Promoting Nancy's photography and educating the public about nature, photography, and God.
Category: Printing & Framing
Anything on the process of printing an image (including papers, printer profiles, processes, and coatings) and framing (selecting and cutting mats, cutting glass, selecting and cutting and assembling moulding, stretching canvas around the frame, and putting all the pieces together and getting it on the wall.
While I was making updates to some of our How-To articles’ formatting and adherence to Internet standards, I also took the opportunity to improve clarity for some of them. Some, but not all of the articles have downloadable printable versions, so I also updated the printable version if warranted.
I created new printable versions for the following articles:
Here are the other articles that we’ve improved (along with the printable version, if available). If you had trouble understanding them before, you might want to try again. You could also leave a comment about the areas that still need work:
As I mentioned on our About Us Page, we have a Logan Pro Joiner (Model F300-2) for nailing our frames together. There are four different things on it that one must adjust before using it. But there are only two important parameters, moulding width and moulding thickness, that are used to make those adjustments. To make your life easier, I made three new scales to put on your joiner for the adjustments that depend on the moulding width.
I will discuss how to apply these scales to your joiner and how to use them as we look at each of the adjustments in more detail. I will discuss them in the same order they were introduced in the manual.
V-nail Slider Block Spacing
The Old Scale
The scale on the slider measures the gap between the two V-nails (except the reading on that scale is always ⅜” larger than the actual distance). The manual tells you to set the slider block to match the reading on the vise scale, which measures the width of the moulding across its bottom. This width is the total moulding width minus the width of the rabbet that holds in the glass and is the width that matters in this case. We will call this measurement “W”. They claim that if you do set the V-nail slider to that number, each V-nail will be ¼” from the nearest end of the miter joint. That is not true.
To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
Following their instructions, the average distance (D) from either of the two V-nails to the nearest end of the miter joint would be the length of the miter joint minus the size of the gap between V-nails, all divided by two. In terms of W (the measured width of the moulding):
which reduces to
by dividing the whole expression by the square root of two, the average distance to the nearest edge would be
The New Scale
The numbers on my new scale (labeled “A” in Figure 1 and “Gap scale” in Figure 2 above) represent the moulding width W, not the gap between nails. In addition, following my scales will put the V-nails 25% of the joint length in from each end, which is also 25% of the moulding width in from each edge of the moulding. I do this because if I were using only one V-nail I would put it in the center. For two V-nails, I conceptually divide the moulding in half and put a V-nail in the center of each half. If the moulding were wide enough to require three V-nails, I would divide the moulding into thirds and put the nail in the center of each third. Is there a structural engineer in the house or someone that knows a better place to position the V-nails? I’m listening.
Attaching the scale
If you download the JPEG (.jpg) file of the scales (click the link just below the title of this article), you can print them either on plain paper or maybe even a 2″ by 4″ label. The red lines and numbers (shown in Figure 2) correspond to the existing scale. After printing, you should compare the distances between a few of the red lines to the same distances on the old scale be sure your printer/software didn’t arbitrarily change the size of the print. Then cut along the blue lines. The black lines and numbers represent the bottom moulding width (W). For the slider block or gap scale, place the edge of the sliding V-nail block on the ¾” mark on the existing scale. Then place my scale on the opposite side of the slider so that the red ¾” mark is lined up with that same edge of the block (as shown in Figure 3).
Using the scale
To use these scales to press two V-nails into the moulding, just put the V-nail block on W, as you read it from the vise scale. Then do the same to the V-nail Corner Spacing Stop and the Lever Adjustment Block (both discussed below). Then make all other adjustments as prescribed in the manual and lower the pressure foot onto the moulding.
If you needed to press three V-nails, you would press the outer two by following the above instructions to adjust the components at all three scales to a value 2/3 of W. For example, if the measured moulding width was 3″, you would adjust all W settings to 2″. Press the V-nails. Then put the third V-nail into the sliding nail holder only (leaving the fixed nail holder empty). Set the gap (a.k.a. slider block spacing) and the pressure foot placement for 4/3 × W or 4″, leaving the other adjustments the same. Press the last nail.
