Decorative Breaks – Practical Mat Decoration

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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.

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.

 

Decorative Breaks in a Narrow Reveal

As we are looking for ways to use the computerized mat cutter to its fullest, we see that the standard corner treatments and ornamental cutouts are often not the answer.  How can we include decorative cutting in a different way?

This idea begins as a triple mat.  The top and bottom layers are rectangular.  There is a decorative break in the narrow middle layer.  The eighth inch of color is broken and a decorative element peeks from the break between the top and bottom layers.

201 Beginning Photo

This idea is not part of any standard computerized mat cutter program.  Making a mat like this requires the use of the drawing program – both to draw the decorative breaks and to integrate them into the middle layer of the mat.

Drawing the Decorative Breaks

This is a very good beginning drawing project.  You will learn and exercise a number of the drawing functions.  There are not line by line drawing instructions to follow, but the hints offer a good start as you learn more about drawing.

001 Breaks Graphic

Here is a picture of six variations on this idea.  Copy it and save it as a graphic file.  The first design is the decorative break used in the photograph at the beginning.  The next three variations change only the crown of the break.  The last variation is the break used in the photograph at the end.  They have all been tested and they cut nicely provided they are in these proportions and they are 1.5 inches high.

Using the Image

Put this image into the background of PathTrace and draw lines and arcs that follow the lines and arcs in the picture.

002 Path Trace Drawing

When the image is in the background, make it 1.75 inches high and 3.85 inches wide.  This will make the picture the proper size and proportion so that the images of the decorative breaks themselves will be 1.5 inches high.

This illustration of the drawing in progress is zoomed in on the element on the left to get a closer look.  Note the Height and Width settings of the image at the lower left.

There is an Opacity slider above the size field to make the image more faint so that you can see the lines you are drawing more clearly.  The element on the right is only the image.  You can see the darker gray lines we are drawing on the element on the left.

The Decorative Breaks’ Construction

All these breaks are drawn with only lines and arcs.

The vertical line at the top of each one needs to be exactly in line with the vertical line at its bottom.

The arcs and lines at the tops of all these breaks are identical to the arcs and lines at their bottoms.

A Few Drawing Reminders

To draw perfectly horizontal or vertical lines, hold the Control key on the keyboard as you draw.

To snap the beginning of a line or an arc to specific point, move the cursor near that point and right-click.  The beginning point will snap exactly onto the closest point to the cursor.

Zoom in very close to see that lines and arcs flow together without an angle.

Use the Move Point function to refine the shapes of arcs.

Use the Tangification function and the program will smooth the junctions of lines and arcs.

Draw the top half of the break, then mirror it across a horizontal center line.

Join all the segments and set each finished break to cut as a V-Groove.

Save each decorative break as its own CutArt file.  This is how you will add it to a mat design.

There will be a few more drawing reminders in the details that follow.

Integrating the Break

The decorative break has been drawn and saved as a CutArt.  To use the break in the mat design, we now need to replace the sides of the middle layer of the opening with the CutArt we have drawn.

101 In MD

Design the opening in MatDesigner.

Include the CutArt anywhere in the design.  There is no way to snap the CutArt to the correct spot on the opening here in the design program so its placement is not critical.  We will be able to snap the CutArt into its exact place in PathTrace.

Send the design to PathTrace.

In PathTrace: Positioning the CutArt

Use Copy Object to move the CutArt into place.

103 Snapped to Side

Move the cursor near the top of the CutArt and right-click when you select it in order to grab it by the point at the top.

Hold the Shift key and the original will disappear as you move the copy around.

Move the CutArt near the midpoint of the left side of the middle layer of the opening.

Right-click to snap the top point of the CutArt to the midpoint of the side of the middle layer.

Now that the CutArt is snapped to the side of the middle layer, we need to move it up or down to a place where we think it looks best.104 Positioned

Still using Copy Object, hold the Control key so that the CutArt will move perfectly vertically.  Hold the Shift key, too, so that only the copy remains.

Move the CutArt to its final vertical position.  In this example, it is just a little below the center.

Deleting the Sides of the Opening

The CutArt will replace the sides of the middle layer.  First we need to delete the existing sides of the middle layer.

105 Exploded and Deleted

Explode the middle layer of opening.

Delete the sides of the exploded opening.

Extending the Endpoints

This is not a critical step, but the segments of the opening will join better if the endpoints of the CutArt are extended to be closer to the corners.

106 Extended

Hold the Control key on the keyboard so that the sides of the CutArt remain perfectly vertical.

Use Move Point and move the endpoints of the CutArt closer to the corners.

In this illustration both endpoints have been moved.

Mirroring

Next, mirror the CutArt onto the other side of the opening.

107 Center Line

Mirroring works by using a reference line as a mirror axis, so we need to draw a vertical center line.

Move the cursor near the midpoint of the top of the opening.  Right-click to snap the beginning of the line to the midpoint.

Hold the Control key to keep the line vertical and end the line anywhere.

Mirror the CutArt on the left across the vertical center line onto the right side of the opening.

108 Mirrored

Mirroring is a two step function, but it is very simple.  First select the item to be mirrored, then select the line that is the mirror axis.  The mirrored copy will appear on the other side of the opening.

Finishing

Join the four new sides of the middle layer.

109 Joined

Set the new shape to cut as a normal bevel.

110 Set to Cut

Make sure that you set the new shape to cut as the middle layer of this opening.  At the bottom left, note that the Current Layer is set to Layer 2.

The mat is ready to cut.

As usual, these steps use the Wizard software.  Your program’s functions may have different names, but the process will be the same no matter which program you use.

202 Ending Photo

It appears as if there are many steps to this process of integrating these decorative breaks into the sides of the mat.  Explanations often mask reality, though.  Once you understand the process, you will find that all the steps are quite simple and the procedure will take only a minute.

The fact remains that this idea of mat decoration is outside of the kinds of things computerized mat cutter programs do normally - so of course we are required to do things manually.  New ideas will always require a little extra effort, but the results will be something special.

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 WizardU@wizardint.com  Brian’s column is sponsored by Wizard.  www.wizardint.com or call 1-888-855-3335

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