About Me

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Spofford, New Hampshire, United States
Jeff Newcomer had been a physician practicing in New Hampshire and Vermont for over 30 years. Over that time, as a member of the Conservation Commission in his home of Chesterfield New Hampshire, he has used his photography to promote the protection and appreciation of the town's wild lands. In recent years he has been transitioning his focus from medicine to photography, writing and teaching. Jeff enjoys photographing throughout New England, but has concentrated on the Monadnock Region and southern Vermont and has had a long term artistic relationship with Mount Monadnock. He is a featured artist in a number of local galleries and his work is often seen in regional print, web publications and in business installations throughout the country. For years Jeff has published a calendar celebrating the beauty of The New England country-side in all seasons. All of the proceeds from his New England Reflections Calendar have gone to support the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at the Cheshire Medical Center. Jeff has a strong commitment to sharing his excitement about the special beauty of our region and publishes a blog about photography in New England.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Cutting the Math from Matte Cutting

The Problem
Single Matte
Ok.  I know I'm in trouble.  I have mentioned "math " in the title of this week's blog.  I understand that this will chase away most of my readers and that I should off-set the damage by adding "Naked Women" to the title or introductory paragraph.  Of course I would never use such a cheap trick.  Hang-on though, the purpose of this article is to introduce my simple Excel application that quickly handles all the calculations necessary to cut a perfect matte for your photographs and without any requirement for even elementary school math.

The Power of the Print
These days when photographs are generally presented to the world

in digital form, the physical print seems to be increasingly looked upon as an archaic remnant  of an ancient time.  I have argued that there is something special about holding a print in your hands.  A picture on paper has a sense of depth and immediacy that can't be captured on an LCD screen.   Whether you include the craft of print making as part of your artistic process or trust a lab to convert your vision to paper, the presentation of a printed image does not stop with the print itself.  There are numerous ways to display an image, including gallery wraps and Image Blocks, but most other options involve a matte to frame the image and protect it from direct contact with the glass.

I have previously discussed my approach to matting and framing
and, at that time, I promised to post on my Excel Application for 
Logan Matte Cutter
matte cutting.  Whether you use a small Hand Cutter or a more expensive, table top device, the actual the calculations are the same.  My Excel application is a simple tool that works for me to quickly do the calculations to cut either single or double mattes.   So here it is.  If you have no interest in cutting your own mattes, please leave and go out to take a picture of a tree.

The Calculations
The calculations required to cut a matte are not complicated, but do take care, especially when a double matting is planned.  Let's look at a simple example of a single matting.

We have a 8"x10" picture which we want to mount under a single standard 11"x14" Matt.  Some people prefer to have a slightly larger matting at the bottom of the picture, but, for this example,  we will stick to even matting on all sides.

1 Measure Twice, Cut Once
First, both the matte and the photo must be measured carefully.  Precise measurements are critical.  Since my calculations are now automated, I find that most mistakes in sizing comes from inaccurate measurement or recording of the dimensions of the image or matte.  The old adage, "measure twice, cut once" certainly applies here. 

2 Going Metric 
Although mattes are generally sized to fit frames measured in inches, I use metric measurements for my calculations. Jimmy Carter was right, It is much easier to manipulate metric numbers within equations.

3 The Math
The picture's height and width are subtracted from those of the matte and half of these differences plus a small amount for overlap (usually about 1/4 inch or 6- 8mm) gives us the width of the matte on each side.  In our example :


4 Mark and Cut
I mark these dimensions on the matte and then gleefully cut away with my Logan Matte Cutter.  Perfect every time! With practice.

5 Double Matting

Double Matte
 I often use a colored under-matte  (typically black) to provide a contrasting rim of color inside the main white matte.   I attach the under-matte to the back of the white matte and then make a second cut with the border measured to be about 8-10 mm greater than the top.  The result is a even black rim around the inside of the main matte.  The details of the cutting can be easily found on the web.  Our concern today is the math.

Enough Math
The calculations are easy, but by about the time I was doing my 5th
matte it occurred to me, "this is the stuff that a spread sheet is made for".  I plugged the formulas into Excel and arrange things so that the input fields were clear and VOILA, no more math.  The inputs are all above the line and in addition to fields for the  dimensions of the Matte and Image, there are fields for the overlap and the size of the under-matte border for when a double matte is used.  There is a line to adjust the results to disproportionately increase the bottom border and I have also included a tool to convert between U.S. Standard and metric measurements.  Given my eyesight, I increased the font size of the results to make them visible across the room at my cutter.  Check it out:


There are a number of Matte Measuring Apps on the web, but none did exactly what I wanted.  My spreadsheet application works well for my needs, but it can also be easily altered to meet other requirements. 

You are welcome to use the application and modify it as needed.  I only ask that the original source be credited and that you send me a copy of any changes you make.  The simplest way to get a copy is to email a request to:


When the queries approach one million, I may decide to use a different distribution system.  At some point I think an iPad App might be nice. Any suggestion about App creation resources would be appreciated.  For the time being this Excel App is simple and infinitely editable.  I apologize to all those without Excel, but the general layout can be adapted for other spreadsheet programs.

I hope this tool is useful.  Please let me know what you think. If you haven't started printing, matting and framing your work, give it a try.  For me it completes the circle of full control over my work and that has been well worth the effort. 

And again, I apologize to all those looking for the "naked women".

Jeffrey Newcomer


  1. I think I'd rather cut my wrists than cut a mat. ;-) My matt cutter sits in its box in the garage but thanks for great article. Maybe I'll dust it off sometime.

  2. Jeff -- I agree that the print is something special, and it simply wants to be matted. I've been cutting my mats for years, also using an Excel spreadsheet of my own creation. The only difference is that I cut my window a little big to allow for "float," a cm or so of white photo paper showing through on all four sides. I'd be willing to share it if anyone wants it.

    1. Larry. I'm thinking of doing some images with a float. I have an input "Margin" for this, but I would be interested in seeing your app.

  3. YouTube and Itunes has Stanford University's IOS development course on it. Its a great resource (Free) you could probably write your app after watching the first 2 classes about an hour each. You would need a Mac.

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