CutArt Variations – Practical Mat Decoration

Print Friendly
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.

 

 

Making CutArt Variations

Every framer has their decorative design ideas – the kinds of elements they like to use and the ways they like to apply them.  The challenge is to vary the details of the idea each time you use it to tailor it to the picture and to make it look different to casual observers.  Framers do this even when the design idea is as simple as a triple mat.  The variations can be: change the colors, vary the contrast, change the reveal sizes, put the narrow reveal in the middle, put the narrow reveal to the inside, make the wide reveal really wide, use patterned matboard for the wide reveal…

So it is if you have a favorite CutArt.  This example shows a geometric starburst at the side of the opening.  Perhaps you would like to add a starburst accent like this more often, but there is just this one.  You feel that if you use it too often, your work will begin to look too repetitive.  You can vary the size and the placement, but the element itself remains the same.  Your work would have more variety and each picture could be more individualized if there were a dozen different starbursts you could choose from.

The Original Idea

The CutArt here is Fanlite from the Accents1 folder of the Wizard CutArt.  The decorative elements are about half an inch wide and 1.25 inches high.  The starbursts are a quarter inch away from the opening and slightly below the center.  (The opening is 6 x 8 inches, just for the sake of perspective.)01 6x8 Original

This design formula – the accents close to the opening symmetrically on the sides – is as important as the element itself.  It illustrates probably the most effective formula for using cutout accents.  Now we will make a portfolio of similar elements so that we can use this formula more often and in more settings.

Things We Will Change

The three shapes in a starburst pattern is a very appealing concept.  As we are creating variations in the drawing program, we will retain this concept.  However, there are some other things we would like to change:

It would be an improvement if the elements could be closer together.

We need a variety of sizes but we do not want the triangles to spread farther apart as we enlarge the element.

We would like to preserve the sharp points of the triangles, but change the short sides.  Perhaps the short sides could be vertical lines. Perhaps they could be all in a line, perhaps staggered.

Perhaps there could be curves introduced to soften the stark geometric feel.

In the Drawing Program

In this illustration we have opened the Fanlite CutArt in PathTrace.  The original CutArt elements are the blue triangles. 101 Variation 1

Notice first that the ornament is oriented vertically.  In its original state, it is horizontal, but we will use it vertically in this design formula.  This change in orientation was done in MatDesigner, where rotation is easy.  This illustrates an axiom about drawing projects that bears repeating no matter which program you use: Do what you can (those things that are easy) in the design program, then do what you must in the drawing program.

We have drawn some lines to reshape the middle triangle.  We want the point at the right to be a little less sharp.  Begin by drawing a diagonal line for a new leg at the top, then mirror it across the horizontal center line (the white horizontal line emanating from the midpoint of the short side of the middle blue triangle) so that the new triangle will be symmetrical.  Note also the gray vertical line that will be the new short side of the middle triangle.

How Close Can These Triangles Be?

Next we must decide how close the smaller triangles can be to the new middle triangle.  This is an important design question because we want the grouping of three triangles to read more like one unit than they do in the original.

As we draw, though, spacing is an important cutting question, too.  When two shapes are close together, there will be overcuts on the back of the mat.  If the shapes are too close, these overcuts will cut far enough to weaken the narrow strip of matboard between the shapes.  As the cutting proceeds, the narrow strip of matboard may be pushed out of place.  This spacing question will be decided by making a series of test cuts.

Offset the top leg of the triangle a specific distance.  Enter the distance in the Reveal field at the bottom left.  Here, the top leg was offset 0.18 inch.  (This, in fact, was not the first test.  This drawing does not show the lines from the earlier test that was too close.)

Then construct a new small triangle above the middle one using this offset line as its inner leg.  Draw a new vertical line to be the short side (a departure from the original, but a variation we would like to evaluate) and draw a new outside leg to complete the triangle. 102 Variation 1

The vertical line at the right serves as a guide to help determine where the point of the new triangle must be to be even with the point of the middle triangle.  These points do not need to line up precisely.

Watch, too, that the angle of the point of the new small triangle is a bit less sharp than the point of the original triangle.

Completing the First Variation

Join all the segments of the two new triangles and set the bevels.  Then mirror the top triangle across the horizontal center line onto the bottom.103 Variation 1

You want only the new triangles to cut, but there is no need to delete the original triangles.  They may come in handy as a reference.  Simply explode them.  The lines will remain but they will no longer cut.

Make the test cut and assess the progress.  It is important to make an actual test cut.  When items are this small, do not depend what you see on the screen - either in PathTrace or in MatDesigner.

The lines you see on the screen are the lines at the bottom of the bevel, not the top of the bevel.  As you look at the finished mat, you will judge the space between the triangles first by looking at the stability of the narrow strip of matboard between the triangles, then by looking at the space at the top of the bevels – the colored surface of the mat.  If you like the results, save the new CutArt as the first variation.

How Small Should These Triangles Be?

As you evaluate the test results, note the size of the triangles.  There is no real limit to how small each triangle can be.  All the cuts are straight lines, after all.  The real question is: How small can they be and still look good as decorative elements next to an opening.  The answer will be different for most every framer.  Here, the smaller triangles are a quarter inch from their points to their short sides.  Whether or not you like the look of elements this small, it is good to know that it is possible to cut shapes this small.02 6x8 Variation 1

Again, to get a feel for the proportion, the opening is 6 x 8 inches.

Making a Larger Variation

We have decided that this is a good size for small openings, but for larger pictures, we will want a larger element – but we want the triangles to remain 0.18 inch away from each other.  If we re-size the new CutArt in the design program, the triangles will enlarge, but so will the space between the triangles.201 Variation 2

Open the first variation in PathTrace.  The white vertical line at the right is snapped to the point of the small triangle.  Offset it so that you know how wide the new top triangle will be.  In this drawing, the vertical line is offset 0.30 inch.

The vertical line at the left near the middle triangle will be the new short side of the middle triangle.  Its position is an artistic decision.

Note the horizontal center line snapped to the midpoint at the left of the middle triangle.  It will be the mirror axis in the coming mirroring operation.

Finishing the Larger Variation

Delete the blue triangle at the bottom.202 Variation 2

Explode the two remaining triangles.

Join the new short sides to the original legs to form the new triangles.  The gray lines inside the triangles in the illustration are the original short sides of the triangles in the first variation.

Mirror the triangle at the top across the horizontal center line onto the bottom.

Set the bevels, make a test cut, and save this as a new CutArt if it meets your approval.  This will be the second variation.

Introducing Curves

For a less geometric attitude, we will make the short sides of the triangles into curves.  The blue triangles in this illustration are the elements of the larger variation we just completed.301 Variation 3

We have drawn a single line beginning a little beyond the top of the top triangle and ending a little across the horizontal center line.

Using the Move Point function, move the midpoint of the line to curve it.  Remember that these segments will be very small, so do not curve the line too severely.

Integrating the Curve with the Triangles

We need to break the curve into pieces then join the legs of the triangles with the curve segments to form the new shapes.302 Variation 3

Draw a short line crossing the curve near the small triangle at the top.

Break the curve at its intersection with the short line.  The piece of the curve at the top will become the short side of the small triangle at the top.  The other piece (the white curve in this illustration) will be the beginning of the new short side for the middle shape.

Finishing the Curved Variation

Much has happened in this illustration.  Here are the steps:303 Variation 3

Explode the small triangle at the top.

Join the legs of the small triangle with the top segment of the broken curve.  This new small shape is now complete.  This is the white shape in this illustration.

Mirror the newly joined top triangle across the horizontal center line so that it will replace the old triangle at the bottom.

Explode the large middle triangle.

Mirror the other segment of the broken curve across the horizontal center line.  This new middle shape will have two curves as its crown.  It will now be a curved diamond.

Join the legs from the middle triangle to the two curves of its crown to complete the curved diamond.

Getting Ready to Cut

Delete or explode the original triangle at the bottom.  All the other leftover gray segments can remain.304 Variation 3

Then set the three new shapes to cut.  Make a test cut to make sure these curves cut nicely – but also to make sure that they are dramatic enough.

Often we are so concerned about drawing gentle curves that will cut nicely that we forget that our original intent was to add the excitement of curves to the ornament.  If we draw such gentle curves that they appear to be straight lines, then there is little benefit to our efforts.

One More Idea

Brainstorming about curves and drama always generates another step in the evolution of an idea.  All the variations so far have had the points on the right lined up very nicely, but to add more drama, we want to have the point of the middle shape protrude noticeably farther than the points of the outside shapes.  This will make the middle shape decidedly larger, too.401 Variation 4

Copy the shape at the top.  As you move the copy, the original will remain as a guide.  This is important because you will see how far you have moved the shape – and you will be able to keep the bottom lines lined up, insuring that the new shape will still be the same distance away from the middle shape.

