Art and Framing Terminology

4-Ply Mat
The thickness of a standard rag mat. It is also comparable in thickness to most other matboards.

8-Ply Mat
A double thick mat

Abstract
Art that is not representational as reality.

Acid-Free Mats
The mats called acid-free have been purified to neutralize the acidity. Although this is good, this type of mat is not a substitute for rag or alpha-cellulose mats when you want to adhere to conservation standards.

Acrylic
Acrylic is an alternative instead of glass. It doesn’t break as easily and is somewhat lighter in weight, especially in larger sizes. People often say Plexiglas when they should say acrylic. Plexiglas is a brand name.

Allowance
When frames are made, they are cut slightly larger than the size desired. This provides space so anything that is the actual size will drop into the frame.

Anti-Reflective Glass
A type of coated glass that greatly reduces reflection without distorting the art behind it.

Art Nouveau
Decorative style of the late 19th and early 20th centuries that flourished principally in Europe and the U.S.   It is characterized by asymmetrical lines based on organic forms.

Artist Proof
The term originated as an impression of a print taken in the printmaking process to see the current printing state of a plate while the plate (or stone, or woodblock…) is being worked on by the artist. A proof may show a clearly incomplete image, often called a working proof or trial impression, but in modern practice the term is usually used to describe an impression of the finished work that is identical to the numbered copies. Depending on the artist, the Artist Proof may have actual artist embellishments.

Bevel
When the window is cut into the mat, the blade cuts at an angle, exposing part of the mat’s core.

Bottom-Weighted Mat
When the border beneath the art is wider than the border above and beside it.

Bumpers/Bumpons
Rubber or felt pads that are placed on the bottom two corners of the frame. These provide an air space behind the frame and help keep the frame straight on the wall.

Burl
An irregular growth at the bottom of a tree. It is cut into thin veneer and applied to frames. Burl comes from a very small section of the tree so the pieces of veneer are short. On one length of frame moulding, numerous pieces of burl are laid end to end so seams are expected and a part of the look.

Burnish
A technique used with gold leaf to create a lustrous sheen

Canvas
A substrate used to paint or print on.

Cap
A frame moulding profile that is narrow across the face and deep from front to back. Caps are generally 1” to 1 ½” in depth.

Cassetta
A frame moulding profile having a flat panel with raised edges at the front and back.

Clay (Bole)
A colored clay, applied in liquid form, to the moulding before it is leafed. When the leaf is later burnished, a portion of the gold rubs away, allowing some of the clay color to show through. This adds depth the frame’s finish.

Clear Glass
The standard type of glass used in frames.

Closed Corner Frame
Frame that is assembled prior to being finished so the corners are seamless.

Compo
A composite substance that ornamental patterns are molded into to decorate frames.

Conservation Glass
Glass with filtering properties to block harmful ultraviolet rays.

Conservation Framing
The use of preservation materials and techniques to protect artwork.

Cubism
An artistic movement begun in 1907, when artists Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque together developed a visual language whose geometric planes and compressed space challenged the conventions of representation in painting. Traditional subjects—nudes, landscapes, and still lifes—were reinvented as increasingly fragmented compositions.

Daguerreotype
A photographic technique invented by Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre in 1839. A daguerreotype uses a silver or silver-coated-copper plate to develop an image in a camera obscura. The image is formed when the light-sensitive plate is exposed to light through a camera lens. A daguerreotype was a unique, direct positive image that could not produce copies.

Double Mat
A mat border made from two layers of matboard. The two layers can be the same color but are often different colors.

Distressed
To deliberately mar the surface of the frame moulding to give the effect of age.

Dry Mount
A process for adhering prints to rigid backings using heat activated adhesives.  This keeps the print flat and helps prevent buckling.

Dust Cover
A paper backing used to finish off the back of the frame.

Elongated Mat
When the mat borders above and below the art are wider than the borders on either side.

Etching
A type of print made by scratching marks onto the surface of a metal plate (usually copper, zinc, or steel) that has been treated with an acid-resistant waxy ground. When the plate is placed into a vat of acid, the acid bites through the exposed portions of the plate. The plate is inked, and an image is created by running the plate and paper through a printing press.

Fabric Mat
A mat that has a fabric surface instead of the typical paper surface.

Fillet
A narrow moulding used as an accent. Fillets can be placed inside mat openings or in the lip of frames.

Finished Corner Frame
The same as a closed corner frame.

Float Frame
A type of moulding used for framing canvases. The art is set into the frame from the front so none of the surface is covered.

Float Mount
To place the art on top of the mat rather than in a window behind the mat. Sometimes the art sits directly on the mat but it is often raised off it to add depth.

Foamboard
A board used to mount prints to or used as a backing

Frame 
When the four pieces of moulding are assembled, it becomes a frame.

French Mat
A traditional form of mat decoration, originated in France.  A watercolor wash is applied within a panel and ink lines are placed around it. Some French mats are simple and others quite elaborate.

Gallery Wrap
When artwork continues from the front surface of a stretched canvas down the sides.

Gesso
A plaster substance applied to frame moulding to create a smooth base prior to applying the finish.

Giclée Print
A popular method used to produce fine art prints with ink jet printers.

Gilding
Applying gold leaf to the surface of the frame. The two primary types used are water gilding and oil gilding.

Glazing
A generic term used for covering art and mats with glass or acrylic

Gouache
An opaque watercolor paint; a painting produced with such paint.

Hinge
A method used to attach art to a backing board. Most commonly hinging is used when framing works of art to conservation standards.

Impasto
An Italian word for “paste” or “mixture”, used to describe a painting technique where paint is thickly laid on a surface, so that the texture of brush- or palette-knife strokes are clearly visible.

