2, 4 or 8 ply matboard?

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When mounting & matting prints we have options on mat thickness. Two ply is thin & easy to bend but is lightweight & for carrying many prints mounted & matted work well. Looks nice but doesn't keep prints back from the glazing in frames where the matboard is against the glazing. Four ply is stiffer & thicker & for prints up to about 12x16 or so seems to work well. Eight ply is thicker yet & gives protection for larger prints with more setback from the glazing as well as an almost 'shadow box' look with its depth. All three come in Bainbridge Alpharag Artcare board as well so no need to use inferior board just to get a different thickness. Any 'rules of thumb' out there as to mat thickness for different presentation or print sizes? Any real problems with one over another?

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), April 01, 2002


In my opinion, two ply is not thick enough to matt any size print. Four ply is very versatile, and can be double matted. Eight ply looks very nice on sizes as small as 4x6 or 5x7, but is a real pain to cut if you are doing the matting yourself (also a lot more expensive if you are having it cut for you). Perhaps more important, in my opinion, is to have the matting provide an adequate border. I like at least 2 1/2 to 3 inch borders on even the smallest sizes, and borders of about 4 inches or more on a 16x20. Also, my choice is for black & white prints is a simple white rag matts, with a simple black frame so as not to detract from the work (comments like "Wow, what a nice frame!" generally means you photo is not so hot).

-- jennifer (photomatic99@yahoo.com), April 01, 2002.

i agree with what you've said, jennifer. from what i've observed at the aiapd show in new york, most work is matted with 4-ply. nothing is matted with 2-ply. occassionally, 8-ply is used, especially if it is a large work selling for thousands.

-- ricardo (ricardospanks1@yahoo.com), April 02, 2002.

Well, I agree, but I do use two ply a lot - for two uses. One, to mat prints I give to people, and two for matting prints for some of my portfolios.


-- Christian Harkness (chris.harkness@eudoramail.com), April 02, 2002.


I will have to try 2 ply for use with portfolios. You are correct that this would be a good use. Nice to keep these things as thin as possible.

-- jennifer (photomatic99@yahoo.com), April 02, 2002.

My students only use 2ply boards for the mounting board, not the window. The angle is not very deep when cutting a window with that thickness. 4ply window or an 8 ply window will give a nice angle cut that will show off the print. The 8ply cannot be cut by hand, or at least not by any one i know. Custom cutting is not cheap, but the look of an 8 ply window is very elegant. As with all things photo, personnel opinion is the leading factor. Large prints, anything over 16X20 really will need a 4 ply board or heavier for the back board. I also agree with someone else who mentioned frames, needing to be thin and not overwhelming the image. Just holds it together nicely, not take over.

-- Ann Clancy (clancya@attbi.com), April 02, 2002.

The Light Impressions catalog suggests using 2 ply for backing for up to and including 11x14, and 4 ply backing for larger. They suggest 4 ply for the windows up to and including 16x20 and then suggest 8 ply.

That being said, in the end, it's up to you. I think the previous answers are all very good.


-- Dave Willis (willisd@medicine.wustl.edu), April 02, 2002.

Dave, I think it depends what you mean by 'backing up'. I would not recommend using 2 ply as the ONLY backing in a framed 8x10, much less an 11x14. I use foam core, because I have found that even 4 ply will buckle [in an 8 x 10 it might be ok] in time, making for a sloppy looking framing job.


-- Christian Harkness (chris.harkness@eudoramail.com), April 05, 2002.

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