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Matworks! (Windows only right now)

A simple solution to all your matting needs

by Giorgio Trucco

Fall Colors along the Dalton Highway, Alaska.
Pentax 645N, Pentax Super Wide Angle 33-55mm f/4.5 AL, 1/2sec at f/32, Fuji Velvia.
This image, scanned at 4000dpi with an Imacon 949 and printed at 300dpi, 24 by 36 inch, with a Chromira LighJet printer on Fuji Christal Archive paper, was matted using Alphamat Artcare mats, in Antique White finish.



Being a photographer involves a fair amount of printing,and although not all prints are deemed as fine-art prints for sale matting your artwork adds to the printing process its own excitement and has many advantages.
While you can certainly hand to your client one of your images as a "print-only" (and sometimes this is exactly what the client wants), a mounted print has a much greater impact on the viewer and will be more sellable, especially if you can do a quality and reasonably priced job at mounting it.

The "print-only"and the matted version of the same image. Which one looks more attractive and professional?

Not only a matted print is more sellable, it's also more protected and easier to handle.
If you plan to sell your work, matting your photographs is an essential skill that, sooner or later, you'll have to develop.


The Problem:

Mounting and framing photographs is not an easy task. At the beginning, it's not uncommon to waste a lot of time and money before finding the right tools and being able to mat your prints in an efficient and cost effective way.

This essay is not about all the practical aspects of matting your photographs. It's about a small program I've developed to help you plan and execute your matting projects.

Whether you cut your own mats using a hand-held cutter, a more sophisticated mat cutter, or even if you buy cut-to-order mats online (which I warmly recommend), you'll spend a significant amount of time calculating mat dimensions, mat openings, and drawing lines on matting boards.
While the calculations are nothing difficult, per se, things can go really wrong if you make even the smallest error. Errors in this department are often unrecoverable, and discovering that you cut one side of the mat opening off by 1/8 of an inch, will force you to trash everything out: matting board, mat and often the print itself!

Things are even more prone to errors if you mat your prints using double and/or bottom weighted mats.

To keep things organized and error free, and to preview your matting project before even starting it, I've developed a simple software named: MatWorks! A virtual solution to all your matting needs!

The software splash screen.


A Free Piece of the Solution:

MatWorks! is a simple program that provides a virtual matting board for a variety of matting projects. With MatWorks! you can easily calculate the dimensions of the Mat opening and preview the final results using some of the most common matting options.

Most important, MatWorks! is a free software.

I initially wrote this small application for my personal use. After using and refining it, I found it so useful that I decided to donate it to the community of Fine-Art Photographers who mat their own artwork.

As shown in the screenshot below, the program User Interface is designed as a single window.
All the input controls and program outputs are organized in logical and easy to understand groups.

MatWorks! User Interface. The Input Section is the control module of the entire software. Three separate outputs provide all the information needed to: order pre-cut Mats online (Output 1), cut blank Mats and mount the print (Output 3), and review/preview the input options (Output 2).

The User Interface contains 1 Input and 3 Output Sections.
The Input Section is used to select the parameters of the matting project:

  1. Mat Size, Print Size and Image Size, plus Mat, Print and ImageLayout.
  2. Mat Style (Single or Double Matting) with Centered, Bottom Weighted and Double Bottom Weighted Mat openings.
  3. Mat over Image Overlap and Mat to Mat Distance.

Output 1 is a numeric output that reports the opening dimensions and bottom weights of all the Mats in your project.

This output section is very useful when ordering pre-cut Mats online because its format matches the standard used by online companies selling such Mats.

Output 2 is an in-scale graphic output used to preview and check the entire matting project.

Output 3 is a mixed graphic (not in scale!) and numeric output that offers detailed instructions for centering the print on the Back Mat and cutting the opening in the Top Mat(s).


Using MatWorks!:

Let's assume we want to Double Mat a 13"x19"print, containing an 11"x16" image. We will use a 20"x24"blank Back Mat.

1 - the first step is to measure the print and the image size. Measure these dimensions accurately, up to 1/16 th an inch. Make sure the image is centered on the print and surrounded by borders of equal thickness on the opposite sides.

