Matting and Framing Your Own Pictures

Or, How Dick Blick Punched Me in the Uterus and Left Me Cowering in a Corner

You’ve likely spent a bajillion dollars on wedding photography and now you want to hang some of it. But, you’re still out that bajillion dollars, right? There’s no room left in the budget for professional framing. That’s where you come in and do it yourself. I haven’t had many of our wedding prints printed, but I do have TONS of posters that I’ve acquired over the years, and figured now was as good of a time as ever to get them up on the walls.

I acquired my latest poster goody at the Brooklyn Renegade Craft Fair: A Peaceful Traveler print of Minneapolis/St. Paul. I’ve been buying a few posters here and there and never took the initiative to hang them, but today pulled out all my random posters and decided to do something with them. At first I thought I might cover an entire wall in our house with every random poster I have, but after laying them all out, I realized they were too hodgepodge and needed a new plan.


(That Los Angeles poster is SO ’80s but I bought one anyway 10 years ago and never put it up… I fear as the decades go on it will never see the light of day, but oh well.)

I decided that I’d take the two food posters and put them up near the kitchen together, and then caved like a good little consumer and purchased the New York City and San Francisco Peaceful Traveler posters, so our little collection grew to this:


images from The Peaceful Traveler


The problem with all of these posters is that they’re all different sizes, and because I am old and boring, I crave uniformity.

DIY matting, to the rescue.

If you’ve ever had a portrait professionally framed, you know precisely how many of your kidneys you need to sell to pay for it. (If you didn’t know, then it’s both of your damn kidneys.) When we moved into this house I bought a mat cutter, and it’s one of the best investments I’ve made. I cut my own mats whenever I need to frame pictures or posters (and I don’t even use pro photo matting board, I just use thick poster board, because I AM CHEAAAPPPP!).

A mat cutting tool looks like this:


I made the mistake of buying a freestyle mat cutter (which allows you to cut curvy lines and weird shapes), rather than a straight edge one, but this one works fine anyway. If you know you’re only going to cut straight lines, you’ll probably want to buy something like the Logan Model 2000 Push Style Bevel Cutter ($22 from Blick, a tiny investment compared to what you’ll get out of it over its lifetime).

Why a mat cutter when you could just use an X-Acto? Bevel, of course.


Here’s how you do it…

But first, a fun story.

I went to the Blick nearby and purchased 5 24″x30″ gallery frames ($30 each) and nice, thick cream poster board ($4.50 each). Blick will make 1 cut per board for you for free, and then the 2nd cut for 50 cents. (Note: this only counts for outer cuts. They don’t do inner cuts for these prices.) The guy that was helping me was totally flustered because he was very busy sitting on his stool twiddling his thumbs, so when I asked if he could so kindly help me (by help me, I mean make the cuts THAT I PAID FOR) cut my 32″x40″ board down to 24″x30″, he ran off and helped 2 other customers find things in the store that had just entered (um… OK) and then when he finally came back to cut my paper, he told me, “I can’t guarantee that I’ll cut the paper to the exact size you need. I can get within 1/2 inch though. OK?”


When I refused to get angry (I only stayed angry on the inside), I smiled and said, “That’s just fine.” :) (Just cut my paper you horrible old man.) At that point he softened and said to me, and I quote, “I’m just really busy so I’m sorry I’m so curt. But it just is what it is.”

Hahahahahahahha. I like how reading between the lines he basically said to my face, “I’m being a total jerk to you and I know it and I’m just going to keep being this way and you have to SUCK IT UP YOU DUMB LITTLE GIRL!”

Anyway. Paper got cut. And miraculously, it was cut PRECISELY correctly. Apparently his ruler DID work just fine. Nice. But the whole exchange made me sad, mostly because I took it up the yang like that. I should have gotten all visibly angry but I just wanted my paper cut and I didn’t want to make a fuss.


So, basically, cutting matting is super easy. Line your print up corner for corner with your mat, and measure the inches to the end. pide that number in half, and give yourself as much “overlap” as you want (I usually go 1/8th inch in from the print on each side) and sketch it all out on the backside of the mat board. You ALWAYS need overlap… don’t think you can cut a perfect mat for your poster. You just can’t.


Below you can see a ton-o-marks because I marked wrong the first time. MAKE SURE AFTER YOU MARK IT UP, you lay your poster down on top of your intended cut-marks, to make sure you’re lined up all correctly. I realized I messed up the math on the first go round and adjusted accordingly. I was SUPER careful because I didn’t want to screw up and return to the hell that was Dick Blick so the scary dude could berate me with his bad attitude again.


This is a one man show here, so I can’t show you me cutting in action, but you just jam your cutter up against your straight edge and zip along the straight edge until you’re all done. With mat cutters, you need to cut past your edge about 1/4 inch or so, so that the inside of the mat will pop out. Otherwise you’ll have to rip it out and it will look bad.


