Strike that. REVERSE IT!

posted on May 16, 2011 by  |  posted under Crafting, Decorating  |  22 Comments

Strike that REVERSE IT diy reverse mat

You know you have one.  One of those neighbors who is amazingly talented and you go over there just to steal ideas!?!  You make up excuses to borrow an egg to see what they are working on???

Ya.  Meet Amy.  She oozes with talent.  I thought this was such a fun idea and asked her to share.


Are you always looking for a way to make a big splash on wall without spending 12 million dollars? I am. Thrifty is not my middle name, but it seriously should have been. If you’re as cheap (ahem, I mean thrifty) as I am, this project is for you. It’s also quick and relatively stress free! A real winner, so here we go!!!

Have you ever had a custom picture matted and framed? Expensive, right? Beautiful, but expensive.  This project takes the expense out of it, without taking away from the look.  We’re basically going to reverse the mat and the frame. The idea here is that you can take the picture you love, buy an off-the-shelf frame that fits the picture exactly (smaller=cheaper) with your 40% off coupon (you know the one) or a good sale, and recreate the mat effect behind the frame with inexpensive materials and fairly simple tools. Here’s the complete look:   reverse matting

List of Ingredients:

Frames – Choose what you love. I go black or white, because I’m simple like that.

1 – 4’x8′ (or smaller) sheet of masonite – you know, the stuff they make clipboards out of. It’s also called tempered hardboard. When you buy it by the sheet it’s thicker than a clipboard (1/4″ or 3/16″) but it’s super durable, while still thin and light. Should be about $10. If you can’t find this product exactly, buy a piece of white board (the stuff you use dry erase markers on). It’s the same thing except it’s slick and white on one side.

Fabric of your choice – I prefer home decor fabric for the texture and thickness. It’s important that you can’t see the board through it. Use what you love, but don’t forget, the PICTURE is the focal point, not the fabric.

hot glue gun & glue sticks

finish nails – one for each picture.  Not teeny ones. They’re going to hold the weight of the board and the frame.

saw – a table saw is the best -OR- get all of your measurements figured out before hand, and have your hardware store cut your masonite for you!

drill – with a drill bit that’s about the same size as the finish nail

measuring square (but lets be honest, I used my quilting ruler and it worked just fine)

Before I go into details, here is a close up of what it’s going to look like from the back. That helps, right?

reverse matting

And here is a larger view.

reverse matting

Now let’s REALLY begin!! Woo!  Before you do anything, have your frame(s) in hand.  Mine hold 10″x13″ pictures but that measurement isn’t important for this project. What you really need to know is the outside measurement of the frame. Mine is 12 1/2″x 15 1/2″.  I chose to make my “mat” 3 inches larger than the outside of the frame. You may want less or you may want more. It’s totally up to you! Mark it, and cut it with your table saw. A trusty assistant helps A LOT for that step.

Now for the tricky part! The hole. It’s important to have it in just the right spot. I chose to use hanging wire for my hardware so that I had a little more freedom and wiggle room to get things just right. The hole obviously needs to be right in the middle from side to side, but when I attached my wire to my frames (I went pretty tight) and measured from where my nail would go to the top of the mat, my nail hole needed to be 5″ from the top of the mat for me to have that 3″ border all the way around my frame. If my hole is too high, I’ll have less than 3″ at the top and more than 3″ at the bottom, and we don’t want that, do we? I bet you didn’t think you would have to stretch the math part of your brain when you got into this. Surprise! Don’t worry, you’ll be fine, just measure a couple of times before you get out the drill and make your holes. The beauty here is that even if you drill wrong, no sweat, drill again because no one will know. It will be covered with fabric. Even if you have to flip it from bottom to top and try again, no biggie. Do what you need to do until it’s right.

Whew, hard part  over! Time for the glue gun! Cut your fabric about 2″ larger on all sides than your board. Have you ever upholstered a seat cushion for a kitchen chair? We’re going to use the same method. Begin by gluing one spot right in the center of the top. When it’s secure, glue the opposite spot on the bottom, pulling the fabric tight so you’ll have no ripples or folds. Repeat the same thing from side to side. Once you have the fabric pretty well centered and secured, glue down all 4 sides leaving the corners loose. Corners are last. Pull and glue them so that the fabric on the front is smooth and perfect. Voile’! Let’s get that baby on the wall!