If you would prefer to set the V-nails as you were before, or even if you would prefer to put them where Logan said you were putting them before, then an additional set of scales could easily be made using the moulding width as the setting instead of actual nail distances, so you would only have to read the vise scale and set everything automatically, without further calculations. Although simplicity was the motivation for this effort, having multiple alternative scales is beyond the scope of this article. But if you need help with that, let me know.
V-nail Corner Spacing
This scale (labeled “B” in Figure 1) is located on the back of the left slider guide (as you face the joiner from the front). The original scale goes from ¼” to ¾” in ⅛” increments, which is a slightly larger range than the V-nail Corner Spacing Stop (on the back end of the right guide) can use. That scale shows the distance the outside V-nail will be in from the corner of the moulding, but it reads more than 1/16” smaller than the actual distance. For example, the position of the V-nail slider in Figure 4 will put the outer V-nail ½” from the corner of the moulding.
My scale would go to the right of the original scale so that both scales are still available. After placing the scale, measure the distance between the ¼” mark on the old scale and the red ¼” mark on the new scale. That is the distance the arrow should be placed from the back end of the slider. It should be ⅛” above the bottom edge of the slider so it can be seen above the slider guide.
Pressure Foot Placement
For simple moulding profiles that do not require the black moulding spacer, I created a scale (labeled “C” in Figure 1) based on moulding width W to help center the pressure foot over the moulding.
Cut out the Pad scale (see Figure 2) and place it to the left of the lever adjustment block (the same side as the Pro Joiner label, as shown in Figure 5 above) so that the red edge line is on the edge of the top plate, as shown in Figure 1. To place the arrow, slide the lever adjustment block all the way back (in Figure 5, that would be to the left). Then place the arrow above the edge of the top plate.
When setting up the joiner, put the arrow over W. It is that simple. But our 1½” stretcher moulding, for which W is 1″, has a ridge along the outer edge of the moulding that is ⅜” wide. The simplest way to handle that is to pretend there is a symmetrical ⅜” wide ridge on the other edge of the moulding; add ⅜” to W, and set the pressure foot to that 1⅜” value. On the other hand, if that moulding had an obstacle only on the inner edge instead, you would subtract ⅜” from W, and set the pressure foot to the resulting ⅝” value, in the case of our example.
Adjust Foot Height
This is the setting based on moulding thickness instead of W. The size of the V-nail used is also a factor, but that is also based on moulding thickness. Unfortunately, I have not yet found a good way to attach a scale for this adjustment. Just follow the instructions in the manual; they are pretty straight forward. The lever handle should be just a little above horizontal when the moulding first contacts the V-nails, and should be the same angle below horizontal when the lever handle bottoms out. The precise angle is not important here.
Below is a table that relates the moulding thickness to the number of threads that should be exposed above the lever height wheel (there are twelve threads per inch on the lever shaft). The table is preliminary, but you could download the .pdf file (look just below the title of this article) and you could even attach it to the top plate of the joiner if it is helpful. After you improve it, please send me a copy.
Odds and Ends
We haven’t ever deliberately stacked V-nails, as discussed on Page 6 of the manual, but we have tried a different brand of V-nail that is longer than the largest Logan. We use the AMP (a Fletcher Company) 15mm Mitre-Mite V-nail (their longest), as mentioned in Figure 6, for our 1½” stretcher moulding. It works well on our Logan joiner.
We used to apply glue to the miter joint and then immediately use the joiner to put our frames together. After the beginner’s luck wore off, we noticed that the joints weren’t as tight as we would have liked. Then I stumbled onto a couple of websites that suggested gluing the frame together first using a band clamp and then V-nailing the corners after the glue dries. One of those references was an old article on the Logan Graphics blog. We haven’t had any problem with that since.
