Two Opening Shapes – Practical Mat Decoration

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One More Thing - final

Sometimes our mental image of a decorated mat includes frills and swirls and patterns on every square inch. However impressive this may seem, a better idea is to add just a small touch. This column will focus on decorative ideas you might use every day. We all have skills and we should use them regularly – to keep our work interesting and to keep our customers thrilled.

One Template - Two Opening Shapes

There are surprises in every template library.  The exercise here is that one template can take on several entirely different faces.  This exercise uses the Wizard software.  Other computerized mat cutter design programs will not work exactly the same, but you will certainly encounter opportunities to adjust settings and completely transform the shape.  Though you will likely not be able to make both these particular shapes with just a single template, you may be attracted enough by these to explore what it takes to create them in the program you use.

Kobe Corners

We all have comments on these Asian style corners.  Perhaps we feel they are overused.  Perhaps we feel they are another era’s interpretation of the Asian style.  A more objective criticism of the typical design is that the corner could be more dramatic.  The point at the intersection of the two arcs is normally a right angle.  What if we could make it a little more pointed?  We might choose to use it now simply because it is more exciting.

The method is not exactly direct.  It involves an unlikely template shape – 314, the Camelback Flare.  When you examine the default shape, there is no hint that this could be accomplished, but a look at the table of parameters offers a clue.103

The four parameters at the top are set to zero and the bottom three parameters will fashion our particular shape.  Side Flare and Top and Bottom Flare are set to negative values to turn the curves inward.  Both fields are set to identical values (however, some experimenting may be warranted to see some of the possibilities when the values are different).  The greater their absolute value, the softer the curve.

The Blend Distance parameter controls how quickly the curves join the straight sides.  This parameter can be thought of as a Radius control, within certain limits.  Click the plus and minus buttons watch the intersection become more pointed.  Remember that if you hold the Alt key, the value will change by 0.01 inch (0.2mm in metric) per click.

You will see shapes that will cut nicely, and you will see shapes that are out of the question.  Before you proceed to the next steps, make a test cut to see that the point is, indeed, to your liking, and to make sure that the curves, the points, and the transitions cut to your standards.

Decorative shapes are more effective as double mats.  There is something magic about the outline created by the eighth inch of contrast around an interesting shape.  However, add a second layer in the normal fashion with this template and your heart will sink.  There is an impossible-to-cut artifact left over from the Chamfer parameter.  Try, but no parameter settings will eliminate the diagonal lines at the corners.  (You could change the mat to the Mixed template – where you are able to adjust the parameters of each layer separately.  There will be no diagonal line, but the inner reveal will never be parallel all around the opening.)104

Making a double mat with this shape will require PathTrace.  In MatDesigner, make the opening two layers, adjust the reveal width, and ignore the diagonal line.

Send the design to PathTrace.

Explode the outer layer.

Break the intersections of the curves at each corner.

Join the segments to complete the new shape.

(You can try to join the curves without breaking the intersections, but in many cases, the curves change their shapes.)

Set the bevels and cut the mat.


Flared Corners

There is not so much historical precedent for flared corners in matting, but it adds interest, weight, and a slight touch of quirkiness to the shape.201

Begin with a two layer opening.  Change the template to 314 – again.  Set the first four parameters to zero.  We will be working with the bottom three parameters – again.202

Enter very small decimal fractions into the Flare parameters.  In this example, the Side Flare is set to 0.1 inch and the Top and Bottom Flare is set to 0.02 inch.  Leave the Blend Distance set to 0.75 inch for now.

You will see the remnants of the chamfer at the corners of the top layer – again – even though the Chamfer parameter is set to zero.  The good news is that there is a way to remove the chamfers without the drawing program.  In fact, this method will lead us to some wonderful design possibilities.203

Change the template to 106 Mixed.  You will see the chamfer on the top layer disappear, but the reveal will no longer be parallel all around.  The fact is, the shape looks hopeless at this moment.  The Mixed template, however, will allow you to set the parameters for each layer can be set individually so that you can craft the flares just how you want them.  (The more obvious use for the Mixed template is to set each layer to a different template shape.  This ability to set the parameters independently, though, proves itself to be equally important in so many design situations.)204

Adjust the parameters for each layer until the flare at the corner is pleasing.  Zoom in for a closer look as you make fine adjustments.  Remember the Alt key as you click the plus and minus buttons.

In this illustration, the parameter settings are as follows:

Top Layer:

Blend Distance = 1.05 inch

Side Flare = 0.19 inch

Top and Bottom Flare = 0.02 inch

Bottom Layer:

Blend Distance = 0.85 inch

Side Flare = 0.07 inch

Top and Bottom Flare = 0.01 inch

Flared corners lend themselves to variation.  Use the Blend Distance to join the curves to the sides smoothly or abruptly.  The eighth inch reveal of the inner mat will transform as you experiment with both dramatically tapering flares and perfectly parallel flares at the corners.  For a more conservative attitude, set the Top and Bottom Flare to zero.

No matter how much you are taken with the shapes you see on the screen, make a test cut.  Severe angles do not always look as nice when they are cut as they look on the screen.  Make sure the reveal looks as you intend with both layers assembled.  Save the promising designs in a convenient folder so that you can return to them quickly.205

Your assignment now is yet another variation.  Imagine if you would use this design more often if the flared corners were only on the bottom.  This is easy to do this with some programs, but with the Wizard software, it is a PathTrace alteration.  The procedure is not so different from the exercise to refine the outer layer’s shape in the previous example.  Explode the circuits, Delete the curves at the top, Join the remaining segments, Close the circuits, and Set the bevels.

Brian Wolf has been a picture framing educator since 1979, specializing in decorative matting techniques. He is the artistry ambassador for Wizard International, Inc. Contact him at

Brian’s column is sponsored by Wizard. or call 1-888-855-3335.

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