MAKE SURE THE BLADE IS POINTED THE RIGHT WAY. I can’t tell you what the right way is because all mat cutters are different, but you want to make sure that the angle of the blade always points AWAY from the poster you’re framing. This sounds a little abstract until you’re sitting down and matting; when you’re doing it it will make perfect sense. If you go the wrong way, your bevel won’t show up, and you will be super sad.

If you cut with proper overlap, the inside of the mat will pop right out and you will have a nice, beveled edge.


When you’re done you can admire your handiwork and wait for your SO to get home to do the boring hanging part.


And how does this all stack up to professional framing?

We got this blueprint of the Getty framed at Michaels at a 1/2 off framing event for $250 (yes, that was half off of $500. The poster cost $10. Ugh).


The cost to DIY mat and frame my own posters:


$188. For FIVE GIANT PRINTS. (You could even save more if you don’t live in a place with a 9.75% tax rate. Is that normal??? I don’t know. It sounds high.)

I will say that this takes a little practice to master. The amount of pressure you use and where the blade enters the mat all matters, and takes a little bit of time to get perfect. Just get yourself a discount piece of mat board (or use the scraps if you’re cutting down a larger piece of mat board) and practice until you get a little confidence before cutting into your expensive “for realsies” board.

Happy Friday, and happy framing!


Mrs. Penguin

Northern California
Wedding Date:
June 2008
Somebody to Stand by You
Covering all the Bases: Our Bad Weather Back-Up
Add a comment


  1. Guest Icon Guest
    Sarah, Guest @ 4:21 pm

    Great info. My wedding gift to my husband was to get some stuff framed. Nine hundred bucks, yo. I mean, it’s gorgeous framing, no question, but…man.

    So yeah, thanks for this!

  2. Member
    crayfish 10384 posts, Sugar Beekeeper @ 4:21 pm

    For future bees who try this – SERIOUSLY consider buying a mat cutter that is attached to a track. It will save you so much heartache! And good quality mat board will be archival and acid-free, thus preserving your prints. Also, make sure to use photo-safe tape or adhesive to attach the prints to the board, and only attach on three sides, allowing for the paper to warp over time without visibly messing up the framing job (there are probably you tube tutorials out there! Or we could probably badger Scissors into giving a lesson 😉 )

  3. Member
    AlmostMrsG 394 posts, Helper bee @ 4:22 pm

    These (and the Getty Print!) look amazing. I wish I had DIY skillz, but I don’t– I’m literally the most imprecise, pragmatic person ever. And for someone who LOVES framed stuff, I hate the price… my diploma cost like $250 to frame. So. I should learn… this is a good kick in the pants/wallet, Penguin!

  4. Member
    Violet Violet 985 posts, Busy bee @ 4:27 pm

    Great post–definitely don’t get the freestyle cutter. I spent way too much money screwing up mats when I was in school (and had pretty much no money to mess around with), so this would have been really helpful. Ps– the 2nd title made me choke on the water I was drinking, lol, love it

  5. Member
    dddd89 497 posts, Helper bee @ 4:31 pm

    Great post! Here in Cleve-o it’s 7.75%.

  6. hamster Member
    hamster 4047 posts, Honey bee @ 4:33 pm

    This looks a little too complicated for my DIY-challenged self (I know, lame), but I might give it a try!

  7. Member
    Moody 113 posts, Blushing bee @ 4:35 pm

    Ugh NorCal has the worst sales tax!!!

    I’m impressed with your patience, that dude would’ve been smacked if it was me haha

  8. Member
    bridecat 355 posts, Helper bee @ 4:37 pm

    Oh that’s so helpful! I have been secretly bitter inside for a while over the cost of framing!!

  9. Member
    yoori 231 posts, Helper bee @ 4:47 pm

    I need to get me one of these! I freestyled a mat using my X-Acto knife, and it looks good… but on close inspection it’s definitely not perfect. My type A personality can’t handle that, so the framed pic is still sitting in the closet. 😛

  10. Member
    Goldilocks1107 2684 posts, Sugar bee @ 4:50 pm

    Hmm, maybe I’ll take my latest cache of Jo-Ann’s coupons and get me one of those mat cutting thingies. And some mats. I seriously have about 10 coupons right now (yay newspaper ad!)

  11. cola Member
    cola 2827 posts, Sugar bee @ 4:54 pm

    I love your prints! But holy heck is pro framing expensive, I would def consider doing it myself if I was ever classy enough to have something nicer to hang than stuff from Target!

  12. Member
    fromcharleston 651 posts, Busy bee @ 5:01 pm


    HAHAHAHA What a D****!!! I think ya’ll know what I’m saying. These look awesome though! I had no idea you could get mat cutters.