Impressionism
A 19th-century art movement, associated especially with French artists, whose works are characterized by relatively small, thin, visible brushstrokes that coalesce to form a single scene and emphasize movement and the changing qualities of light.

Laminate
The process of adhering a clear plastic film over something to seal it. Laminating films come in a variety of finishes.

Lap Lines
Gold Leaf comes in small sheets. When a frame is leafed, the sheets are intentionally overlapped to insure the clay underneath is not visible. This overlap can result in a deeper or brighter finish at even intervals down the length of the moulding. This is considered a sign of quality.

Limited Edition Print
When an artist or publisher creates a defined amount of prints and will print no more of that image. Edition sizes can vary from several to thousands. Generally these will be signed by the artist and numbered, such as 1/1000, 2/1000, etc.

Liner
When a mat border is not used, it is often desirable to use a liner. Today’s liners are often fabric covered frames but the original liners were gold leafed for use inside finished corner frames.

Lip
The part of the frame that holds the art and other framing contents in place.

Lithography
This describes many methods of printing.  Original stone lithographs were a popular print making method in the 1800s utilized by many artists.  Offset lithography is a popular four-color process for making prints, books and magazines.

Mat Border
Used to surround many prints, photos, certificates, etc., a mat border provides a visual resting spot between the art and everything around it, making it easier to view the art.

Mat Opening/Mat Window
A hole cut into the mat so the art will be visible through it.

Moulding
Before a frame is made, the four sides are cut to size from a long length of moulding.

Moulding Depth
The overall outside dimension of the moulding from front to back.

Moulding Width
The overall outside dimension of the moulding from inside edge to outside edge.

Museum Glass
The best glass available to protect the art from harmful ultraviolet light, while also reducing reflection.

Non-Glare Glass
A type of glass that greatly reduces glare but also can cause a cloudiness or distortion, especially when it sits away from the art as it will with a double or triple mat.

Open Edition Print
When art prints are mass-produced and continue to be printed as long as there is demand for the image.

Paper Mat
The lowest quality of mat. It is more susceptible to discoloration and it can accelerate the deterioration of the art.

Pointillism
A technique of painting developed by French painters Georges-Pierre Seurat and Paul Signac, in which small, distinct points of unmixed color are applied in patterns to form an image.

Preservation Framing
Another term for conservation framing.

Profile
When you look at the end of a stick of moulding, this is the shape you would see.

Rabbet Depth
The interior height of the frame where the contents will be placed.

Rabbet Width
The amount of the frame lip that will overlap onto the contents placed in the frame.

Rag Mat
The mat looks like paper but is made from cotton fibers. Rag mats are recommended when you want to preserve art.

Reflection Control Glass
Another term for Non-Glare Glass

Reverse
A type of moulding profile where the inside edge is deeper and slopes down to the wall at the outer edge.

Reverse Bevel
When a mat is cut so the beveled edge does not show.

Rottenstone
A fine powder used to antique frames.

Scoop
A type of moulding profile where the outside edge is the deepest and slopes down to the inner edge.

Screenprinting
A printing technique in which areas of a screen, comprised of woven mesh stretched on a frame, are selectively blocked off with a non-permeable material (typically a photo-emulsion, paper, or plastic film) to form a stencil, which is a negative of the image to be printed. Ink is forced through the mesh onto the printing surface with a squeegee, creating a positive image.  Popularly known as a silkscreen .

Shadowbox
A frame moulding that is 1 ½” deep or more. Mouldings less than 1 ½” deep are generally called “Caps” but they can be used to frame objects that will fit within them.

Sight Size
On a completed frame, this is the size from the innermost edge on one side to the innermost edge on the opposite side. This size will be smaller than the actual frame size.

Silkscreen
A printing technique in which areas of a silkscreen, comprised of woven mesh stretched on a frame, are selectively blocked off with a non-permeable material (typically a photo-emulsion, paper, or plastic film) to form a stencil, which is a negative of the image to be printed. Ink is forced through the mesh onto the printing surface with a squeegee, creating a positive image.

Single Mat
A mat border made from one layer of mat.

Spacer
Spacer products are available to keep glass off the surface of art when a mat is not used. Foamboard strips can also be placed between layers of mat to create space.

Stacking
The technique of combining two or more mouldings to create one frame. Stacking has been used for centuries. Frames are usually placed side by side, adding to the width but you can also place frames one over the other to add depth.

Strap Hanger
A strong type of hanger that fits quite flush to the wall and can be used with or without wire.

Stretcher Bars
Pre-cut pieces that interlock to form the framework canvas is stretched over.

Stretcher Frame/Strainer
Length of stretcher that is cut to size and joined like a frame.

Surrealism
A literary, intellectual, and artistic movement that began in Paris in 1924 and was active through World War II. Influenced by Sigmund Freud’s writings on psychology, Surrealists, led by André Breton, were interested in how the irrational, unconscious mind could move beyond the constraints of the rational world. Surrealism grew out of dissatisfaction with traditional social values and artistic practices after World War I.

Toning
Adding a finish to warm or cool the color below it.

Triple Mat
A mat border made from three layers of matboard. They can all be the same color or two or three different colors.

Triptych
A work of art consisting of three parts, usually hinged together.

Variable Sizing
When an art image can be printed in a variety of sizes.

Veneer
Thin sheets of wood that are adhered to frames, furniture, cabinets, etc. Veneers are generally used when large pieces are not available, such as burl, or when the wood is rare or expensive.

Victorian
Of or pertaining to the period of Queen Victoria’s reign in Great Britain (1837–1901); having the characteristics associated with that period, especially the observance of a conservative worldview or prudish thought and manner.

Wall Grouping
When you hang several framed pieces into a formation on a single wall.