That’s All, Folks
That should about cover it. If you have any questions, or shortcuts, or any other suggestions for improvement, let me know in the comment section below. And if not, then thanks for listening.
Here’s another math problem inspired by real life! Each correct answer could earn you five dollars ($5) off any of our products or services (to redeem in person, just print and show your certificate). Good luck!
You are only allowed one try and have already submitted your quiz.
In this article, the first of the “Weird Wood” seriesintro, we show how to build a picture frame using four strips of moulding that aren’t all the same width. Although Figure 1 uses a different width for each piece of moulding, we used three different sizes in our test frames (only because I couldn’t find four different sizes in the same moulding family).
First The Math
Warning: This discussion includes a little trigonometry. Do Not Panic! It’s not as bad as it sounds.
Definition of “Tangent” (skip ahead To Next paragraph if you still remember this):
There are three sides to any right triangle (a triangle with a 90° corner). I will call the ones touching the right (90°) angle the height and the width. The last, longest side is the hypotenuse. It is opposite the right angle. You can use the ratio of the lengths of any two of these sides to find the size of the other two angles. Each possible ratio has a name, but we are only interested in one of them today. Probably the most common ratio and the one we will be using is called the tangent. The tangent is defined as the ratio between the height (the length of the side opposite the angle you are interested in) and the width (the length of the shorter of the two sides that create that corner that you are interested in). If you want to know the angle of corner α in the above drawing (Figure 2), for instance, you would calculate its tangent by dividing the height (3 inches in this case) by the width (1¼ inches), which is 2.4. Then you would use your calculator (or phone app – I use RealCalc Plus by Quartic Software (even though it cost $3.50)) to find the angle corresponding to that tangent. On your calculator, the tangent is abbreviated “tan”. If you enter 45 (degrees are assumed) and hit the “tan” button, you will get 1 because for a 45° angle the height is the same as the width, so their ratio is 1. To go the other way (to find the angle), like we are trying to do, we need the inverse of the tangent. Look for the “tan-1” button (it could be the same button, in which case you may need to hit a (yellow) shift or second-function key, and then hit the “tan” button). In this case, once we have the tangent of 2.4, we hit the inverse tangent button(s) to get 67.380135…. (the calculator is obligated to give you 8 or more digits – that doesn’t mean they mean anything. In Figure 2, I rounded that answer to 67.4 degrees and even that third digit should be suspicious.)
All you have to do is take the ratio between the widths of your two moulding pieces and take the inverse or arc-tangent to get the angle. Here are a few things you need to remember:
Which angle – the tangent gives you the angle that was touching the side whose length was used for the denominator (the width, which would be the second number in the division). The simplest way (but certainly not the only way) to get the other non-90° angle is to just subtract the first from 90° (since the two angles are complementary). Also remember that if the tangent was greater than one, the angle will be larger than 45°; if it was supposed to be a smaller angle (less than 45°), then you may have divided the two lengths in the ratio backward. Don’t worry, you just found the complementary angle and all you have to do to get the right answer is subtract what you got from 90.
It is up to you to keep track of whether that angle you are cutting should be to the left or the right. Making a drawing of your frame design might help. To be useful, the drawing doesn’t even need to be that good. This should also tell you if you calculated the complement (the other angle in that corner (for the other piece of moulding)).
Your saw may be measuring angle backward. My miter saw calls a cut perpendicular across the board 0°, not 90°. If that’s the case, just subtract the angle you calculated from 90.
As an exercise, go ahead and check the rest of my calculations in Figure 1. 😁
Make The Cuts
There is more than one way to make these cuts and more than one set of tools to help you. Which set of tools you should use will depend on such factors as how much of this work you intend to do, your skill set, what your budget is, and what tools you already have on hand.
To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
Looking through the Framers’ Corner, the forum of the Professional Picture Framers Association, I found recommendations for the following tools for this application:
You would only need one of these (if any), not both.
(The Amazon.com descriptions are only used here as a reference. Although frequently competitive, Amazon isn’t always the only or the best place to buy something.)
