Glossary of Framing Terms


Acid Free

A term used to describe paper materials with a 7 pH, or very close to 7 pH. Acid-free materials are more permanent and less likely to discolor over time. The term Archival or conservation quality more accurately describes true acid-free conservation quality matboard.


The framing procedure where all materials are acid free. Conservation framing is the same.

Adhesive Transfer (ATG) Tape

A double sided tape used to stick mat boards and other materials together.

Beveled Edge

The 45-degree inside cut on a matboard. This allows about 1/16″ of the core to be seen. A reverse bevel means the core will not be seen from the front of the mat.

Bottom weighting

A term used when the mat is wider below the art than it is at the other three sides.

Conservation Framing

The framing procedure in which all materials that come in contact with the artwork are acid free. This minimizes the effect of any adverse environmental conditions.

Double and Triple Mats

Two or three mats are used. The top mats have slightly larger openings than the bottom mat; the differences are called”reveals”. When planning each job, we first define the exact opening required for the art. Then we determine the overall mat size as well as the reveal or vislble sizes of all the mats.

Float Frames

There is a class of frames which are designed to “float” out beyond the boundaries of art on stretched canvas. Paintings, (or other stretched canvas art), can be attached to these frames leaving 1/4”to 1/2” or 3/4” of air all around, between the canvas and the frame.

Float Mounting

Certain art is more appropriately seen right out to the edge of the paper. This means you don’t cover the edges with a mat. There are various attachment methods available to achieve this look depending on the art.

Foamboard (FomeCor is a brand name)

A stiff light material used as a backing board to give rigidity. Foam makes up the center of the board with a layer of paper on its surfaces. Foamboard is usually 3/16 to 1/8″ thick, and dimensionally stable. We use only acid free foamboard at Design Frame.


All the odds and ends that are used to assemble the finished frame, from V-nails (to hold the mitered and glued corners together), to framer points, screw eyes, wire, bump-ons, etc. used to assemble and finish your custom frame.

Live Area

This is our term for what the final visible portion of your art will be. It defines the opening in a mat or the size of the frame if no mats are to be used. Typically it is slightly smaller than the paper the art is on, allowing the mat to secure the edge all the way around the art.

Mat Board

A board comprised of two parts, the core and the paper or fabric face. Most matboard is 4 ply or about 1/16 inch thick. Occasionally 2 ply or Ultra Thick mat is used.

Mat Board Core

The center area of mat board. Usually 1/16 inch thick. At Design Frame we use only acid-free mat materials.

Mounting Board

A board used to mount images when this is necessary. Acid-free foamboard or white mat board make excellent mounting boards.

Plexiglas (aka Lucite, acrylic, Acrylite)

An crystal clear plastic material used instead of glass when weight or breakage is a concern.. We use professional framing grade 3mm. acrylic (1/8″).


The term used to describe how a frame looks when viewed from one end. It will describe the dimensions of the rabbet. The rabbet describes the 90 degree cut made to house the glass and mat package.

Regular matboard

This is low quality mat, sometimes called “Decorative” mat, and the least expensive. It should not be confused with the “Conservation Quality” mat materials used exclusively at Design Frame.


In a double or triple mat, the reveal is the amount the bottom (and middle) mats that will show under the top mat.

Shadow Box frames and displays

A term used when dimensional items are framed. This can be anything from a medal which may only require a fraction of an inch of depth to a baseball requiring 3 or more inches. There are two methods of creating shadow boxes:

  • Frames with various rabbet depths. These may be up to 3 or 4 inches deep. These frames are generally very expensive.
  • Boxes made of differing materials and fit into any standard wood frame. They can be lined with any matboard to make a professional presentation. These are less expensive and used extensively in the memorabilia framing industry.


Spacers are used between the mat and backing and or the mat and the glazing, to create a space when a “shadow box” effect is required.


The opening in a mat board through which the image will show. The window is usually 1/8 to 1/2 inch smaller than the image so the image can be taped to the back of the mat. For example a 5 x 7 photo should have a window of approximately 4 3/4” x 6 3/4”.