Now, we want to move the middle shape’s crown farther to the left so that the curves of the short sides appear to be continuous again.402 Variation 4

Explode the middle shape.

Join the two curves of the crown.

Using the copy function, move the crown to the left.  Hold the Control key on the keyboard as you move it so that it moves exactly horizontally.

It is not critical that the two curves of the shapes be mathematically continuous.  In fact, it may be more dramatic if the crown were moved a bit farther to the left than necessary.

To finish this variation, join the segments to form the new middle shape and set the bevel.403 Variation 4

Mirror the moved top shape across the horizontal center line onto the bottom of the element.

There is no need to delete the original small shapes.  Just explode them so that they will not cut.

Make a test cut, evaluate the results, and save this fourth variation as a new CutArt.03 6x8 Variation 4

Every framer has had the experience of searching for just the right CutArt to adorn a picture.  When you find something close and a little alteration would make it just right, it should not be a daunting task to make a few changes in the drawing program.  In this space, we have made four variations of the original CutArt – one flowing out of the ideas of the other - using only half a dozen functions in the program.  Just as you do not need to know the entire city to find your way to a friend’s house, you do not need to know the entire drawing program to make a few little changes.  Imagine, then make a few experiments.

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

The Magic of Grouping – Practical Mat Decoration

Print Friendly
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 Magic of Grouping

Several of these columns have used Grouping to manufacture a new shape from two overlapping shapes.  In one example we overlapped a plain rectangle to cover unwanted decorative elements in a shaped opening.  In another example we overlapped a rectangular opening onto a shaped opening in order to extend it and make it the correct size. 101

A more exciting use of grouping is to create an artistic shape.  Everyone knows that you can overlap a CutArt, a letter, or a decorative shape onto an opening, then group them.  The program will integrate the overlapping shapes and the machine will cut he perimeter of the new shape.

The Mundane Side of Grouping: An Alignment Tool

The most practical use for grouping is when the openings do not overlap, though.  Some multiple opening layouts are complicated – particularly when openings have associated items like captions or auxiliary openings that need to remain aligned with their respective openings.  Grouping locks each pair of items together so that they can be moved around as a unit.102

Here is a simple example of how grouping helps with a multiple opening design.  There are four double mat openings.  Each opening has a caption centered under it.  Each opening with its caption must be lined up and spaced to make a tidy layout.

Begin with One Opening

The first opening-caption combination we work with will be the one at the top right.  The opening is 3.25 x 5.25 inches.  The dark inner reveal is 3/16 inch.  The pen caption is 0.3 inch high.  Adjust the Kerning (the size of the spaces between the letters) and Tracking (the size of the spaces between the words) to your liking.

The normal alignment tools will center and space the caption under the opening.  The top of the caption is 0.25 inch away from the bottom of the opening’s top layer.

Now group the opening and the caption so that, as we add more openings and move items into place, this opening and its caption remain accurately aligned.

The Grouping Process

First, select both the opening and the caption.  You can click on the Advanced tab at the top and click the Group Selection button at the left, but it is also handy to know that you are able to right-click on the selected items.  In the middle of the menu that pops up, click on Group Selection.201

When the items are grouped, there will be a dotted blue line around the grouped items.

It is important to note that the size of the grouped item is now 3.625 x 6.175 inches.  The width is measured from the outside of the top layer of the opening.  The height is measured from the top of the top layer of the opening to the baseline of the caption.  Note that the tail of the y in Mary dangles below the dotted blue outline of the grouped item.  All the alignment tools will reference this dotted blue line.

Adding More Openings

Copy the first grouped opening-with-caption and paste it twice so that you have two more openings with their captions.  Copy and Paste eliminates a big part of the work.  The copies have the proper size reveal around the opening.  The captions are the proper size, font, and distance from the opening, though the names will be changed.202

Move the copies to the left.  Ungroup one of them in order to change the name in the caption.  Either click the Advanced tab where you will find that the Group Selection button has become the Ungroup Selection button, or right-click on the item.  On the menu that pops up click Ungroup Selection.

When items are ungrouped, all the items remain selected.  Either click the Escape key on the keyboard or click on the background to de-select the items.

Select the caption, change the name, and re-center the new caption under the opening.  Its distance from the bottom of the opening will not have changed unless you have altered the height of the letters.  Group this opening with the new caption.203

Ungroup the middle opening.  Here, you will need to change the name - plus, the size of the opening needs to be 3.75 x 5.75 inches.  When you enter new values into the height field, you will see that the bottom remains in place and the top grows.  So once again, the caption’s distance from the opening will not have changed.  After you change the name in the caption, you will only need to center the new caption under the opening.  Group the middle opening with its new caption.

Aligning the Top Row

We now have three groups.  Each group is an opening with its caption centered under it.

Select all three groups.204

Click the Alignment tab at the top.

On the left there are nine buttons in the Aligning section.  Click the middle one in the bottom row.  This will line up all the groups’ centers.

Now we need to make sure the groups are evenly spaced.  Enter 0.75 in the field at the left of the Space Horizontally button.  When you click the Space Horizontally button the groups will be three-quarters of an inch apart – as measured on the top layer of the mat.

Why Do We Use Grouping?

To see the magic of Grouping, try these steps without grouping.  When you click the Space Horizontally button, there will be six items evenly spaced along the row – an opening, a caption, another opening, another caption, etc.

Now try it a different way: align and space just the openings.  Then center each caption under its opening.  You will find this tedious at best.  And on larger projects, you will not be able to zoom in closely enough to see clearly.  This may be Grouping’s mundane application, but it streamlines a layout like this.

Once these three groups are aligned, select them all and group them.  This allows us to continue to work with the layout without accidentally knocking any of these openings or captions out of position.  You now understand that you can have groups, groups of groups, and groups of groups of groups if necessary.

Adding the Bottom Opening

On the clipboard is still the original opening grouped with its caption.  Paste one last time and move the copy so that it is below the top group.

Ungroup this last opening and caption.  Change the size of the bottom opening to 10 x 4.5 inches.  Change the caption.  The letters for the caption along the bottom picture are 0.4 inch high and they are 5/16 inch below the bottom of the opening.

Center and space the caption with its opening, then group these two items, just as you did with the other three openings and their captions.

The Final Alignment

In the layout we now have two groups.  The top row is one group of three groups – and, yes, each of these three groups is also a group consisting of an opening and its caption.  The bottom row is another group consisting of the large opening and its longer taller caption.205

Select both these groups.  Use the Aligning buttons to center the bottom group below the top group.  Use the Spacing tools to make the bottom row 7/8 inch away from the top row.

While the artistic uses of any tool always garner the most attention, it is enlightening to see how this more pedestrian use of grouping makes this involved – but common, effective, and practical – layout efficient.

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

 

The Serpentine Top Opening- Practical Mat Decoration

Print Friendly
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

Pencil Captions – Practical Mat Decoration – December 2013

Print Friendly
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.

Pencil Captions

There were a few questions about a suggestion made at the end of a recent column.  The suggestion called to mind the fact that small captions under pictures were once hand lettered with a hard pencil.  So many of us learned engineering script as students.  It was never perfect printing, it always had the hallmarks of handwork, but it was always quite small and it was always legible.  This early training in careful letter formation turned out to be useful for writing captions on mats.

101 Date

We use engineering script here as a starting point because so many of us are fairly well practiced with it.  But it remains engineering script in all its connotations – the most disconcerting of which is that it is a trifle sterile.  We can look in many places for ideas to dress up our lettering.

Ornament Ideas

There are a number of thin line fonts we can copy for ideas.  The fonts illustrated here are called Calamity Jane and Speedball 1, 2, and 3.  Look over the details of the letters and you will see a few variations adaptable for your lettering.

04 Calamity Jane01 Speedball 103 Speedball 302 Speedball 2

Keep in mind that there is a fine line between ornamentation and affectation.  A few flourishes on these tiny letters are generally sufficient to give a caption its individuality.  You will find that lower case letters will be almost always the same.  Perhaps you will vary the lengths of the ending strokes of the f, j, or y.  The upper case letters offer many more possibilities for variation.  Finishing strokes like the tail of the R, the Q, or the K can have extensions or flourishes.  Some letters – the A, E, F, G, Q, and S, for example – can take completely different forms from font to font.

The placement of the letters is another variation to consider.  Review the column from a few months ago.  One caption was all upper case letters.  It had larger beginning and ending letters.  The letters were even across the top, too.  Another caption had exaggerated capital letters that floated to where they looked best, regardless of the baseline.  Any of these typographical devices would add a different character to the caption.

Mechanical Hints: Guide Lines

Begin by drawing guide lines for the baseline, the x height, and the top of the upper case letters.  Draw several vertical lines, too, to use as a reference as you draw vertical letter strokes.  Use a soft pencil for the guide lines and draw them faintly.  You will be lettering with a hard pencil and you will be able to erase the faint guide lines without disturbing the lettering.