Our workshop includes all of the tools listed in www.BeeHappyGraphics.com/about.html#BruceEquip, along with a number of other regular hand & power woodworking tools that Nancy has accumulated over the last several decades. For this project, I used our compound miter saw, but not without complications.
To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
The precision on this saw looked fine; you should be able to get within ¼° of your target. The first picture (Image A) shows me trying for 22.6° (which would be one of the angles between a 3″ and a 1¼” moulding).
After cutting the 3″ piece, I ran into problems trying to cut the complementary angle (67.4°) on the 1¼” piece, as shown in Image B.
I am not claiming that mine was the best path to reach our goal. In fact, I would love to see your ideas in the comment section about how to improve my techniques.
How I Did It
Working with one corner at a time, I cut both pieces of moulding square just a tad longer than their overall/outside measurement according to your diagram (you will see why in Step 4). If you don’t already have one, this is also when you would put a perfectly square cut on the alignment block you’ll see in Figure 5 to the left of the moulding. I grabbed a 2″ by 4″, but the wider the better.
I set the saw for the smaller of the two complementary angles, rechecking my diagram to confirm whether it should be to the left or right. In the setup shown below, the 3″ moulding would be clamped to the right of the blade.
I made the cut.
Without adjusting the angle of the saw, I set up the second cut. I positioned my (newly cut) alignment block to the left (opposite the side we placed the moulding for the cut (in Step 2)) so that I could also place the 2″ moulding to the left of the blade and perpendicular (at a right (90°) angle) to the miter saw fence. After clamping down the alignment block, I added a support block to the right of the moulding to keep it in place. I could still move the moulding in or out to position the cut. As you can see, I needed to precut this piece of moulding to keep it from extending too far into the aisle and getting in my way. Another reason is explained in Step 6.
I made the cut.
To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
For those who noticed that the color of the moulding in Figure 4 was different than in Figure 5, I had to make two different frames while doing research for this article 1) to confirm and refine my techniques and 2) because I didn’t get enough pictures the first time.
Always check your work. Since you precut each piece of moulding a little longer than necessary, consider this first cut on each piece a test cut. See if the two pieces match up as expected. If, when you put the two pieces of moulding together, the miter edge on one piece is longer than the other, that is the angle that should have been larger. The angle on the other piece of moulding should have been smaller (by the same amount).
Figure 7 shows the second setup from the right side. If you look close, you might notice that I didn’t cut enough to make a sharp corner and needed to recut.
Moving to the next corner, I precut another piece of moulding and repeated Steps 2 through 6. Now that both angles are correct for the second piece of moulding, you can recut its last miter if necessary to get the length right.
I repeated Step 7. When both angles are correct on the third piece of moulding, recut the last miter on that piece as necessary to get the length right.
I repeated Step 7 one last time. When both angles are correct on the fourth piece of moulding, I used the second piece of moulding to mark the length of the fourth piece by matching the inside edges, as shown in Figure 8. Similarly, I used the third piece of moulding to mark the length of the first piece.
As with my normal (45° miter) frames, I would next need to make sure the inner lengths on opposite pieces of moulding matched, and the outer lengths as well. Figure 9 shows a way to check to see if the outside and inside corners of the opposite sides match using two carpenter squares (or equivalent).
Some of the tools we normally use next to finish putting the frame together, namely our Logan Precision Sander and Logan Pro Joiner, are worthless for this application. After gluing (and clamping the pieces together until dry) we had to pound the V-nails in by hand (interestingly, the simpler Logan Studio Joiner can be adapted).
The Back Side
For completeness, the left figure below shows what the backside of the lower left corner would look like. The gray section represents the rabbet, the equal-width (¼”) cut-out that holds the glass, mats, image, and backing of the picture inside the frame. Some of you might be surprised to see that there is a triangular notch in this rabbet in the corner along the miter cut. This notch has no effect on the functionality of the rabbet. To solve this “problem”, however, you could make a compound cut 45° in from the inner edge to the edge of the rabbet and 79.7° in from the outer edge to the same point, as shown in the right figure below (as an exercise, you can check my math on these angles also). But there is really no need to make these cuts. If the gray were to represent an equal-width feature on the front of the moulding, it might be worthwhile to take the extra trouble. Otherwise, don’t even think about it.
