpfay

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John, my understanding is that pure cotton fiber used to make 100% rag board (Museum Board) and pure alpha-cellulose mats (Conservation Board) are chemically the same, though they are not physically the same. The individual fiber in cotton is longer than the fiber in processed alpha-cellulose. So there is a difference.
I have used both in French Matting and unless the alpha-cellulose board is sized it will not accept pin lines and washes as well as rag board. So the physical distinction does have some real world effects.
 

RoboFramer

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John, my understanding is that pure cotton fiber used to make 100% rag board (Museum Board) and pure alpha-cellulose mats (Conservation Board) are chemically the same, though they are not physically the same. The individual fiber in cotton is longer than the fiber in processed alpha-cellulose. So there is a difference.
I have used both in French Matting and unless the alpha-cellulose board is sized it will not accept pin lines and washes as well as rag board. So the physical distinction does have some real world effects.
I understand that but my point is that there is cotton alpha cellulose and woodpulp alpha cellulose???
 

Jim Miller

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Is this still true " Alpha cellulose from cotton and virgin alpha cellulose from wood pulp are both considered suitable for retail preservation framing" ?
Yes, that is still true. Both of those fiber types are suitable for retail preservation framing, but they are not the same. A few differences:

1. Cotton fiber requires less processing, so the fibers are longer than the highly-processed alpha cellulose fibers from wood pulp.

2. All-cotton matboards, due to the longer fibers, generally cut differently and feel softer and more cloth-like than the harder-surfaced, denser alpha cellulose boards.

3. At the molecular level, cotton fibers are somewhat more resistant to the acid-conversion process. It will still happen over time, but more slowly than in alpha cellulose from purified pulp.

Here's a link to The Deterioration and Preservation of Paper: Some Essential Facts, which provides more detailed information.

If you would like some scientific information, here's a link to the article on "Acid Deterioration" published by Conservation Resources, which provides an excellent explanation - if it doesn't put you to sleep. 😌
 
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RoboFramer

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I just want to make sure the term "Cotton alpha cellulose" or "alpha cellulose from cotton" is OK . Sorry for the frankenthread.
 

Jim Miller

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Sorry for the confusion of terms, Robo.

Alpha cellulose is defined as the highest-quality cellulose, regardless of the fibers' origin. Technically, the fibers could come from cotton, hemp, linen, wood pulp, or other sources; each requiring different processing.

As a practical matter, in conversations about matboards, I generally refer to "alpha cellulose" as the fiber in boards made of purified pulp, and refer to "cotton" as the fiber in boards made of 100% cotton fiber.

In hopes of making terminology clearer, the PPFA Comparative Standards for Matboard published in 2013 define Class I matboards as 100% cotton, similar to FATG's "Museum" grade, and Class II matboards as virgin alpha cellulose from purified wood pulp, similar to FATG's "Conservation" grade.
 
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prospero

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Jul 16, 2007
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If you wet matboard it will absorb moisture and curl. To do this successfully you would have to stick the
board to a stout substrate (MDF?). Weigh it down as the adhesive curses.

Or you could just use thick MDF and impart a nice texture to the gesso. 😉
 

manny costa

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Jun 12, 2020
Messages
9
Gesso coated mat boards is a thing. I have seen recent (in the last 10-20 years) efforts by Baer Charlton, and Maria Nucci (she has since retired). I would imagine that Linda Wassel and some of the other practitioners of French matting are familiar with
It is used as a base for bole and leafing on the bevel of mats, and I have worked on a frame with a leafed mat on a John LaFarge watercolor. It can also be painted (gouache) and incised, and with certain sizing creates a natural crackle.
As Mar mentioned, treating both the front and back of the mat, at least with the initial primer layers, is essential for the mat's stability.
When finished, the glazing should be shimmed so it doesn't contact the surface.
i would love to see a side by side comparison of both tradition gesso which is made with gelatin aka: RSG vs acrylic base artist grade gesso we now see in art stores.
i've never gone down to road of crackling but i believe this is done by creating traditional gesso with hide glue rather than RSG.
 

prospero

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Synthetic gesso is vastly different to the trad stuff. It does have certain properties though that would
make it preferable for a base for painted matboard. If you want a textured surface the go for synthetic.
It is hard as nails and very durable. As it happens I found a old moulding chevron yesterday which was
one of my first attempts to hand-finish. Acrylic gesso base with a thin wash of color. Despite being 25 years
old and residing in an unheated shed for much of that time, it looked good as new. Trad gesso is the only
way to go for gilding but why bother with all the bunny-glue soaking and careful heating when you can
just take the lid off and give it a stir. 🙂
 
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Kenneth Henry

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Jul 26, 2020
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9
i'm hoping to try something different for an upcoming project and paint a mat board backing with either traditional or artist grade gesso.

the reason for this is because i've submersed into water gilding and simply love the soft matte texture of sanded gesso.

the art work will be presented in a shadow box frame with only 2.5'' of white space around the art peice. so i will be only painting along the edges

i think the proper term is called a "tip n mat"?

my main concern however is if the matting will waver or curl once it's wetted

has anyone done this and any tips would be appreciated! i also hope to create a sample test on off cuts.
Ive done this often. But I’ve found that mountboard can be a bit temperamental depending on the type of board you use. I make my own gesso as well so you need to adjust the mixture for whatever board you are using. You really need to use the thicker boards ive found. But I tend to use plywood or MDF. You'll need you isolate it from the artwork as it’s not exactly conservation. It’s like the old spandrels of yore but it works. It really is a suck it and see job when it comes to stuff like this. Gilding is all trial and error until you nail down you’re own method. Gesso (the traditional method) is warm, wet and mountboard is essentially cardboard so it’s going to soak up a lot of moisture with the first couple of coats. Try the Kolner clay straight out the jar, it works ok if you are water gilding onto the mountboard. Depends what you’re wanting to do regarding the finish
 

manny costa

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Jun 12, 2020
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Thanks Kenneth,

Ya, i know what you mean about the thinckness causing issues. actually a little worried because i thought a 4ply matboard would be sufficient, but now im second guessing haha. using an 8ply would be ideal but costly for this projects budget so what i may do is mount the 4ply matting onto the acid free foam board with ph neutral paper glue aswell as acid free double sided tape in some areas and put weights on the entire surface over night.

