Creating A Free “Mat & Frame” For Metal Prints

I have a large metal print of one of my favorite Motif #1 images hanging above my fireplace mantel. The image itself has an oil paint look to it and, as such, stands well on its own as a piece of art. I love how the metal enhances the colors without diminishing the details and dimension of the paint strokes within the image.

Note: Click on all images in this article to view at full size for detail.

Motif-#1-Original-Metal-Print

Original Image

My Curiosity Piqued

As the months have passed, the popularity of this image has continued to grow. The positive feedback and numerous inquiries started me thinking of creating a version that incorporated a digital mat and frame as part of the image. This would accomplish several things that I personally find appealing:

  • Satisfy my curiosity.
  • Appease purists who like the look of traditionally framed artwork.
  • Save money on the cost of physical mats and frames.
  • Save labor time and cost on matting and framing a print.

Recently, our “bipolar” New England weather (winter??? spring???) gave me the opportunity to satisfy my curiosity.

Shadows and Light

Metal prints stand away from the wall when hung due to the stretcher bars used to mount the print. The distance from the wall gives the print a bit of a 3-D effect due to the subtle shadows cast along an outer edge from any nearby light source, especially natural light through a window.

Now, imagine the additional depth perception a digital mat and frame might create.

As the saying goes, “Life is an illusion.”

Motif-#1-Digital-Frame-And-Mat

Click on image to see mat and frame detail.

All-In-One Digital File

While there are many different ways to create a digital mat and frame, here is the method I used in Photoshop for my image. Note: I encourage you to tweak each step to your personal liking to best showcase your image as you envision it. Consider my step-by-step process outlined below as merely a guide to get you going.

Let’s Get Started…

Step 1 – Open Your Image In Photoshop

Once you’ve opened your image, you may want to record the remaining steps as an Action so that you can easily apply this digital mat and frame process to other images later on with the simple click of a button.

Step 2 – Unlock the Background Layer

Before making any adjustments, you must first unlock the Background Layer. To do so, select the layer and then double-click on it. This opens the New Layer window. Click OK and you will see the Background Layer’s name has changed from Background to Layer 0. The layer is also now unlocked. You are good to proceed.

Step 3 – Expand the Canvas Size

The digital mat and frame will surround the existing image. You therefore need to expand the dimensions of the existing canvas size of your image to allow for those new elements. How much to expand the canvas size depends on how large of a digital mat and frame you wish to incorporate. That is a personal preference.

My original image measures 3806 x 1863 pixels. I increased its canvas size by 950 pixels on all sides to create room for the digital mat and frame.

To increase the canvas size, select Image>Canvas Size from the Photoshop menu at the top of your screen. Fill in the necessary dimensions by which you would like to increase the canvas size.

Step 4 – Create A New Blank Layer For The Mat & Frame

I next created a new layer BELOW the Image layer by holding the Command Key on my Mac while clicking on the New Layer icon. I then filled that layer with white. It became the primary layer upon which to create both the mat and frame.

Step 5 – Now To Add Layer Styles

Layer styles are where the magic happens! I first used them to create a basic one-dimensional frame and mat. I then continued to use them to take things to the next level by adding 3-D detail to both elements.

Note: The best thing about Layer Styles is that you can come back to them at any time to make additional adjustments if you so desire.

To add Layer Styles, I double-clicked on the white layer I just created to open the Layer Style window. I then worked in the following order by selecting each of the following Styles individually and making my adjustments to each along the way.

Important! Settings are subjective. It’s important to experiment with the different settings and blend modes to become familiar with how each affects the look of things. It’s through experimentation that you will discover how Layer Styles work, how the settings work together within a Style, and what combination you prefer for your image.

Below you will see the settings I used for each Style as I tailored it to my vision of what I wanted for the look of the mat and frame for my image:

STROKE

I used this Layer Style to create the basic black border for the frame.

Note: Click on each of the following setting images for best readability.

Digital-Frame-STROKE-Layer-Style

BEVEL AND EMBOSS

I used this Layer Style to give the frame some dimension. For a realistic effect, it is important that all four corners of the frame have a mitered look. Note: Bevel and Emboss in tandem with Stroke are the two Layer Styles that work together to create the realistic corners. Important! The colors you choose for the Highlight Mode and Shadow Mode will greatly affect the look of the corners.

Digital-Frame-BEVEL-AND-EMBOSS-Layer-Style

INNER GLOW

This Layer Style was used to create a bit of a shadow for the illusion of added depth along the inner edge of the frame.

Digital-Frame-INNER GLOW-Layer-Style

COLOR OVERLAY

This Layer Style was used to change the color of the mat to a specific off white that I thought worked well with the image. Use this style to select the color you want for your mat.

Digital-Frame-COLOR OVERLAY-Layer-Style

PATTERN OVERLAY

This Layer Style was used to add a very subtle bit of texture to the mat (as I did not want it to compete with the texture of the paint strokes within the image). The variations of patterns available are many, and as such the effect of the settings vary greatly depending on what pattern (if any) you’ve selected.

Step 6 – Add A Bevel Cut And Shadow To Fine-Tune The Mat

After creating the frame and adjusting the color and pattern for the mat, I now wanted to add depth and dimension to the mat’s window by adding a bevel cut and shadow.

To do this, I clicked on the layer containing the image (Layer 1). I then worked in the following order by selecting each of the following Styles one at a time and making my adjustments to each along the way.

STROKE

This Layer Style was used to create a thin line around the outside of the image. I chose a dark color for contrast.

Fine-Tune-Digital-Mat-STROKE-Layer-Style

INNER SHADOW

This Layer Style was used to create a bit of a shadow for the illusion of added depth to the stroke.

Fine-Tune-Digital-Mat-INNER-SHADOW-Layer-Style

INNER GLOW

This Layer Style was also used to create a bit of a shadow to enhance the look of a bevel cut.

Fine-Tune-Digital-Mat-INNER GLOW-Layer-Style

Step 7 – Add Your Signature

I traditionally sign my matted and framed prints. So, I added my signature to the digital mat by creating a PNG of it and placing it on its own PS layer. I then adjusted the size and position to my liking. Click here to learn how to create a digital version of your own signature.

Step 8 – Viola!

There you go. A free “mat and frame” that that I think works particularly well for metal prints.

Like What You See?

If you’re interested in either version of my Motif #1 image, prints (including metal) are available at my gallery on Fine Art America.

More Than One Purpose

Whether you want to incorporate a digital mat and frame into your image, or simply want to experiment with seeing how an image would look in different colored mats and frame sizes before purchasing the materials, you now know this way of satisfying your curiosity and/or getting the job done.

Give it a try!

~ Liz Mackney

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One Comment

  1. Jeff Folger September 9, 2016 at 10:16 #

    You won’t believe this but I have the same image from a different angle and on canvas above our fireplace… Motif #1 never fails to amaze me… Gorgeous image