The Evolution of the Matboard: Acidic to Conservation

Matboards were originally created from paper sign board (similar to poster board) to enhance the look of a framed piece of art. What surely felt like struck gold for custom framers turned into a nightmare as these pieces resurfaced years later with yellow cores and acid burns on the art. Unfortunately for these pioneers of enhanced custom framing, they hadn’t worried about pH balance or the acidity of wood based paper mats which lead to what we commonly see today in old framed photos and art.

The solution to these yellow/brown cores and acid burns was to create acid-free mats. It sounded good, but all they really did was treat the sides of the same wood based material. Over time, the treatment wore off and left consumers back at square one.

Finally, a new type of paper matboard was created using 100% pure high alpha cellulose (wood pulp) and treated for a 300-year life. Not only was the core material purified, but the surface was enhanced as well. These are the common types of mats used today because they are cost effective, but bode well for frame longevity and art protection. At Technicraft, our base line of mats is made up entirely of conservation matboard because we know it’s a product you can trust with your archival prints, giclee pieces, and fine art.

Of course, the world of custom framing has expanded even more and we now have mats made from short cotton fibers (museum/rag mats), mats made from 100% cotton fiber (museum board), leather mats, printed giclee mats, faux mats made of brushed aluminum, and all manor of creative finishing.

We’re continuously replacing yellowed and stained mats with longer lasting materials, but the first modern matboard inventors opened the door for us to explore and create unique concepts in custom framing all these years later. What we’ve learned along the way is that conservation is key and product integrity matters.