By Alyssa Clough

Published on January 27, 2016

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Photography by pinterest

To mat or not to mat? That is the question we ask ourselves. Or, more likely, forget to ask ourselves. See, though matting is just as important as the frame, it’s often an afterthought—or a completely overlooked step—for many rookie apartment dwellers looking curate the perfect gallery wall If you’re currently realizing all your frames are filled edge-to-edge with prints and photos, don’t worry. You’re definitely not alone. There’s always time to reframe, rehang, and rework—if not in your current space, then the next. In the meantime, here are 15 things to consider before your next framing project.

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Photography by @ilonajoy

mix and match

Just like you can mix and match frame materials and widths, you can do the same for mats. This gallery wall is the perfect example.

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Photography by Brittany Ambridge

there are no rules

You can go extreme and add five inches of matting to your photos, opt out altogether, or mix and match.

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Photography by @clairezinnecker

solve problems

If you need to fill a bigger frame or want to cover more wall space and fall in love with a smaller print, matting will easily solve your logistical issues.

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Photography by @creativeoffices

add color

Depending on what color mat you choose, the vibe of your artwork or gallery wall could be seriously altered. We love these bright mats paired with black and white prints.

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Photography by BARBARA IWEINS

visualize your space

When you start collecting prints, visualize how a mat will change the appearance of your photo, how it will look hanging (or leaning) on your wall, and if you will add matting to your other framed collectibles.

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Photography by Brittany Ambridge

the large print

One oversized, standalone print tends to look better sans mat. It makes more of a visual impact, especially if your print features bold or bright colors.

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Photography by PLATT DANA

just kidding

Again, there are no rules. This looks cool, too.

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Photography by @framebridge

plan ahead

If you’re looking for a uniform look and want all of your framed prints to have the same mat width, you can buy in bulk. If you’re looking to customize each individual print, buy mat board, a cutter, and DIY your own.

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Photography by hidingfefe.tumblr

it’s not required

It’s okay if you don’t like the way your artwork looks matted. You can opt out and still have a stunning gallery wall.

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Photography by jenny bernheim

create clean lines

Framing items like magazines and tear outs can be tough. Use a mat to make rough, messy edges clean and crisp. This also applies to kids artwork, mementos, and any other nontraditional items you want to hang.

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Photography by @louijover

blocked gallery walls

Adding matting to your grid-like gallery wall creates even more symmetry.

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Photography by @monlinglee

or not

Choose to vary your mats in a neatly arranged gallery wall to add another element of visual interest.

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Photography by brightbazaarblog.com

make it unique

Don’t feel like you have to center everything. Tweaking your matting will add a personalized touch.

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Photography by @daisyandpixel

create added contrast

Instead of allowing your black print to fade into a black frame—or choosing a white frame that would blend into the wall—opt for a thin white mat to create a border.

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Photography by @framebridge

perfect for tiny pictures

Adding a mat to a polaroid or small printed Instagram will make it sizable enough to frame.