102 With Guides

Sizes

Everyone will have their own size preferences.  Some people prefer larger letters because slight errors are not quite so glaring.  Others prefer smaller letters because smaller circles and curves are easier to draw accurately when they are smaller.  The x height of the letters in these examples is not quite a sixteenth inch high.  The total height of the upper case letters is about an eighth inch.

The Matboard

Choose the matboard for these lettering projects for its handling properties as much as for the color - Can you erase the guide lines without a trace?  Will the matboard’s surface be marred as you work on it?  Will the matboard’s texture be a factor as you draw?  Heavy textures may force the pencil point into an angled or curved line, rather than the straight vertical line you intended.

The Pencil

Use a 2H, 4H, 6H, or harder graphite for the lettering.  Traditional wooden pencils work better for this than modern mechanical pencils.  The graphite has more support and is much less likely to break as you make small curves or press hard.  Sharpen the pencils with a file or fine sandpaper.

The graphite for these examples was 2H.  This is a bit darker than normal, so that the letters would show better in the photography.  4H graphite is preferable.  It leaves a more understated caption and it still has plenty of contrast to be easily legible.

As you letter, press to deboss as much as to write.  This allows no way to erase a mistake, but you will find that you will letter slowly and carefully enough that mistakes will be rare.

Centering

When you want to center a hand lettered caption, begin by lettering the caption exactly as the final caption will be on a scrap.  Measure its length and calculate the starting point so that the final caption will be centered on the mat.  Realize that with small variations in the letters’ sizes and spacing, the caption could easily end up as much as an eighth inch off center.

With this in mind, consider the option of positioning the caption well to the left or to the right.  The presentation may not have that completely formal look, but it will be clear to all that the caption is meant to be off center.

Write Things Correctly

When you are lettering by hand, you will be writing names, dates, places, and possibly short sentences.  Do not let the extra effort of hand lettering be your excuse for using abbreviations, though.  We are writing captions for pictures to be admired for years to come.  Write entire names.  If there is a military academic designation, write it completely and correctly.  Write out the entire names of months, and write out the entire names of cities, states, and countries.  Always include necessary punctuation.

103 With Lines

This may be the most impractical advice you have ever gotten.  In the face of technological devices that can draw letters for us, what is the sense of presenting ideas on how lettering can be done by hand?  The validity of any answers to this question will depend on the ins and outs of your shop.

How else can we add such a small caption under a picture, though?  The smallest practical CMC lettering is around three-sixteenths of an inch high.  And, how else can we make a caption this understated?

We often overstate the efficiency of computerized processes.  When we want to add a caption under a picture with the computerized mat cutter, there will be design and refinement time.  Once we are practiced and confident with hand lettering, there are guide lines to draw, a little measuring, and the lettering itself.  The time spent will probably be equal.  The obvious difference is that with a computerized mat cutter, everyone in the shop will be equally competent at lettering.

Hand lettering, however, gives every framer an answer to one of the saddest stories in all of our experiences.  A customer presents us with a photo to frame.  It may be beautiful or it may be tattered, but we hear that it is the only known image of some relative.  The customer is probably thinking how nice it would be to add something that would identify the picture to every viewer.  We, at the same moment, might be thinking that without any identification, this could easily become known as “The odd picture Aunt Mabel had hanging in her hallway.”  It would be relegated to a garage sale once its significance is forgotten.

And of course, if we can draw letters by hand with a pencil, why can we not draw pencil lines around the opening?...lines that are broken to include the inscription, lines whose ends have a small decorative element?

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

Decorative Breaks – Practical Mat Decoration

Print Friendly
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

Caption Tweaks – Practical Mat Decoration

Print Friendly
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.

 

Caption Tweaks

Framers have always had many opportunities to add captions to pictures.  Customers always appreciate when the people in photographs are identified and there is a long tradition of labeling artwork.  Though writing a caption and centering it under the opening is pretty straightforward using the computerized mat cutter programs, we can take a few extra steps and refine the caption and make it a real attraction.

 

Size

We see captions all day long under pictures of all descriptions.  We do not often stop to measure exactly how small the type actually is.  In mat design, we think a half inch is pretty small, but for a caption under a picture, that is jumbo sized.  Begin by thinking of captions a quarter inch high.  This will help you in a couple ways.  First, it will help the picture remain the focus of the presentation.  Next, it will preserve the vertical space we have – the mat width along the bottom.  If we include a large caption along the bottom, it will create the illusion that the bottom is more narrow.

Also, making the caption less tall will allow us to make longer captions.  With this extra length we can write more correct captions.  When we have used the computerized mat cutter to cut letters as openings, we are abbreviated words and excluded symbols to preserve horizontal space.  When the caption is a date, for example, with smaller letters, we can write out the name of the month, write all four digits of the year, and include punctuation - and the caption will still be a manageable length.

 

Pen Width

Hand in hand with the height of the letters goes the pen width.  When the pen is more narrow, the letters can be smaller.  Experiment with 0.5mm and 0.3mm pens.  With a 0.3mm pen, the x-height of some fonts can be as small as an eighth inch.  Mechanical pencils also draw very nicely in computerized mat cutters.  There are 0.5mm leads available in various hardness grades.  They can easily draw letters less than a quarter inch high.  Plus, the silvery look of the graphite is a softer alternative to the stark black we normally use for captions.

 

Spacing

Few of us are type experts, but we all can see when the spacing between letters is incorrect.  Some typefaces are worse than others, but just about every caption can be made to look more polished by moving a few letters.

These spacing anomalies occur because mat cutter programs use “bounding rectangles” to calculate the space between objects.  This is best because we cut rectangles almost every time we use the machine.  Text programs use “kerning pairs” to accommodate adjacent slanting letters, rounded letters, and letters with horizontal protrusions.

Publication1

Type the word Avalon into the Text field.  You will see that the alon portion looks pretty good, but the Ava portion cold use some refinement.  The slanting strokes of the A and the v, and the roundness of the a create some wide separations between the letters.  Correcting the spacing is easy.

No matter which program you use, begin by separating the letters.  In the Wizard program, click the Advanced tab.  Under Other Options at the left, there is an Explode Font button.  Before you click it, the entire word is one item.  After you click it, each letter will be a separate item and can then be manipulated independently.

Publication2

Select one letter and use the arrow keys on the keyboard so that you are certain to move the letter only right or left.  You can select several letters and move them as a group, too.  Hold the Shift key or the Control key and select all the letters you want.  Most importantly, remember that if you hold the Alt key on the keyboard, items move 0.01 inch per click as you use the arrow keys.  This is much more precise that the usual sixteenth inch.  It will take about 20 clicks to correct the spacing of this word.

Never worry about how precisely you refine the spacing.  First, any improvements you make will make the caption looks better than the original.  Next, no matter how great the caption looks on the design screen, it is important to see how it looks when the machine draws it with the pen you have chosen.  Design a test cut using the newly spaced caption without an opening.  This way you are able to evaluate every aspect of the caption – how nice the pen line itself looks, the caption’s size relative to the picture, and the spacing of the letters.

 

Typography

In printed work, there are a dozen tricks that add sparkle to a caption.  We do not have such programs, nor do we have such a luxury of time, but there are a few things we can do quite easily to add interest to a caption.

 

A Script Caption

Publication3

The first example is obvious.  Make the capital letters overly large.  This is a script font and large flourishing capital letters are almost expected, but the extra size allows the flourishing stroke at the bottom of the L to tuck more comfortably under a.  The extra height allows the details at the tops of the letters to tower above the lower case letters, and the strokes below the baseline can be well below the lower case letters.  Here, the y’s are a little oversized, too, so that their tails can curl under the previous letters more nicely.

 

A Few Hints on the Procedure

Though every decorative caption’s construction will be different, there are a few clues here that may prove to be helpful.  This caption began as two separate LetterMat openings: a capital L and ady.  Set the size and spacing of the lower case letters then make the L large enough so that it nestles nicely with the a.  Adjust the vertical position of the L as you change its size, too.

Copy and Paste the two items then change their text to be F and lorence.  Copy and Paste adds a touch of efficiency because the font and the sizes of the new items will be identical to the originals.  This is easier than adding a new LetterMat opening, then changing the sizes, the font, and the text.  Here, all you need to change is the text.  Adjust the spacing so that the Lady Florence portion of the caption is in order.

Paste the two items again and change the text to be G and ray.  Use the arrow keys and the alignment tools to arrange all six parts of the caption to your liking.  In this example, all the lower case letters are on the same baseline.  The capital letters are positioned at slightly different heights, and they are slightly different sizes, too.

