A picture mat is additional paper that is meant to frame the picture or painting, and to provide some distance between the glass of the frame and the picture. Many mats, or matts, are painted as well. However, it's important that you think about your matt and the picture it's framing before you choose your paint.
Type of Matt
There isn't one universal "best" paint for every style of matt. First of all, you need to take into account what the matt is made of. Matts can be made out of acid-free paper, but older matts are slightly acidic and can cause damage over time. Other matts are made out of fabric, and these matts might not accept paint that's meant to be absorbed by paper. Additionally, paint that's oil based rather than water based might seep through thinner matts and damage the material and the painting.
Types of Paints
For every matt, there's a paint type to fit. For instance, water colors and water based paints are a solid bet for paper matts. Fabric matts require paint that is meant specifically for a fabric medium. Even if you have a paint that matches the matt, though, you may need to experiment to see which paints take best, and which ones provide the look that you want to surround your picture with.
Matting is meant to surround the picture and help preserve it, but you should also consider whether or not the paint you use on the matt will help it last longer as well. Vinyl and acrylic based paints, which work well on paper matts, dry to a smooth and hard finish that provides an additional layer of protection over the matt and helps stop it from being affected by time, air and light.
When it comes to matting paint, you get what you pay for. If you don't need the matting to last for a long time, or it's a temporary matt, then you can use cheap paint that will look good and help bring out the picture it's framing. On the other hand, for matts that need to last longer than 25 years, you should think about paint that comes with a guarantee of time and provides additional protections to the matt. Of course, if you take care of the picture and make sure it remains out of direct light and in a cool, dry environment, most paints should last for a long time.
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