matWhen I first started this journey to becoming a semi-professional nature photographer I priced some custom mats at Michael’s and instantly came to the conclusion that I need my own mat cutter. Since then I would estimate I have cut roughly 50 – 60 mats and have learned the following things:

  1. Unless I have scrap in the necessary size, it is generally more cost and time effective to purchase pre-cut mats on sizes 11×14 or smaller.
  2. Mat board is expensive and easily ruined.
  3. Carrying several sheets of mat board across a parking lot on a windy day is an excellent way to ruin a lot of mat board.
  4. Cutting mats sucks.

I have also determined that the larger the mat, the more ways I can screw it up. In fact, the frustration level involved in cutting my own mats can be expressed mathematically, being directly proportional to the size of the mat. So Here is a formula I came up with where F represents the level of frustration, L and W represent the outside dimensions of the mat:

F = (LW) x 1 / ∏

So you can figure that cutting an 24 x 36 mat is going contain roughly 5x the amount of frustration units (FU’s) as an 11×14…ha. While I should probably set my prices based on cost of materials and some arbitrary “art” markup, I have decided the only thing I really care about when pricing a finished print is how irritated I get when cutting the mat.