Congratulations, you now have a fancy new picture frame. Of course, you still need to find a picture, cut mat(s) and backing, mount picture to same, cut glass, assemble the pieces without showing any annoying little specks, and apply a dust cover and hanging hardware, but all of that is beyond the scope of this article. Good luck!
As mentioned, this article is just the beginning of a series about “Weird Wood” that I announced months ago. Up next, we will look at handling moulding that is not of uniform width. You won’t find this moulding in any store; it is only an exercise to prepare you for our final project. But if it stimulates your creativity, that’s not always a bad thing. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading! Your comments are welcome and appreciated.
Our friend, Ibis Hillencamp (whom you may remember for the advice she gave on our FAQ page about becoming a better photographerlink) thought people might need an explanation of a photograph’s aspect ratio and why you need to consider it when enlarging or cropping your images. After explaining that, I give some ideas for filling in additional space around your image that may result from changing the aspect ratio.
When you enlarge a picture, unless you want distortion, you have to increase the width the exact same ratio as the height. For example, a 4″ by 6″ image might be enlarged into an 8″ by 12″ image, or a 10″ by 15″, and so forth. For each of these examples, the aspect ratio, which is the height divided by the width (or vice versa, as long as you are consistent), remains the same (). Mathematicians would call the three rectangles in this example, and all others with the same aspect ratio, “similar”. When placed at the right distances, you would not be able to tell them apart. SLR cameras, starting with the analog 35mm and continuing to the digital versions, have an aspect ratio of 2:3 and can make prints the size of any of the above examples with no problem. Other cameras have different aspect ratios. If you haven’t already done so, learn your camera’s aspect ratio.
And Now The Bad News
The problem starts when you try to put your picture in a standard-sized frame. They routinely have a different aspect ratio. If you want an 8″ by 10″ print, for example, you will be changing the aspect ratio to 0.8. An 11″ by 14″ print has an aspect ratio of 0.786. The simple answer would be to crop your original image, which means you are going to lose part of the picture. That could be a problem. The other option is to fill in any missing parts. That is almost always a problem. Let me show you.
For those of you who do not recognize her, the above picture is of my wife, Nancy, the nature and wildlife photographer (No, this is not a selfie). This image has an aspect ratio of 4:3. Suppose we want to put her picture in a mat with a 3:2 aspect ratio. The easiest thing would be to crop to the red rectangle, which is the largest such rectangle we can get from the given material. But as you can see, there is no breathing space around the hat. So we could enlarge to the orange rectangle to use the original picture’s entire width, but we will need to get creative and fill in some along the top and bottom edges (by the way, can you guess why the top and bottom voids created by the orange rectangle are not the same size?). While the techniques to fill those voids are beyond the scope of this article, I would like to share a few thoughts. These thoughts apply not only to the case where you need to add material to change aspect ratio but for other causes also, like when you inadvertently cut off some body part when taking the shot.
Suggestions For Filling Missing Space
The first moral to this dilemma is don’t get too tight on your subject while shooting. Start leaving yourself a little more edge room when you take your pictures. Besides not inadvertently cutting off parts of the subject, which are harder to bring back after-the-fact, you might actually capture the subject’s whole reflection, which you didn’t even notice in the excitement of getting this unique subject.
The first step in processing this change in aspect ratio is to go back and check the original file. Maybe you had previously cropped the image for compositional purposes and the original might still have at least part of the now-missing material that you need.
Small, uncomplicated additions are easy enough with Photoshop’s Clone Stamp tool (and although I’m not a huge fan, sometimes Content-Aware Fill might even work), but it gets trickier as the size of the addition increases. It would be no problem to fill the new space above Nancy’s head with sky, and maybe even throw in an extra cloud or two, but if for some reason, we had wanted to extend the left edge of this image an inch or so, finding enough water to fill the gap without people noticing repetitions could be an issue.
