The Serpentine Top Opening- 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.

 

 

The Serpentine Top Opening

Probably the most widely used shaped openings are rectangles with shaped tops.  There is a shape with a gentle arc across the top and there is the ubiquitous round top opening.

Serpentine Top Example

In an earlier column, there was a matted example with an opening shape from this family that framers found interesting but elusive.  It was a rectangle with a serpentine curve across the top.  The shapes mentioned above can be made directly using templates, but this serpentine top opening requires an alternative view of this particular template to see the possibility, then one small alteration – an alteration that, happily, can be done in the design program.

Like all templates in most programs, one template can be transformed into several shapes by adjusting the parameters.  This particular template in the Wizard program can make a flared corner opening, a serpentine top opening, and in a previous column we used it to make a Kobe corner opening.

Beginning the Design

When you use this template shape, the default parameter settings suggest the flared corners together with the serpentine top and bottom.  It then falls to the designer to refine the shape by changing the parameters.

01 Temp 314

Design the opening.  In this illustration, we have set the size, the number of layers, the reveal sizes, and the border sizes.  The template is number 314.

Click the Parameters tab at the bottom and look over the array of settings.  What do all these settings do?

Refining the Shape

When you are curious about a particular parameter, click the question mark beside the template ID number at the top.  This opens the Parameter Map.  This particular one is fairly complicated because there are seven parameters, but the illustrations are helpful.

02 Parameter Map

Then click the plus and minus buttons beside each parameter, enter new values in the fields, and watch the changes to get a better idea of how the parameters work.

 

We want to have only the serpentine curve across the top.  No flared corners, no Kobe corners.

03 New Parameters

Change all the parameters to zero except the top one – Arc Height.  You will see only the serpentine curve at the top and bottom.  Change the Arc Height setting to suit your vision.

Experiment with the next two parameters, too.  Side Arc Offset moves the beginning of the curves to the inside of the opening.  Here it is set quite small - a quarter inch.

To complete the project, we want to remove the serpentine curve from the bottom of the opening.

The Auxiliary Opening

We will add another opening at the bottom to simply cover the curve along the bottom.

04 copy opening

Copy and Paste to duplicate the opening.  This is the easiest way to get an opening with the same width and the same reveals.

Its placement does not concern us at this point.  But do not disturb the original opening.

Changing the Shape

Next, change the new opening into a rectangle.  Click the Change Template button and select the rectangular shape from the template menu.

05 changes to rectangle

It is handy to know that you are also able to enter the template number to change the template shape.  In this illustration the yellow field at the top reads 101 – the ID number of the rectangular template in the Wizard program.

 

This rectangular opening must be exactly as wide as the original opening, and all the mat layers must line up, but it needs to be shorter.  Remember that it needs to be tall enough to cover the bottom curve, but not so tall that it covers any of the top serpentine curve.

06 shorter

Either drag the handle at the top of the opening down to make it shorter, or enter a smaller value in the Height field.

Aligning the Openings

Now snap the rectangular opening into place with its bottom against the bottom of the original opening and its sides against the sides of the original opening.

07 snap into place

Actually, you are using the snapping properties of the borders.  If you are not feeling that positive snap as the bottoms and sides pop into alignment, check to make sure the borders are properly against the original opening.

Merging the Openings

The final step is to merge the two openings.

08 openings selected

Select both the openings.

Click the Advanced tab at the top.

At the left there is a button labeled Group Selection.

Every mat design program has a merge feature like this.  The glamour part of this function is to form new shapes with overlapping openings like this example, but its primary use is to lock a number of items together as you are designing a complicated array.

 

When you click the Group Selection button, the program merges the paths of the two openings and the design is finally as we imagined.  It is ready to cut.

09 grouped

It is possible that you would look at the serpentine curve across the top and want to make changes.  If you click the Properties tab for the opening, you will find that the parameters are no longer available now that this is a grouped opening.

You can still adjust parameters.  Note that the Group Selection button is now the Ungroup Selection button.  If you ungroup the openings, you will be able to select the serpentine opening and make further parameter adjustments.

As is normal for this column, this explanation shows the steps in the Wizard software.  Perhaps the software you use has direct parameters for this particular shape – a fortunate turn of events.  But perhaps this device of using an auxiliary opening to cover unnecessary details is just the solution you were searching for in order to accomplish some other design in your imagination.

As is normal for this column, this explanation shows the steps in the Wizard software.  Perhaps the software you use has direct parameters for this particular shape – a fortunate turn of events.  But perhaps this device of using an auxiliary opening to cover unnecessary details is just the solution you were searching for in order to accomplish some other design in your imagination.

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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