It will be obvious to you at this point that the spacing of the y’s need adjustment.  Explode the font as we explained in the Spacing section.  Then make the necessary spacing adjustments.  Now, as long as the y’s are separate, why not take the opportunity to make them a little more dramatic, too.  Both y’s are a little taller – so that their tails are longer - and they are slightly wider.

 

A Flat Top Caption

The second typography idea could be thought of as little dated - it has an early 20th century architectural look - but it has some practical application to some of the problems of picture framing.  It is a caption in all capital letters.  The letters at the ends are slightly larger and the tops of all the letters are all in a line.

Publication4

Most often, we are aligning captions at the bottoms of rectangular pictures.  Very often, we want to place the caption as close to the opening as we can without the layout seeming crowded.  The flat top of a caption like this allows the caption to be as close as it can be to the opening.  The larger letters at the ends give the caption some flair beyond the Spartan feeling of writing in all caps.

As you might imagine, the procedure here is to adjust the Kerning (the size of the spaces between letters) and Tracking (the size of the spaces between words) first.  Then explode the caption, in order to change the size of the letters at the ends.  The classic formula is to have only the letters at the ends larger.  On this longer caption, notice that the V and the final O are also slightly larger – though not quite as large as the A and the L at the ends - to give the caption the look of a rounded baseline.

 

True Type Fonts

Keep your eyes open for other typographical devices that you might use to enhance captions.  You will see clever type everywhere.  Keep your eyes open, too, for interesting fonts.

Computerized mat cutter programs make use of true type fonts for some, if not most, lettering.  These fonts are easy to find and easy to add to your computer.  Some of them are wonderfully decorative and the font itself will be a typographical device without any manipulation.  There is no cutting with a blade, so the only limit to how small a caption can be lies with the pen you choose.

There is one warning here.  O’s and the dots of i’s are generally circles.  Computerized mat cutters cut circles (actually, any shape composed of curves without any angular corners to use as a starting point) with a preprogrammed overrun beyond the initial point of the cut.  You will not notice this as you watch a normal oval being cut, but when you watch the computerized mat cutter draw the dot of an i with the pen, it may go round and round six times before it stops.  This is not a fatal flaw, but it does not always look as nice as it could.

 

The Correction

It is not always necessary to fix this, but when you feel it is best to fix it, the procedure is straightforward.  Send the caption to the drawing program.  In this example in the Wizard program, this is PathTrace.  Here is a thumbnail sketch of the procedure:

Publication5

Draw a line through each circle (or curved shape) in question.

Use the Offset Object function under the Prep Design tab and offset the line 0.005 inch. In the illustration you see the pairs of gray vertical lines.

Break the intersections that the lines have with the circles.

Join the segments of the circle, leaving out the 0.005 inch break.

Set the broken circle to draw with the pen.  The circle will now draw only one time around.

In this illustration, the dot of the i and the inside circuit of the o have been set to draw with the pen.  The outside of the o has been broken and joined, but still needs to be set to draw with the pen.  The vertical lines that were drawn to break the circles are still in the drawing.

Once the breaks are made and the bevels are set, save the altered caption and add it to the design.

Publication6

This is a good example of a decorative font that works great for captions.  It is sometimes called Calamity Jane.  This particular word required no manual spacing beyond changing the Kerning setting.  All the upper case letters in this font are intentionally oversized and have some very attractive ornaments.

 

Debossing and…

Though these comments were written with computerized pen drawing in mind, all the ideas apply to debossed captions, too.  The spacing anomalies will not appear as severe because debossed letters are not as small as pen letters, but spacing improvements always add to the professional appearance of any captions.

And let us not forget that before there were computerized mat cutters, talented patient people wrote captions under pictures using calligraphy.  One incarnation of this was an adaptation of engineering lettering.  Tiny letters (eighth inch high) were drawn using a hard pencil – 4H or 6H lead, for example.  The idea behind the hard lead was for the pencil to deboss the mat in addition to writing the caption.  The letters were often even smaller and the captions could be quietly ornamented, too.  Surely this is not a lost art, and it comes to mind that these – and other - typographical devices could be put to use in this hand work, too.

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

The Zero Setting – Practical Mat Decoration

Print Friendly
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 Zero Setting

Normally you read articles in this space dealing with some aspect of the computerized mat cutter.  There is no argument that they are more efficient and more widely used.  Add to that the fact that there are many features – for decoration and for efficiency - that have great potential, but need a little explanation or a reminder, and you see the sense for concentration on the computerized mat cutter.

However, most of us also do a few things regularly with the manual mat cutter.  After all, there is a certain pride in the craft that keeps old skills alive for just about everyone.  There was an occasion recently to cut a multiple opening mat with a manual mat cutter and it brought to mind one clever tip that always made life easier.

Well adjusted stops and a nicely aligned guide take the guesswork out of cutting.  They helped us cut a perfect double mat every time when the manual mat cutter was state-of-the-art technology.  We depend on stops now that we do not use the manual mat cutter every day.  We depend on them even more when we are cutting more difficult things – multiple opening mats, for example – even though their use may be tedious.  The settings of the guide and each stop will probably be different for every cut.  Most of us feel this tediousness is a small price to pay for the assurance stops give us.  The old adage is: If you don’t take the time to do it right, you’ll need to make the time to do it over.

Mat 1

Still, with multiple opening mats, there are always cuts that are out of reach for the stops - settings beyond the 7 or 8 inch maximum for most machines – where you will need to estimate the endpoints.  Most often these will be the cuts that form the separation between two openings.  The arrows on the illustration of the finished mat indicate these cuts.  The trick that follows will cut the guesswork in half.

The Typical Scenario

We always measure and draw pencil lines on the back of the mat for these cuts.  We cut along these lines, but equally important, we use them as the stopping and starting points for adjacent cuts.  In the photograph of the mat in the machine, the two pencil lines on the back of the mat are the lines indicated by the arrows in the illustration of the finished mat.

photo 2

In the photograph, the mat is in the machine ready to make the cuts for the bottoms (or the tops) of the two openings.  The side of the mat is against the guide as normal.  There will be two cuts with the mat in this position.

To begin the first cut, set the front stop as normal and begin cutting.  The stopping point of this first cut is the first pencil line – the upper line in the photograph.  It is out of the range of the back stop, so we must rely on our experience to gauge the exact stopping point.  However, to make the second cut, we will be able use the stops to determine both the correct starting point and the correct ending point - even though the starting point is beyond the range of the front stop’s settings.

Using the Zero Setting

Set the front stop to zero.

Move the foot of the stop – the part of the stop that normally is set to the edge of the matboard – so that it is exactly on the line.

As you hold the foot of the stop in place, tighten the stop into place on the bar of the machine.

The photograph shows the details of these three steps on the Fletcher mat cutter.  Your particular machine will likely be a bit different, but every machine is capable of this.

Photo 3

Making the Cut

Move the cutting head into place against the front stop and begin the cut as normal.  With a simple two opening mat, you will certainly be able to set the back stop as normal.

This works pretty well with most machines, but it is clear that the manufacturers did not intend this.  There is almost always a little clashing of parts - sometimes as the head moves into place, sometimes as you are plunging the blade, sometimes as you are cutting the first inch.  Live with it.  The assurance of stops is worth the trouble.

Another Hint

We mentioned drawing pencil lines a few times.  Drawing and using these lines are the most common stumbling blocks for cutting multiple opening mats with manual machines.  These lines need to be drawn with care.  You will use these lines to position the mat in the machine (when you are unable to use the guide) to make these middle cuts.  So use a precise ruler, a sharp pencil, and a careful eye as you make marks, line up the ruler, and draw.  Draw razor thin lines so that there is never a question of exactly where the blade should cut.  Draw the lines all the way across the mat.

When you are positioning the mat in the machine (without the aid of the guide) to cut along these pencil lines, test with the point of the blade - at both ends of the cut - to make sure the cut will be precisely on the line.

Now…With or without the zero setting idea, with or without the zeal to keep traditional skills sharp, is it any wonder that computerized mat cutters have become so crucial to efficiency?

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

Adorning Cuts – Practical Mat Decoration

Print Friendly
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.

 

 

Adorning Cutouts

Decorative cutting.  Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is the thousand silhouette cutouts that are in every computerized mat cutter program.  There are sports symbols, animal outlines, and geometric shapes, to name only a few.  We add them to reinforce the significance of the picture we are presenting.  These silhouettes cut as an opening and a contrasting color shows through the cutout.  Often we look over the finished mat and think that this idea falls a bit flat.  Aside from questions about ornaments overshadowing a serious piece of art, a big part of our uncertainty is that the cutout does not nestle naturally with the opening for the picture.

One idea for helping the silhouette relate to the other openings is to frame it with an opening of its own.  A rectangle will be cut on the top layer (or layers) and the silhouette will be cut in the bottom layer.