Sometimes you can create more usable material from within the image itself by copying some of the waves, for example, and flipping them, or rotating them, etc. But you will have to judge the effectiveness of these actions on a case-by-case basis.
Look at the photograph you took just before this one and just after this one for more material. Especially if you are shooting wildlife, I know you had your camera on rapid-shoot. The neighboring shot that you didn’t select for this image may have ‘new’ material that would be useful for your current extension project.
Continue to expand your search area. Even if you didn’t get another picture of your subject squirrel that day, you might have other squirrel pictures you can use to replace that missing piece.
Send Your Ideas
Well, that’s all I have for now. Although I have no intentions yet of following this article with more detailed information on the Clone Stamp or other tools, I am pretty sure there are plenty of tutorials out there, both by Adobe and by several third parties. If you do have your own hard-earned techniques or suggestions on any of the material I’ve just discussed or even a horror story that’s relevant, I’m sure my readers would love to see your comments below. Thanks.
To be transparent, I must say I’ve developed some theories about the biases of art critics and the judges of art festivals, based mostly on their selections of art to be awarded prizes at these festivals (and maybe my own biases). I’ve noticed certain patterns that I was hesitant to discuss here until I had taken the time to formally learn something about art. That hasn’t happened yet, but we did have an opportunity to discuss photography (more specifically, nature and wildlife photography) with the judges at one recent art festival and I feel compelled to address one aspect of that discussion. My comments on the other aspects may wait until I satisfy my original goals/requirements. Today’s comments involve canvas.
The Judges’ Remarks
One of the judges said, “I’ve Never Seen A Photograph On Canvas That I Like”. There were three judges at the table when Nancy approached them. Their views were all consistent. Other remarks included “When I see a photograph on canvas I think the photographer is trying to impersonate a painter” and ‘When I see a picture wrapped around the edge of the canvas, it makes me think they are adapting a larger picture to a frame that is too small.’ One judge pointed out that painters don’t paint the side of their canvas.
Those familiar with our website know there are already two places where I’ve referred to painters as pre-photographers:
Painters like Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (1452-1519) and Georges Seurat (1859-1891) (see the first note in “A Question About Pixels”) are just two examples of artists who led society into the future, not followed. I’m sure if Leonardo had a camera, he would have used it in a flash (forgive the pun, I couldn’t help myself). These two and their peers would be saddened (or worse) to think that painters now feel unable to keep up with society and judges feel a need to artificially reserve materials and techniques specifically for painters in an effort to level the playing field.
Now I’d like to address some of their remarks individually.
“When I see a photograph on canvas I think the photographer is trying to impersonate a painter”
A few months before this conversation, a painter at another prominent festival in Florida won Best Of Show and $10,000 for impersonating a photographer. I know another artist who uses pencil to imitate black & white photographs. This is called realism, which apparently artists have tried (with varying degrees of success) throughout history, most notably in the Realist Movement of the mid-nineteenth century.
So here’s a question: if canvas-using photographers are impersonating painters, who was Leonardo impersonating when he painted the two versions of Virgin of the Rocks in oils on wooden panels? A sculptor, maybe? Maybe a carpenter like the protagonist in his famous mural “The Last Supper”? Or maybe that particular impersonation has been reserved for the judges.
“When I see a picture wrapped around the edge of the canvas, it makes me think they are adapting a larger picture to a frame that is too small.”
Well maybe that’s why painters do it. After all, contrary to the one judge’s declaration, some painters do paint the sides. But have you ever see a painter warp the image around the edge so that at some angle it creates an illusion and looks like a continuation of the front image (as described in the Canvas section of our Services page)? While we are at it, have you ever seen a painter camouflage their signature to make it less distracting (which solves a problem some critics have complained to photographers about)? Here’s how we do it ( Our New Technique For Signatures & Titles). Come on, painters, try to keep up!