reverse matting

Put your nail in the wall where you want it at a slight angle, and don’t worry about the mat at first. Then, pull the nail out and poke it through the fabric and the mat hole. Shout for that trusty assistant again and have them look from the side while you find the hole from the front. There just might be an easier way to do this and if you know it, give it up, Sister! :)  Let me spare you just a little anguish here. You might be thinking “why don’t I just nail it in the wall with the mat already on the nail?” I thought that too…and it’s possible, but remember, with the mat on it you’re holding quite a bit of weight on that nail, so getting it just right is not so easy. You can have your assistant hold the mat on the wall and nail through from there. While we’re not worried about how many holes you put in your board, let’s try to minimize how many you put in your wall. Use whatever method works for you.

reverse matting

One mat ready….

reverse matting

Even my daughter can’t wait for the big moment!

reverse matting

Three mats ready….

reverse matting

We’re ready for pictures! Hang your picture on the nail, just as you would normally. If you need to make final adjustments, do it with the hanging wire.

reverse matting

reverse matting

Project complete! You have turned your pictures into gorgeous, artistic focal points!

Hooray for YOU!

reverse matting


Thanks Amy!  Here is a pic of her sweet family!  You’ll see her around on HowDoesShe.  She has some fun things up her sleeves…and yes, she is willing to share!

reverse matting


Strike that REVERSE IT diy reverse mat
    1. May 16th, 2011 at 6:49 am
      Heather Lynne says:
      This is such a creative idea!
    2. May 16th, 2011 at 8:13 am
      Angie says:
      I like Amy already! :) Such a great idea. I'm looking forward to seeing what else she's got cookin!
    3. May 16th, 2011 at 8:43 am
      Lee says:
      I love this idea! I cannot wait to try it. Thanks for another innovative, creative and budget friendly idea!
    4. May 16th, 2011 at 12:09 pm
      Jennifer Boyce says:
      Beautiful!!!! Love the fabric idea :o)
    5. May 16th, 2011 at 12:11 pm
      Katie Christensen says:
      Amy is my friend from Rochester, NY. I can't believe I am seeing her featured on your blog. She is an incredible woman!!!! We miss having her here. Love the idea. So cute!:)
    6. May 16th, 2011 at 12:23 pm
      Anne Marie says:
      That's so cool!
    7. May 16th, 2011 at 2:43 pm
      Lei Lei says:
      Beautiful Family! Love the idea!!! Thanks for sharing
    8. May 16th, 2011 at 7:25 pm
      heather elvis mortensen says:
      this is my bud!! kickin' booty girl! love ya amy! :)
    9. May 16th, 2011 at 10:04 pm
      MELISSA H says:
      I love this. Thanks!
    10. May 16th, 2011 at 10:22 pm
      Chris L. says:
      OH Em GEE.
      Love it.
      Love it.
      Love it.
      Doing it tomorrow.
    11. May 17th, 2011 at 11:56 am
      Jo-Lynne {Musings of a Housewife} says:
      Okay now THAT is clever. Love it.
    12. May 17th, 2011 at 12:14 pm
      Lara says:
      Amy, as are awesome!!! This is so cute and so clever! I will be excited to see more of your ideas. Love ya!
    13. May 17th, 2011 at 2:26 pm
      Shauna says:
      This is such a FABULOUS idea. I'm totally going to steal this idea for my own home - love it!
    14. May 17th, 2011 at 4:11 pm
      Tanja says:
      This is such a simple and great idea!
    15. May 17th, 2011 at 10:31 pm
      Emily says:
      Amy's a creative genius!!! LOVE HER!!
    16. May 18th, 2011 at 10:35 am
      Jennifer S. says:
      LOVE this idea!!! ... and how stinkin' cute is her daughter's expression?!!! =) ADORABLE!
    17. May 19th, 2011 at 12:16 am
      Some Lucky Dog says:
      Love this idea!
    18. May 20th, 2011 at 6:15 pm
      Angie Bytnar says:
      I love your site so many great intersting things. I would love to do a giveaway on site and wante dto see if you do that and how much you charge.
      Thanks so much. I have a Willow House facebook as well
      • May 20th, 2011 at 11:00 pm
        Shelley says:
        Thanks Angie! Just email [email protected] for our media kit. :)
    19. October 3rd, 2011 at 7:33 pm
      Gina says:
      This is a fantastic idea, not just from the frugal sense, but it's also a more interesting way to hang frames. I love the texture and depth you get from the fabric-covered boards.
    20. August 24th, 2013 at 5:37 pm
      MommaLuv says:
      Omg. Love this idea!!!
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