This idea is nothing new.  It has been presented in many other places.  Here we will concentrate less on the design and more on the process of making sure that each item cuts on the proper layer of the mat.  As usual in this column, the steps will be detailed using the Wizard software, but every computerized mat cutter program will have an equivalent process for making these kinds of changes to the cutting instructions.

 

Beginning in the Design Screen101 In MD

Here are three stars framed by a rectangle.  The final ornament in its opening is small enough – 2 x 4.25 inches - to be added with just about any size picture.  In this array, the stars are 2 inches, 1.25 inches, and 1 inch across.  The CMC is capable of cutting very small geometric shapes such as stars.  Experiment to see how smaller items cut – if delicacy is a concern.

An obvious beginning for a project like this would be to use one of the thousand silhouette cutouts in the program.  Any one of them could be enhanced this way, too, but it is important to show that you are not limited to just the prefabricated designs – nor are you limited to just one shape inside the rectangle.  These stars are designed using the template shapes.  There are also circles, hearts, and diamonds in the template library.

It looks promising in the design screen.  There is a double mat opening framing the stars.  The left point of the big star will be cropped under the opening.  That is an intention of the design.  Then when the three layers are cut and assembled, it will come out just as we intended.  Right?

 

The Need for Cutting Changes102 In Cut Screen.TIF

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It looks promising in the design screen, yes, but the cutting preview screen shows us a problem.  Look at the items in red in the illustration.  The stars and the outer layer of the rectangle will all cut on the top layer.

Let us quickly clarify exactly how we want this to be cut.  There will be three layers to this ornament.  The top layer of the rectangular opening will cut on the top layer.  The inner reveal of the rectangular opening will cut on the middle layer.  The stars will cut on the bottom layer.

We need to give the shapes new cutting instructions so that they all cut on the correct layers.  In some programs, you will open the design in a drawing program, but in the Wizard program, you will send the design to PathTrace.

 

New Cutting Instructions

Before we begin making changes, let’s review a few points about PathTrace.  Look at the tabs across the top.  Under each tab, there is a list on the left and you can select the exact operation you need.  The Prep Design tab and the Trace and Draw tab have the operations you need to make changes to the shapes of the objects.  The Set Bevel tab and the Order Cuts tab have the functions you need to change the cutting instructions.

Along the right side there are several functions you will use no matter which tab you are under.  Zoom functions are at the top and the Undo button is the fourth button under Tools.  Hover over each button and a tool tip will appear in a few seconds to remind you of its function.

Here, the Set Bevels tab is selected.  On the left under Bevel Type, Normal Bevel is chosen.  We will use only Normal Bevel for this entire project.201 Start in PT

At the bottom, under Current Layer, Layer 1 is specified.  In PathTrace, Layer 1 is always the bottom layer.

When a particular layer is specified, the items set to cut on that layer will be displayed in dark colors.  All the items set to cut on other layers will be displayed in faint colors.  The inner reveal of the rectangle is now the only item set to cut on this layer.  (If an item has no cutting instructions, it will be displayed as gray or black.)

As you move the cursor around the design, you will see a blue arrow point move from spot to spot.  In this illustration, the blue arrow point is at the corner of the bottom star.

 

Setting the Bevels for Layer 1202 Layer 1 Set

To set the stars to cut on Layer 1 (the bottom layer), move the cursor so that the blue arrow point is at a point on one star.  The point you choose will be the starting point of the cut for this star.  This design is not so intricate that we need to worry about which corner we choose for a star, nor do we need to worry about which star cuts first, second, or third.

Click one time.  You will see that star change from faint blue to dark blue indicating that this star will now cut as a normal bevel on Layer 1.

Move the cursor and click points on the other stars, too.  In this illustration all three stars have been set to cut on Layer 1.

Note that the inner rectangle is still set to cut on Layer 1.  Do not be concerned by this.  We will change this in the next step.

 

Layer 2203 Start Layer 2

Change the Current Layer at the lower left to 2.  This is what you will see.  Every shape will turn faint blue except the outer rectangle.

Move the cursor so that the blue arrow point is a corner of the inner rectangle.  Traditionally, we choose the lower left corner to begin the cut of a rectangle.  This is because of the placement of the clamps that hold the matboard in place in the machine, but that is not critical with something as small as this.204 Layer 2 Set

Click one time.  The inner rectangle will change from faint blue to dark blue indicating that this rectangle will now cut as a normal bevel on Layer 2.

Once again, note that the outer rectangle is also set to cut on Layer 2.  We will change this in the next step.

 

Layer 3

Change the Current Layer to 3.  This is what you will see.  Every shape will now turn faint blue.  Here we will be creating an entirely new Layer 3.205 Start Layer 3

Move the cursor so that the blue arrow point is a corner of the outer rectangle.

Click one time.  The outer rectangle will change from faint blue to dark blue indicating that this rectangle will now cut as a normal bevel on Layer 3.206 Layer 3 Set

Save the design.  In almost every program, you will save these new items in the format of the special cutouts you add to a layout.  In the Wizard program, you will save it as a CutArt.  You will add it to any layout as you would add any other CutArt to a layout.

 

This is the most elementary way you might include an ornament like this in a design.  Here it is centered between two 5 x 7 inch openings. 302 In Grouping

As an exercise in your design program, rough out a design like this without the rectangle around the stars.  There will be enough blank space between the two rectangular openings to make you scratch your head and reconsider the effectiveness of the stars.  The frame around the stars helps make sense of the separation.  As a bonus, there is more color.  Plus the layers provide physical depth and the cutout is more dramatic.

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

Oval Top Mat- Practical Mat Decoration

Print Friendly
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 Oval Top Mat

This is not an opening shape that will transform every design in you shop.  You will likely use it from time to time, but its real importance is as an illustration of how surprises become useful.106 Oval Top Final

Start with the idea of a round top opening.  There are a couple of ready-made ideas in every computerized mat cutter template library.  One template has a curve along the top, but the top corners are angles.  The shape with a semicircular top is intriguing because the top and sides blend as one continuous cut, but it would crop so much less of the image if the top was flat like a half oval.  Sad to say, there is no parameter to alter the shape of the top.  One possibility to make this shape is to join an oval to the top of a rectangle, but it requires the drawing program if you want to make a double mat.  So the idea languishes.

The Surprise

Every CMC program has a template that allows you to change the shape of each corner separately.  In the Wizard program it is called the Quad template.  Change the top two corners to ovals and leave the bottom two corners rectangular.  Now make its height smaller and you will see the shape of the oval at the top become more flat while the vertical lines of all the layers of the sides blend smoothly into the oval top – the exact effect we are looking for.  The height of the opening is now too small, but that is easily enough corrected by joining it with an additional rectangle.  The best news is that we will not need the drawing program for any of these changes.

Step By Step

Begin with a rectangular opening.  Make it the correct final size, adjust the borders, and specify the number of layers you need for the design.  This example is three layers just to illustrate how nicely this idea works no matter the number of layers.101 Initial Design

The hints here will be specific to the Wizard program, but every CMC program will have similar tools and features along the way – both to aid the process and to beware of as we make alterations.  As an example of something to beware of, make sure Dynamic Outsides is inactive as you continue.  Dynamic Outsides is a tool that adjusts the outside size as the opening size changes.  Throughout this project, we want the outside size to remain constant.

Reduce the height of the opening.  The best way to do this is to drag the handle at the bottom center of the opening up.  This way, the top and the sides remain in their proper positions with respect to the borders.  Stop when you are pleased with the shape of the oval at the top. 102 Oval Shaped Top

If You Must Measure

So often, the oval portion of the opening will need to be a specific height.  Measure the picture to see exactly where the oval must stop.  Make the height twice this measurement.  (The top half of the shape will be oval – the size you need it to be, and the bottom half of the opening will be rectangular.)  In this illustration, the total Height of the oval top shape is 4.25 inches.  That means that the height of the oval top is 2.125 inches.  After entering numbers into the Height field, make sure that the top is snapped to the top of the border lines.  Make sure that the sides are still snapped to the border lines, too.

Making the Opening Size Correct

The oval top may look nice, but the overall opening is no longer the correct size.  We will join an additional rectangular opening to the shortened oval top opening and the final size will be correct once more.103 Copied Opening

There are a few ways to add another opening, but the easiest way is to Copy and Paste the existing opening.  The shape and height will not be correct, but the width and the sizes of the reveals of each of the layers will be correct. 104 Second Opening in Place

Change the shape of this duplicate opening to a rectangle.  Snap its bottom to the bottom border line.  Snap its sides to the side border lines.  Change the height of this rectangle so that its top overlaps the bottom of the oval top opening.  Make sure that the openings overlap sufficiently to include all the layers.  But make sure that none of the rectangular opening overlaps onto the oval portion of the oval top opening.