“I’ve Never Seen A Photograph On Canvas That I Like”
I recently heard from another wildlife photographer about a time when a judge took a liking to one of her images, but then left without comment. When the judge came back the second time, he asked if she had another copy of that image that wasn’t printed on canvas. Fortunately, she did, because that second copy won her the second-highest award in the festival.
In our booth and online, I’ve discussed the magical properties of canvas. When people see one of Nancy’s images on canvas they are more likely to ask “Is this a painting?’ or are more likely to comment that it looks three-dimensional. For some strange reason, it is also perfectly acceptable to print a particular photograph larger on canvas.
To see the Note click here.To hide the Note click here.
People have offered a couple of explanations for this. The first argues that the texture of the canvas disguises any lack of resolution. The second, getting psychological, suggests that canvas invokes some painting mentality, making the viewer less critical (nobody ever asked an eighteenth-century master how many pixels were in his/her brush). Both explanations sound plausible to me, but being a pragmatist, I just run with what works.
So it is especially disturbing, and sad, that a judge would make a statement like this. Photographers follow the same rules of composition and the same principles of art, but for a judge to admit that these are not important, to me is an admission that the judges don’t really know what makes a piece of art special and are just grasping at fads or straws.
At least that’s how I see it (I guess now is a good time to remind you that the views expressed in this blog are not necessarily those of management). So what’s your view. If any of you can make better sense of these judges’ remarks, your comments are also welcome.
The easiest and most common mat layout is one with the widths of all four borders equal. If you are forcing a picture into a standard-sized frame, however, that’s not always possible. And then there’s the matter of bottom-weighted mats.
Bottom-weighted mats, or mats with the bottom edge wider than the others, were introduced long, long ago. Some say that pictures centuries ago were hung very high on the wall and the bottom width of the mat was increased to compensate for the ‘distortion’ of that perspective. Unfortunately, that story makes no sense; top-weighting would be required to correct for the top being further from the viewer than the bottom. Another explanation involves the notion of a difference between the visual or optical center and the geometric center. Yet others claim it is to compensate for the drop of the mat in the frame due to tolerances necessary to account for expansion, etc. For whatever reason, bottom weighting could be seen as an attempt to fool your audience or overcome optical perceptions, whichever you prefer. As commonly practiced in “finer frame shops everywhere”, the bottom width is generally increased ¼” to 1″, depending on the size of the pictureref.
Using Standard Mats
But how would one incorporate bottom weighting while fitting an image into a standard-sized mat? For example, if the vertical difference between the hole size and mat size is greater than the horizontal difference, and assuming the left and right borders will be the same width, is it better to:
Make the top and bottom borders equal,
Make the top the same size as the left and the right and put all of the extra width on the bottom,
Make the bottom larger than the top by some fixed amount,
Make the differences even more subtle by making the difference between the top border and the side borders the same as the difference between the top and bottom borders?
Let’s clarify your choices with an example. Suppose you want a 4″-high hole that’s 7″ wide in a standard 8″-high by 10″ mat. The horizontal difference between the mat size and the hole size is 10″ – 7″ = 3″, so if you want the left and right borders to be the same, each will be 3″ ÷ 2 = 1½”. The vertical difference between mat and hole size is 8″ – 4″ = 4″.
Would make the top and bottom borders the same, making them each 4″ ÷ 2 = 2″.
Would make the top 1½” like the left and right borders, leaving 4″ – 1½” = 2½” for the bottom border.
Uses the customary bottom weighting, which the one reference I give above lists as ¼” for an 8″x10″ mat (personally, a ¼” bottom weight isn’t worth the trouble). That means the top border would be (4″ – ¼”) ÷ 2 = 1⅞” and the bottom would be ¼” more, or 2⅛” (notice as you check your work that 1⅞” + 2⅛” = 4″). Finally,
Is a tad more complicated. Let’s call the difference between the left or right border width and the top border width “d”, such that
1½” + d = T (for top border width).