This way the matting has more strenght.

I'm only painting 3 inches around the entire matboard so inmay get away with this

the artwork is actually on canvas and not paper and the artist painted to the edges pf the canvas and wanted to frame the peice unstretched with no matting over the edges. The edges are actually uneven.
I'll be mounting the canvas to the backing by stitching the canvas with very fine transparent thread.

I've done this method in the past and it has worked very well. The thread is able to weave into the canvas and not create holes, Mind you the canvas will have a slight wavyness, but this is what the artist wanted.

I think using traditional gesso with rsg is fine given the work is on canvas. Right? Because the gesso has no sealing agents, I'll be spraying a fixative (lascaux) to the gesso after its been sanded smooth with high grit sandpaper.

Manny
 

Kenneth Henry

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Jul 26, 2020
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Thanks Kenneth,

Ya, i know what you mean about the thinckness causing issues. actually a little worried because i thought a 4ply matboard would be sufficient, but now im second guessing haha. using an 8ply would be ideal but costly for this projects budget so what i may do is mount the 4ply matting onto the acid free foam board with ph neutral paper glue aswell as acid free double sided tape in some areas and put weights on the entire surface over night.

This way the matting has more strenght.

I'm only painting 3 inches around the entire matboard so inmay get away with this

the artwork is actually on canvas and not paper and the artist painted to the edges pf the canvas and wanted to frame the peice unstretched with no matting over the edges. The edges are actually uneven.
I'll be mounting the canvas to the backing by stitching the canvas with very fine transparent thread.

I've done this method in the past and it has worked very well. The thread is able to weave into the canvas and not create holes, Mind you the canvas will have a slight wavyness, but this is what the artist wanted.

I think using traditional gesso with rsg is fine given the work is on canvas. Right? Because the gesso has no sealing agents, I'll be spraying a fixative (lascaux) to the gesso after its been sanded smooth with high grit sandpaper.

Manny
The problem is the strength of the board itself and that some boards can delaminate with the warmth and wet of the gesso. I’d use all cotton and try and get a thicker board that isn’t as likely to come apart. Try offcuts of various boards to find out I reckon. No reason why it can’t work. But most boards hate moisture
 

manny costa

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Jun 12, 2020
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Ya for sure, not to mention that when applying with brush on test peices i found it to be a stuggle to get a good application, very blotchy with lots of streaks which makes for more difficulties in sanding as the matboard is very obsorbant lile you said. Its also very easy to have contamination. I'm thinking the best route is to spray with hvlp spray gun and perhaps trying to use more air which will result in a more dry spray application.

When applying gesso for gilding, applying each coat wet on wet is very important to build a pyramid of strenght. But given that the only intention for this is for a painted surface i think allowing each coat to dry will be ok.
 

Kenneth Henry

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Jul 26, 2020
Messages
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Ya for sure, not to mention that when applying with brush on test peices i found it to be a stuggle to get a good application, very blotchy with lots of streaks which makes for more difficulties in sanding as the matboard is very obsorbant lile you said. Its also very easy to have contamination. I'm thinking the best route is to spray with hvlp spray gun and perhaps trying to use more air which will result in a more dry spray application.

When applying gesso for gilding, applying each coat wet on wet is very important to build a pyramid of strenght. But given that the only intention for this is for a painted surface i think allowing each coat to dry will be ok.
You won’t need many coats of gesso either I suppose. I have found that maybe just misting the dried gesso with lukewarm water and leaving it five or ten minutes helps stop the haters of gesso delaminating. That can happen sometimes as I’ve discovered 😂
 
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Kenneth Henry

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Jul 26, 2020
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I have a few ancient examples of water gilded mounts from days of yore. I keep them in order to see how the gilder has worked on it. If there’s gesso on them at all then it’s barely noticeable. You can see the bole easily enough but I think it’s done similarly to the way bookbinders work on paper edge. Just thought I’d let you know
 

Maria Nucci Designs

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Joined
Jul 13, 2002
Messages
169
Gesso coated mat boards is a thing. I have seen recent (in the last 10-20 years) efforts by Baer Charlton, and Maria Nucci (she has since retired). I would imagine that Linda Wassel and some of the other practitioners of French matting are familiar with it.
It is used as a base for bole and leafing on the bevel of mats, and I have worked on a frame with a leafed mat on a John LaFarge watercolor. It can also be painted (gouache) and incised, and with certain sizing creates a natural crackle.
As Mar mentioned, treating both the front and back of the mat, at least with the initial primer layers, is essential for the mat's stability.
When finished, the glazing should be shimmed so it doesn't contact the surface.
I concur with everything Wally said here. I use the modern acrylic artists gesso (sandable) with great success with metal leaf.
I can't speak to the water gilding process on mat board.

One thing, though, I have not retired!
Happily and busily still making french mats in the mountains of NC.
 

wvframer

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Maria, it is great to know you are still around. I envy you the mountains of NC, especially this week when WV feels more like SW Texas!
 

wpfay

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Well, that's a good thing to be wrong about! Good to hear from you Maria, and welcome back to the G.
 
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