  13. Guest Icon Guest
    asl, Guest @ 5:20 pm

    For the less crafty out there who are still looking for custom frames/mats without having to sell any organs, I highly recommend SO much cheaper than any other option I’ve found! It really makes custom framing a $10 poster seem perfectly reasonable. You can even upload your pictures/art to see what it will look like with different frame/mat options. Some assembly is required but even the least crafty can handle it just fine, I’m sure.

  14. Member
    Shyness76 123 posts, Blushing bee @ 5:28 pm

    There is also if all you need is the mats but have frames. They are cheap as well (cheaper more you buy too).

  15. Member
    Jina of JAC 104 posts, Blushing bee @ 5:28 pm

    kekek! Your posts make me giggle & DANG! that’s like 10000% cheaper than what my photographer wants to charge me for my future portraits.

  16. Member
    afbacher 490 posts, Helper bee @ 6:28 pm

    I live just outside of KC, and sales tax is 6% – 10% is nuts!!

    But awesome job matting!!

  17. hermitcrab Member
    Mrs. Hermit Crab 3901 posts, Honey bee @ 6:47 pm

    OMG you’re hilarious.

  18. Member
    Coffeecake 347 posts, Helper bee @ 7:02 pm

    Sales tax is 9.5% in Seattle. When I lived in Duluth it was 7.5%.
    Thanks for the tutorial! That guy sort of lived up to the store’s name, eh.

  19. Member
    kaybee 630 posts, Busy bee @ 9:34 pm

    I created two 16×20 wedding collages with photo editing software with a wide white border and that was my alternative to having expensive mats cut. I’d like to try and cut my own mats now.

  20. Member
    mrspaetz 3812 posts, Honey bee @ 12:45 am

    great post pengy! 9.75% tax here in Burbank,CA too!

    i snagged 2 black mattings from Michaels for $1.99 each, i was SO super duper happy!!

  21. Member
    sammerz 117 posts, Blushing bee @ 1:52 am

    lol great post!

    And our tax in Ontario, Canada is 13%…. Yuck!

  22. Member
    eileen marie 1644 posts, Bumble bee @ 2:25 am

    Wow, Pengy -incredible. I know what you mean about Michaels! I am definitely going to try this! Those Peaceful Traveler Prints are beautiful. If I had 1 ounce more of wall space, I’d buy the Chicago one (and maybe NYC -where we were engaged and San Fran -where we spent our 1st anniversary) & try to frame them myself. I’ve successfully framed before, but I <3 the beveled edge. Your house looks amazing -can you please show us the photos on the green wall that look to be wedding photos? (And yeah, here in the Chi, we’re paying 10.25% tax -yay.)

  23. Member
    amaroo24 394 posts, Helper bee @ 9:53 am

    Fantastic! Do you find that matt will fit in regular frames? I have a couple of photos that were given matted already but without a frame. The frames that I bought would not latch/close with the matte in the frame. Have you ever found this?

  24. hotwings Member
    hotwings 2200 posts, Buzzing bee @ 10:27 am

    omg.. total smarty pants. I want me a mat cutter now. That SOB needs to get off his high horse and be polite. What a jerkface. And Chicago’s tax is over 10%. It’s crazy high.

  25. penguin Member
    penguin 3490 posts, Sugar bee @ 11:58 am

    @amaroo24: I know what you mean! These frames fit them just fine; most will I think, save for the smaller ones (8×10 and smaller) that are meant for individual pictures.

  26. pretzel Member
    pretzel 670 posts, Busy bee @ 1:48 pm

    Need! Thanks for putting a smile on my face too… “Dick Blick Punched Me in the Uterus and Left Me Cowering in a Corner”

  27. Member
    labrat 468 posts, Helper bee @ 2:17 pm

    I love framing things myself! I did the whole pay $50 for a painting and then $200 for framing with an 60% off coupon at Joann’s back when I was naive.

  28. Member
    ddw 9008 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 8:16 am

    Thanks for posting this tutorial, Peng! I have a pile of paintings done by a good friend of mine that we’re hoping to get framed this summer. With 8 to frame, this should save us some real money!

  29. Member
    allisonc 482 posts, Helper bee @ 10:35 am

    Thank you SOOO much for this tutorial. I was totally intimidated by DIY framing/mat cutting, so I’ve let prints, posters and even some cross stitch masterpieces collect in a drawer ’cause I’m too cheap to pay someone to frame them for me. I think I’m going to buy a mat cutter TODAY!! And yikes 9.75 tax?! Next time someone in Massachusetts complains about our 6.75% I’ll tell them we’re lucky!

  30. Guest Icon Guest
    My new vintage frames – using old window frames « wannabedesignernyc, Guest @ 10:28 pm

    […] Matting and Framing Your Own Pictures ( […]

  31. Guest Icon Guest
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