Then the bottom border (B) would be
T + d or (substituting the last expression for T) (1½” + d) + d = 1½” + 2⋅d.
Since T + B = 4″, then (substituting for T and B)
(1½” + d) + (1½” + 2⋅d) = 4″, meaning 3″ + 3⋅d = 4″ or 3⋅d = 1″, meaning d = ⅓”,
so (substituting back into our equations for T and B)
T = 1½” + ⅓” = 15/6” and B =15/6” + ⅓” = 21/6”
(again noting that 15/6” + 21/6” = 4″) .
The choice you make would be an artistic decision, but I think A is the most common answer. Choice C could be used for traditional bottom-weighting, as in our example, or could be used for some other more artistic value. Technically, both Choices B and D are possible results of that equation. B would be exactly what you get when you want bottom-weighting and are not restricted to standard mats; it would work best if the resulting difference between the top and bottom borders is not too much greater than the customary bottom-weighting distances mentioned above. In our example, it yields 2½” for the bottom border, which is an inch larger than the other three borders and may just be too much. In our example, C and D are very close, and remain close when we change the amount of weight in C from ¼” to ½” (as shown by the lighter blue opening). D is more subtle than C, but may only be worth the effort when the difference between the left and top borders is small enough to fool somebody. In other cases with different numbers, results may vary.
With Larger Side Borders
If the horizontal difference between the hole size and the mat size is greater than the vertical difference, you could face up to the same number of choices as above, but you are working with less material for the top and bottom borders and I think it is usually better to keep things simple and make those borders equal.
Differing Left And Right Borders?
Do the vertical borders always need be the same size? Although I can’t say I’ve ever seen or read about different-sized side borders, I’m not convinced that uniformity is strictly required. For example, in photography, as in older art forms, there a “rule” of spaceref that says, among other things, that there should be plenty of space on the side of the subject into which it is looking. If you have a “perfectly” centered and close-cropped picture of your mother looking to your left, could a mat with a wider border on the left side create the space that’s lacking in the image? Maybe you could even choose a mat color that is a pastel version of the background to her right (your left)? Maybe a contrasting outer mat could be added with traditional (identical) vertical borders.
I present the above thoughts to give some background and (more importantly) stimulate your own creativity. If you think of other possibilities, I’d be thrilled to have you add them to the comments. Thank you!
A few years ago, Nancy took a photograph of her junior-high-school best friend JoAnne’s father on a tractor at his northern-Florida homestead and gave it to JoAnne. After he died, JoAnne brought the picture back, along with some of the old fence pickets from the property, and asked if we could use them to frame the picture. After a lot of research, planning, and experimentation, this is what we came up with:
The pickets were thin, dilapidated, warped, and dirty. The few articles I did find were about “barn wood” which, although it had a slightly distressed surface, was still thick and sound with straight, flat, parallel and perpendicular sides – none of which applied here. The articles were not all that helpful and not all that well written. I thought this project could be an opportunity to learn something new, and to share it with you. I hope I took enough notes and pictures to show you exactly how this frame was made. At least that’s the plan.
But First . . .
From math class, you may remember that one problem-solving strategy is to solve a simpler problem first and then use that answer to help solve the harder problem. With that in mind, I have an idea to write a series of short articles on working with weird wood to make frames, so that I can draw on that information in the final article about this project. The first article will be about working with pieces of moulding of different widths in the same frame. Then I see a discussion of moulding where the inside and outside edges are not parallel. Maybe then we’ll work with wood with a wavy inside edge. Following that may be a discussion about what to do when your moulding is curved (but with uniform width). But even before the first article, I may have to give a short post about matting techniques. My hope is that by doing all of this it will expand your view of what’s possible and it will stimulate those creative juices of yours. These articles will probably not be consecutive blog posts; another art festival season has just begun and other things will invariably come up as I am writing these pieces. So please be patient and stay tuned. Thank you!