The Print Size can be very different from the Image Size. It all depends on the border you left around the actual image. The only requirement is for the image to be centered on the print and surrounded by borders of equal thickness on the opposite sides.

2 - In the Input section, enter the Mat, Print and Image sizes and layouts.
In this example, all layouts are supposed to be Landscape.

3 - Choose your preferred Mat Style (Double Mat and Bottom Weighted in our example).

4 - Select a desired Mat over Image Overlap.
In this example we choose to leave a white border around the image. We want the border to be 1/2 of an inch, therefore we select -0. 5 in the drop-down menu.

5-Select your desired Mat to Mat Distance (1"in our example).

At this point the input section should look like this:

The Input Section after selecting all the desired matting

6-Click on the "Calculate" button. The Output sections will display all the relevant information.

If you are ordering pre-cut Mats online you"ll need the information shown in the Output1 section.

Here you will find the output dimensions of the matting board, the opening dimensions (and bottom weights) of both the Single Mat and the Double Mat (in case you have selected the Double Mat style).

The Output Section containing the information needed to order pre-cut Mats online.

If you are cutting your own Mats, you'll need to refer to the drawings of section Output3, titled Single Mat and Double Mat.

Using a pencil and a ruler, draw a rectangle ON THE BACK of your Mats, as shown in the drawings. After drawing the openings on the ON THE BACK of the blank Mats, cut the opening using a mat cutter.

It's now time to mount the print on the Back Mat.

Refer to the leftmost drawing of the Output3 section, titled Back Mat.

Draw three lines on the front of the mounting board, as shown in the drawing. These lines will help you positioning the print in the correct place.

There are a variety of different ways to mount photographic prints.

My preferred method is dry mounting and my preferred adhesive for dry mounting is made by CODA. It can be bought in rolls for great convenience. I use their Single Release White Adhesive, but other types are available.

More information is available at their website:

I normally use a thin stripe of adhesive along the top border of the print. Then I carefully position the print on the Matboard using the drawn lines as a reference. While applying a gentle pressure on the low part of the print (to keep it in place), I peel off the plastic sheet to expose the adhesive and gently press the print along the top border to make it adhere to the Matboard.
At this point you can add more adhesive or leave the print as is, obtaining a sort of “hinged”assembly.

If the white border around the image is large enough, you can even mount your print with absolutely no adhesive on the back of the image.
After you've positioned the print on the Back Mat, it's time to stack the previously cut Mats.
Add enough adhesive around the print to ensure a strong adhesion between the Matboard and the Single Mat, peel off the protective plastic sheet and stick the Single Mat on top of the Matboard. Keeping the Single Mat aligned with the Matboard along one of the long borders is an easy way to obtain a precise alignment between the Matboard and the Single Mat.

Matting the print using a Single Mat.

Repeat the same procedure with the Double Mat on top of the Single Mat.

Adding the Double Mat.

As a final step, you can use a clean, soft-rubber brayer to exercise pressure on the entire assembly.



I offer MatWorks! for free in the hope that it will be useful.

It is extremely useful to me and I hope you will use it as much as I do.

I encourage you to report any bug or inconsistency you might find. Also, if you think the program lacks some important feature, feel free to suggest it and I'll try to introduce it in future releases.
At the time of writing the program is available only for Windows.

All you have to do is download and unzip the file, and place the application in any directory you want on your hard drive.

To add an icon on your desktop, locate the "MatWorks 1.0.exe" file on your hard drive. Right-click on it and choose: Send To > Desktop (create shortcut).

The software comes with a complete PDF User Guide (also accessible by pressing F1 when the software is running) and is self-contained, meaning that it won't install anything on your disk and it won't edit your registry.

MatWorks! can be downloaded here (also check this location for regular updates).

Feel free to email me at with all your comments!


Note by Uwe Steinmueller (Editor)

We find that Giorgio did a nice job to create this tool. We find it easy and fun to use. Very helpful indeed!


Run Time Error 713

If you get an error like this one:

download from the Internet the following .dll: msstdfmt.dll

  • Copy the downloaded file to the Windows/system32 directory.
  • Now register the dll by going to Start>run> and typing:
  • regsvr32 msstdfmt.dll
  • Click ok.
  • Now the software will work properly on your system.



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