Joining the Two Openings

Every CMC program has its own way to join overlapping openings.  In MatDesigner, select both openings.  Click the Advanced tab at the top and click the Group Selection button at the left.  You will see the perimeter of the joined oval top ready to cut. 105 Grouped

Troubleshooting

It is possible that there would be some anomalies with the joined shape.  There might be some wiggles at the sides because the two openings were not precisely snapped into place or they were not the exact same width.  There might be a stripe across the middle because the bottom rectangular opening did not overlap far enough onto the oval top opening.  To correct any of these troubles, look under the Advanced tab again.  The Group Selection button has become the Ungroup Selection button.  Click it to take the openings apart and you will be able to rectify the troubles.

After you have used this procedure a few times, you will see places where you will want to do certain things another way.  For example, you may not see any advantage to copy and paste to duplicate the opening and you will use another way to add the rectangular opening.  You may like the idea of guides as alignment tools better than the borders.  You may be comfortable enough with the drawing program to make all these alterations.  Some feel that the drawing program is accurate and direct, while the procedure in the design program seems like a prescribed formula.  No matter your assessment of each individual step, we all have ideas for shapes we would like to use.  Now we know that if we do not see them in the template library, there is bound to be another way.

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.

Two Opening Shapes – Practical Mat Decoration

Print Friendly
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 WizardU@wizardint.com.

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

Drop Shadows-Practical Mat Decoration

Print Friendly
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 for matting 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.

Drop Shadows

Mats made with letters.  They come into fashion, then they go out of fashion.  Some folks love them, others hate them.  But there is something we can all agree on.  These openings for snapshots that look like letters need some help to look their best.  We imagine ways to dress them up because otherwise, they are just shapes lined up in a row.  One dramatic typography device is the drop shadow.

Lettermat

 

We can do this with any computerized mat cutter program.  We will make two layer letters – which, itself, is one of the ways we imagine for dressing up the letters.  The letters on the bottom layer will be shaped as normal.  The letters for the top layer will expose the letters on the bottom layer, plus there will be an offset copy of the letters merged to create a shadow along the bottom and at the left.

The Initial Design

Design the caption.  The letters here are 2¾ inches wide 4 inches high.  Space the letters a little farther apart than normal – probably 5/8 inch. Remember that we will be adding elements between the letters.

MD 001

 

To make the caption more interesting, the first letter here is larger than the others.  In this example, the E is 3 inches wide and 5½ inches high.  This is a nice typographical touch we can use when the customer’s pictures allow it.

Snap a guide to the left side of the caption and to the top.  These are the red lines in the illustration.  They are snap points we will need later.

Copy the caption and paste it into the design.  The first illustration shows both copies of the caption.

Making the Top Layer

Snap the new copy of the caption exactly on top of the original caption using the red guides.

MD 002

 

Move one copy about a quarter inch to the left and a quarter inch down.  With most programs, you can use the arrow keys on the keyboard.  In the Wizard program, each click moves an item a sixteenth of an inch.  In this example, the copy was moved 4 clicks to the left and 5 clicks down.  You will decide the size and direction of the shadows for every specific design.

The design might look pretty good to you right now, but looks do not tell the entire story.

MD 003

 

Merge the two copies.  It will look strange, but have faith.  This will be the top layer of the letters.

Making the Bottom Layer

Paste again, and another copy of the caption will appear.  Snap this new copy into place so that its left is against the vertical guide, and its top is against the horizontal guide.  This will be the bottom layer of the letters.

MD 004

 

The design would be finished, but right now, everything will cut on one layer.

Setting the Bevels Correctly

Send the design to the drawing program.  In Wizard, it is PathTrace.  Set the bevels so that the ordinary letters cut on the bottom layer, and the merged letters cut on the top layer.

PT 001

In this illustration, the dark blue lines are the circuits set to cut on the top layer.  The faint blue lines are the circuits set to cut on the bottom layer.

A Small Alteration

Before we cut this particular caption, it is instructive to examine it more closely.  Be aware that there will always be a few corrections whenever we make artistic changes to letters.

PT 002

At the bottom of the R, the diagonal stroke and its shadow create a thin tendril of matboard that will certainly not survive the cutting process.

The drawing tools necessary to remove it are pretty simple.  First explode the offending circuit.  Exploding separates a closed circuit into its various pieces.  The gray lines represent the exploded circuit.

PT 003

Join the segments across the bottom of the R, leaving out the diagonal line that created the impossibly thin area.

The white lines show the corrected section at the bottom of the R.  You can still see the gray lines that were left out.

Join the remainder of the segments, set the bevel, and cut the design.

There is an immutable tradition in picture framing of concentric parallel borders of accent colors around openings.  But why not consider drop shadows accenting openings, too?

Openings

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practical Mat Decoration

Print Friendly

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.

Unlikely Parameters and their Uses

We have all played with the parameter settings on the templates of the computerized mat cutter just to see the possible variations.  We have discovered that there is no internal check that tells us when we have designed something impossible to cut.  We have entered outrageous values in the parameters and watched with amusement as the shapes turned into something like this first illustration.

 

This is template 405 in the Wizard program.  Look to see its intended shape, but this is what you get if you enter 2.75 into the Radius parameter and -1.5 into the Notch Width.  Fascinating though it may be, it is not an opening shape to consider.  But before you dismiss the idea of unlikely parameters, do a little more experimentation and you will see some practical applications.

 

These ideas were designed and tested using the Wizard software.  Every computerized mat cutter design program has similar settings and functions.  You will be able to design openings, grooves, and pen lines exactly like these no matter which system you have.

 

Corners for Grooves

When you look at the standard parameter settings for this template, it is the familiar elongated double offset corner.  When you enter negative values into the parameters, it turns into this geometric design.  It cannot be used as an opening shape, but it can be cut as a V-Groove.

 

The Plat Length parameter is set to -0.24 inch and the Plat Width parameter is set to -0.37 inch.  These settings have been tested.  Make sure the V-Groove is set to cut a little less than a sixteenth wide, and the pattern will cut very nicely.

Groove width is important because the two outer vertical lines are only 0.13 inch apart.  If the groove is wider, the space between the two lines will all but disappear.  The internal square formed by the lines of the groove is about as small as you would dare, too.  It is only 0.24 inch on a side.  Begin with these settings to see how your machine cuts this pattern. Then change them a few hundredths of an inch to your liking.

 

Combination for Pen Lines

We want the details for V-Groove decoration to be as delicate as possible.  It is no different for pen lines except that the details for pen lines can be – and should be – shockingly small.

 

There are two lines in this design.  The inner line is shaped with template 614.  Its normal use is to include a spike pointing into the picture at each corner.  The parameter settings form the typical spike, but they are very small.  The Height parameter is set to 0.11 inch and the Width parameter is set to 0.07 inch.

The outer line is 0.04 inch away from the inner line.  It is shaped with template 408.  There are two semicircles at each corner of this template.  The parameters move them around and change their size.  Setting the Notch Width parameter to zero moves the semicircles all the way to corners.  Setting the Radius parameter to -0.09 inch draws the semicircles to the inside of the rectangle rather than to the outside.  The semicircles cross over each other to create an interesting pattern at the corners.  With the added elements of the inner line, the corner design appears to be far more intricate than just two lines.

Just as the V-Groove width setting was important in the previous example, the pen width is important here as we work with such small details.  This design will work fine with a 0.5mm or even a 0.7mm pen.  If you have a more broad tip – 1mm tips are common – the details may appear indistinct.

 

Changing the Design to Use it Again

In order to make all this designing and experimentation pay off, we need to use the results again and again - and we need to design the next mat quickly.  In every computerized mat cutter design program, grooves and pen lines can be attached to an opening.  Then as you change the opening size, the ornaments will automatically resize, too.  Change the opening size, adjust the borders, and the mat is ready to cut.  There is even a field where you are able to adjust the spacing with the opening.  Then save them to an Ideas folder where you and your customers can browse through them to be inspired.

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.

Practical Mat Decoration

Print Friendly

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.

 

A Drawing Lesson
A while ago, there was a column about decorative accent shapes peeking from between the layers of the mat.  The examples used the templates to construct the accents.  If this idea piqued your interest, it probably did not take long for you to dream up a few more artistic ideas for these accents - ideas that could not be accomplished using the template library alone.

 

We will go through the steps for drawing a simple accent added to the middle layer of a triple mat.  The explanations of the steps will use the Wizard software.  With other software, the functions may have different names, but the sequence of steps will be the same no matter which drawing program your system uses.

 

The design begins with a triple mat.  The inner reveal is 3/8 inch wide and the middle reveal is 1/8 inch.  Send the design to the drawing program.

 

Drawing the Curved Shape

The illustration here shows a zoomed-in view of the left side of the mat.  The blue vertical lines are the sides of the three layers of the opening.  The gray items are the things we have drawn.

