How to Print on Mat Board

Written by f.r.r. mallory
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How to Print on Mat Board
Graphic lettering image. (cabaret image by Angie Lingnau from

Mat board is a thick, hard board that is used to surround photographic images. Often the mat board is cut on a bevel to frame the photo or artwork. Mat board comes in many colours, textures and thicknesses. The underlying board may be white or black. The surfaces may be metallic or very mat. Some art projects require that printing be applied directly to the mat board so that the colour of the mat board comes through the image or type. This process is usually accomplished by using dry rubdown transfer products.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Vector image
  • Dry rubdown transfer
  • Scissors
  • Mat board
  • 27.2kg paper
  • Tape
  • Burnisher
  • Sealer (optional)

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  1. 1

    Send a vector image of your graphics, photograph, artwork and type to a graphic services bureau that produces dry colour rubdown transfers. (Vector is a type of photographic image used in the graphics industry.) These rubdown transfers can be used on a wide variety of substrates, including mat board. This type of rubdown is similar to stand alone letter rubdowns such as Letraset, except that blocks of type and images are completely customised to your needs.

  2. 2

    Position the artwork (dry rubdown transfer) in the exact position on the mat board where you want to use it. You may often have several transfers printed on a single sheet. Cut the transfers apart so that you don't accidentally rubdown anything else on the sheet.

  3. 3

    Tape or otherwise stabilise your transfer to your mat board. Keep in mind that some types of tape will damage the surface of the mat board when you try to remove them. You can use a stable paper sheet that is the full size of the mat board. Cut a window in the paper sheet and tape the transfer to the paper. In this way you can protect the mat board surface.

  4. 4

    Rub the transfer onto the mat board using a burnishing tool. Smaller, metal, ball-shaped burnishers may dent the board if you press hard. Larger, bone style burnishers may leave cracks as the release paper creeps on the board. Rubbing the image down should be done very carefully so that just enough pressure is used for the image to transfer.

  5. 5

    Watch for release paper stretch. Some release papers will deform as you rub on them. Consider requesting test samples to try on samples of mat board before you make your transfer, as you may need to make graphic adjustments for best results.

Tips and warnings

  • Often custom transfer sheets are sold by the sheet. If you have several applications where dry transfers will look good, group your images and type onto your sheet so that they are all printed at once. This will save you considerable amounts of money. Transfers can often be sealed with a variety of sealers but this is generally not recommended for mat boards.

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