 

Draw a curve to be the top half of the intruding shape.  This curve can be an arc or some other type of curve.  The curve in this example is an arc.

 

Draw a horizontal line near the bottom of the curve where you imagine the shape’s center line to be.  This will be the mirror axis.  Mirror functions work in different ways in different programs, but it is almost always handy to have a reference line.

 

Mirror the curve across the horizontal line and you will see the shape.  If you do not like how the shape looks, remember that you can move the control points of the curve to refine it.  You can move the entire curve and the horizontal line, too.  Make sure that after all the refinements, the two final curves are mirrors of each other, though.

 

In this illustration, we have the two final curves and the horizontal mirror axis.

 

Integrating the Shape into the Side of the Mat

The side of the middle mat layer will be broken and the shape will emerge from the broken spot.

 

Draw the curve that will separate the vertical cut of the mat from the accent shape.  The junction of the curves is hidden under the top mat.  The separation should be about an eighth inch wide.

 

Mirror this new curve across the horizontal line onto the bottom of the element.

 

Break the vertical side of the middle mat layer so that there is an open spot for the decorative accent.

 

This illustration shows all of these steps completed.  Notice that all the curves we have drawn extend farther than necessary.  They will be nicely trimmed in the next step.

 

 

Finishing the Decorative Accent

Join the segments of the decorative element.  In most programs, joining will automatically trim the curves and lines to their proper length.

 

This would be a good time to zoom out and make sure that the vertical positioning of the accent is to your liking.

 

This would also be a good time to cut this design.  Make sure the accent shape is a nice size for the picture.  Make sure the separation between the vertical side of the mat and the accent are wide enough that the vertical cut does not nick the bevel around the accent.  Make sure that the joints of the curves are nicely hidden under the top layer of the mat – if, indeed, that is how you intend the design to be.

 

Finishing the Mat Layer

Join the two vertical line segments to the decorative accent.  This will create a new complete left side for the middle layer that includes the accent shape.

 

Draw a vertical center line at the midpoint of any of the horizontal lines of the opening.

 

Mirror the new left side of the middle layer across the vertical center line onto the right side of the mat.

 

Join the top, bottom, and two side segments to complete the new middle layer.

 

In this illustration, the black shape is the new middle layer.  All that remains is to give the new middle layer its cutting instructions.  Every program will have its own procedure for this.  In PathTrace, these functions are under the Set Bevels tab.

 

 

Decorative cutting takes many forms but this idea of a break in the side of the opening where an accent shape protrudes may prove to be one of the nicest understated touches you can add.  You will master the drawing fairly quickly and you will find design ideas to adapt in many places.

 

Now look closely at the photograph of the finished picture.  The ends of the straight vertical  cuts curve slightly into the picture.  You have all the information you need to add this variation.  Then start work on new decorative elements from your own inspirations.

 

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.

Practical Mat Decoration

Print Friendly

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 for matting 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.

Painted Inner Mats

There are lots of reasons you might want to paint on matboard, but the idea of painted work in picture framing brings with it such a traditional aura.  Couple this with some of the complicated procedures to keep the edges tidy and it is easy to understand why most framers dismiss the thought of painting.

 

The innermost layer of this triple mat has a painted pattern. The glaze was sponged onto green matboard. Then a lighter powder was rubbed into the unprotected areas to create the pattern.

The examples point a different way, though.  Not only are there no complicated auxiliary procedures, but this idea may lead you to use painted effects with a wider range of pictures.  One of the layers of the mat was painted and the cutting defines the edges of the painted work.  There are no special skills beyond normal mat cutting.  Both of these examples have decorative cutting, but the idea of using painted matboard as an inner layer is equally effective with rectangles as it is with these shaped openings.

 

The floating panel of this open groove is tethered into the outer mat by the decorative ribbons at the corners. With or without this decorative cutting, showing painted work through open grooves is a great effect.

Any painting technique can be used here, but this painting recipe is as simple as it can be.  It is a three step resist effect.  First, the matboard was colored with pastel powder.  Then a pattern of clear glaze (Elmer’s glue thinned with a little water) was sponged on in a pattern.  When the glaze dries, the powder underneath it will be protected.  Rub away some of the unprotected pastel powder with a tissue.  The effect is a two color pattern.

 

The matboard was rubbed with colored powder made by shaving a pastel. A pattern of glaze is being sponged on with a torn paper towel. The glaze is Elmer’s glue thinned with water. It will dry and protect the color underneath it. The unprotected areas can then be colored differently to create a pattern.

There are several variations.  In the example with the patterned green inner mat, the glaze was sponged onto plain matboard.  After the glaze dried, a lighter powder was rubbed into the unprotected areas.

 

The glaze is now dry and the unprotected powder is being rubbed with a tissue to make it lighter. The result is a two color pattern. Use an eraser to remove more of the unprotected powder for a more dramatic contrast.

Perhaps the picture needs a rustic pattern to make it look its best.  Perhaps you are tired of such flat colors on every piece.  We are all artistic and thoughts cross our minds about painted embellishments, but we are concerned about the time it will take.  Ideas as simple as this will help you get started on a new creative path.

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.

Practical Mat Decoration

Print Friendly

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 for matting 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.

 

Appliquéd Shapes

Look at the way decoration is applied in architecture or furniture design.  A picture framer may become envious at the way elements seem to be added at will.  Certainly that is not the case, but there are a few freedoms picture framers do not have.  First, our viewers came to look at the picture, not our work.  As a result, anything we add must first help the viewer focus on the picture.  Second, architects work on a much larger scale and small details are relatively easy to construct and apply.  For a picture framer, small details are far smaller and therefore they require untold amounts of patience and skill.

We can be inspired by what we see, though, and it can light the way to a different direction than we normally see in matting.  The first two examples show a typical triple mat with small shapes of matboard glued onto the wide middle layer.  The squares in the first example are quiet little additions reminiscent of arts and crafts details.  The triangles in the second mat are not radically different, but they point to possibilities for these appliqués being more colorful and edging beyond the boundaries of the mat.

The third example shows triangular appliqués as part of corner elements.  The top layer of the mat has arrow point corners – a pretty common geometric corner treatment.  The triangles are symmetrical across the corners and extend well into the innermost layer of the mat.

Notice the full view of the picture. The triangles at the top are larger than the triangles at the bottom.  This is contrary to the norm, as we strive to create a sense of weight with decoration.  But with a quirky picture like this, perhaps we can adopt a more unconventional approach to the placement of the elements, too.

Picture framers snap at chances to use bright colors.  You have noticed that these examples show instances of brash color, but think of the opportunity of these appliqués to simply change the topography of the mat.  Just the addition of the appliqué shapes as texture will add interest – without a change of color.

 

There are no curves in any of these examples.  All of these designs are possible using a manual mat cutter.  In fact, once you see how naturally the manual mat cutter cuts the small squares in the first example, these little squares may become an obsession.  Shouldn’t every framer have an obsession?

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.

Practical Mat Decoration

Print Friendly

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.

 

Switching Techniques

Here is the premise – given any decorative technique, there is a way to make it work with most any picture.  Perhaps this is a surprise because we have subconsciously pigeonholed nearly every technique as exclusively modern or traditional or rustic or elegant.

Decorative Cutting

The first example shows a cute snapshot adorned with some decorative cutting designed to bring a smile to anyone’s face.  It is logical that we have come to think of decorative cutting as appropriate for only modern things.  The arrangement here is asymmetrical, the heart is rotated, and the effect is quite informal.

How would we make decorative cutting look good with a traditional piece?  One look at this old print and we know we will need to change everything.  The motifs echo traditional ornaments from architecture.  In fact, their placement and symmetry is also meant to recall how classical architectural elements are used to confer a sense of weight and stability.  The colors are somber and the mat is just a single layer.

The biggest problem with execution is designing a motif that will look authentic and nicely detailed when it is cut small.  Contrast this with the heart in the previous example.  Make it a little larger, give the mat another layer, add another color, and the effect is even more whimsical.

Colored Panels

The second exercise begins with the traditional print.  The standard treatment would be a single mat with a colored panel.  This example also includes a pen line just to complete the traditional package.

What are the possibilities for making the snapshot look good with a colored panel?  First – change the color.  Next – eliminate the pen line.  Note that there is a slight blush of red at the sides of the panel.  The effect is not nearly as sentimental as the treatment with the heart cutout, but it is still a unique treatment and it is another option that would make a mother smile.

We all have our favorite techniques – the ones we have mastered and the ones that we can do quickly.  Couple this with the fact that there is a limit to how much time anyone can spend developing a new technique.  It is a comfort to know that by varying the details, one technique can be adapted for a wide variety of styles.

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.

Practical Mat Decoration

Print Friendly

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.

 

 

V-Groove Ornaments

V-Grooves have been a benchmark of craftsmanship for framers for decades.  They are applicable in contemporary settings to add a shadow around a picture, and for traditional pieces they echo the look of a ruled line.  Typically, grooves have remained rectangular.

 

Ornamentation with V-Grooves entered the scene with the computerized mat cutter.  It would be natural to shape the V-Groove with decorative corners, just as we so often do with opening shapes.  But we discovered an unusual thing in the drawing program.  We can set a line segment to cut as a V-Groove.  The groove ornaments in these illustrations are examples of this idea.  There is rhythm and structure when we add these vertical linear elements along the sides, rather than just adding corner decoration.

The first example begins with a rectangular V-Groove surrounding the picture.  The decorative groove elements are vertical lines along the sides and short connective horizontal grooves.  Though there are only straight lines in this groove ornament, the time and precision required to cut these on a manual mat cutter may illustrate that this is an idea most practical with a computerized mat cutter.

The second example shows how curved groove elements open a world of possibilities.  These particular curves are just dramatic enough to create a feeling of weight at the bottom.  Imagine how you would invent curves that would be more subtle or truly grandiose.

 

In this illustration, the light gray layer is an inlay and there is a groove cut at the junction of the two colors.  You will decide if the extra effort of the inlay is worthwhile.  Some believe that when the gray and cream colors are on the same level, the look is more authentic.  Others believe that this effect is only evident on close inspection and that a three layer mat looks just as good and it is far less effort.

 

Whether the groove ornaments are straight lines or curves, they are drawn using the drawing program.  Experiment with the complexity of the curves, and the height and the spacing of the lines at the sides.  Remember that one reason customers have such affection for grooves is that they are nearly always understated.  This understatement offers us cover for the decoration we add.  The groove elements can be brimming with flair while the picture is still dominant.

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.

Practical Mat Decoration

Print Friendly

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.

 

Changing the Opening Shape

 

Every framer began to explore alternative opening shapes the minute they mastered rectangles.  Offset corners and slant notch corners are names that echo from our earliest mat cutting experiences.  No one needs to mention how the computerized mat cutter brought unlimited promise for opening shapes - in fact, so many choices that it paralyzed people.

 

We have experimented, time has passed, and with this perspective, we understand that we want shapes we can use every day.  There are wildly impressive shapes in every template library, but we see now that the most useable opening shapes are the ones that do not stray too far from being rectangles.  There are a couple of formulas that work almost universally.

 

The first formula is: Change the shape of the top.  The first example shows an opening with a serpentine curve across the top.  Variations abound, too.  The top could be an arc or it could be an array of angled lines.  Note that the sides and bottom are straight and perpendicular.  Note, too, that this is a double mat.  Many customers have remarked that the real charm of the opening shape is the eighth inch of contrasting color outlining the picture in an interesting shape.

 

The second formula is: Embellish only the bottom corners in a way that suggests weight at the bottom.  The second example is a three layer mat.  The innermost layer is a rectangle, and the bottom corners of the two top layers are flared.  Look closely and you will see that the top layer flares more dramatically so that the reveals at the bottom corners taper to flare wider at the bottom.

 

There are a number of ways to create a sense of weight at the bottom.  These flared corners are as unobtrusive as they can be, but think about decorative shapes merged into the opening near the bottom.  Look through the template library for more elaborate corners.  This idea is applicable with geometric designs as well as more romantic ones.

 

These formulas do not follow our earliest decorative cutting ideas – where there are elements at all four corners.  These formulas almost require a computerized mat cutter - and to tell the entire story, these formulas are not exactly straightforward with a computerized mat cutter, either.  The serpentine top shape requires an additional opening blanking out a serpentine curve at the bottom.  The flared corners need a little alteration in the drawing program to erase the flares at the top corners.  But as you experiment and invent – whether it is with a manual mat cutter or a computerized mat cutter - the extra effort will pay off with a stable of opening shapes you will turn to far more often.

 

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.

 

Practical Mat Decoration

Print Friendly

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.

 

Reverse Bevel Open Grooves

The open groove technique on a manual mat cutter is like magic, and when it is finished, there are all those bevels and there is depth to the construction and we are impressed.  All those bevels can be a bit overpowering on a small picture, though.  Cutting the open groove as a reverse bevel allows you to add the depth and interest of the open groove without the extra bevels cluttering the small format.

There are two further variations to point out in these examples.  In both of them, the color of the floating panel is different from the color of the outer mat.  As framers analyze the effective use of color, we see the success of the three color formula again and again.  We see how adding a wider, more somber reveal to a tiny contrasting reveal helps the picture come alive.  The standard open groove, with its matching floating panel and outer mat, looks bland.  And it drops even lower on your list of favorite techniques when you compare the effort of the open groove with the effect of a technique as simple as a triple mat.

The extra step to change the color of the floating panel is pretty easy.  If you use a manual mat cutter, after the first cut of the open groove, remove the fallout and replace it with a different colored matboard cut to fit.  It does not need to fit perfectly.  Tape it into place on the face with removable tape then proceed with cutting.  If you use a computerized mat cutter, cut a second copy of the floating panel from a second color and switch them during assembly.

The second variation is that the shapes of the open grooves are not rectangular.  We are always looking for ideas on how to integrate decorative cutting into the design.  Changing the shape of the open groove is a pretty useful idea because it allows us to add interest with decorative cutting while keeping the opening shape rectangular.  Decoratively cut open grooves are easier with a computerized mat cutter, but many of the classic corner shapes can be used with open grooves on the manual mat cutter.  Experiment and evaluate the possibilities.

Take another look at open grooves.  The original point of this column was to show that cutting open grooves as reverse bevels makes the technique viable for small pictures, too.  But you will pick out a few more ideas just by glancing at the examples.  Introduce decorative cutting.  It’s a great way to get a little more out of your CMC and show off at the same time.  However, if the most striking point of these examples is the idea of changing the color of the floating panel, you just may see open grooves rise closer to the top of your favorite techniques.

 

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.

Practical Mat Decoration

Print Friendly

Practical Mat Decoration

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.

 

A Gold Line

Ink lines call to mind those dusty mats done two hundred years ago.  We see the pinholes at the corners and we see the archaic tools.  We watch the process, and still, the technique remains intriguing enough for us to learn about it.

If you are curious, look closely at the illustration of the ruling pen in action to see the two blades of the pen, the threaded wheel that adjusts the width of the line, the way the pen is held, and the pencil guide lines on the mat.  At this point, some framers shudder to think that they might ever be called upon to use a ruling pen.  Other framers embrace it as their favorite tool.

This second group of framers sees a whole world open if we think of pen lines as an accent we add to the things we already do in matting.  The first example is a small illustration about six inches wide.  The red matboard is inlaid into the light outer mat.  There is a gold ruling pen line an eighth inch away from the inlay.  The inference is that ruled lines are a wonderful touch even if the design has a more contemporary approach.  In fact, once framers have confidence in their abilities, they see that a ruled line can be used anywhere they might consider a groove – with less effort and in any color.

Everyone knows that computerized mat cutters can draw pen lines, too.  Anything you can design with the program can be set to draw with the pen.  The wedding photograph shows a gold line with ribbons at the corners.  It was shaped using one of the templates in the Wizard program.  It is the subliminal details like these ribbons that make pen work with the CMC applicable on so many projects.  There are so many templates and so many parameter variations, you may never draw the same design twice.

 

There is a place for every kind of line design in a frame shop.  The aura of hand drawn ruling pen lines is unmistakable.  Even the casual viewer sees the skill involved.  If you would like to develop a different skill, the computerized mat cutter can achieve some amazing effects with pens that we only dreamed of before.

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.

Practical Mat Decoration

Print Friendly

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 for matting 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.

Peeking Middle Mats

Triple mats are a good beginning for just about any design, but how can we change the formula to break the geometric drumbeat of the concentric rectangles?  These examples change the shape of the narrow middle layer of the mat so that the eighth inch of color becomes an accent along each edge that stops short of the corners.

 

This first example could easily be done using a manual mat cutter.  The middle layer is a shape we learned early in our mat cutting experience.  But in this incarnation, the corners are hidden under top mat.  Experiment with different angles at the ends of the middle layer, too.

A computerized mat cutter opens the possibility of curves at the ends of the colored accents.  The program will also give you a nice visualization of the finished piece before you cut it.  It will allow you to make better decisions about the character of the curves and angles at the ends of the segments and how long the separations at the corners should be.

 

If you are interested in making these designs using the Wizard, start with the Mixed template and make the middle layer template 606 for the first example and template 314 for the second example.

 

The colors we use in a triple mat are a great way to begin melding the mat’s style to fit the picture, but aren’t there times when you wonder if there isn’t a way to soften the rectangles?  A small touch like this to the middle layer could be just right.  It is simple and it does not disturb the impression that this is a normal mat.

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.