A mat cutter is a useful tool for cutting mats (aka matboard), in order to create a card border that frames your photo, drawing or painting within a frame. A mat, or passepartout, will give a professional look to your picture, as well as creating a buffer between the artwork and the glass. Even if you are selling (or gifting) your photos or artwork without a picture frame, will make your image look more attractive to the purchaser or recipient.
Mat cutter or bevel cutter
A special blade used with a metal ruler that lets you to cut out the central piece of the mount board at a 45˚ angle.
A frame cut from mount board that has a 45˚ beveled edge.
Thick card used to create the window mount. This is available from art stores. When selecting a color, it’s usually best to stick to black or white so that it doesn’t clash with the print.
This makes a mat cutter a great investment for anyone displaying photographs or artwork, whether you're a professional or a hobbyist looking to elevate your work. But what's the best mat cutter to buy?
Well, it partly depends on what you're looking for. The cheaper type is handheld and simple, while there are also more expensive models that include a work surface, the metal rule, and other tools to help you make precise and accurate cuts - at a 45° angle for the window of the mount. Some models will also provide a 90° cutting blade for the edges of the mount.
In this article, we've narrowed down the best mat cutters on the market today, of both types. Read on to discover the differences between them, to help you make an informed decision.
Best mat cutter in 2023
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If you want to use a handheld mat cutter, this is our top recommendation. It features a pivot-and-pull blade, which makes for straight and clean cutting, and the handle is ergonomic and comfortable to hold. Plus there's a marker bar system with pencil lead, which makes it quick and easy to mark up your mat board for cutting.
There's also a blade slot to prevent your blade bending mid-cut. A start-and-stop indicator guards against you going too far with your cuts. And you can adjust the depth of the blade, which means you can also use it to cut photos, craft paper, foam board and more.
Short on cash? This budget buster is a great choice for making cuts in your mat board. Made in Japan, the simple, easy-to-use device has a non-slip rubber base, to help prevent your ruler being nudged as you cut. The high quality blade, made from chromium and tungsten added carbon tool steel, is lovely and sharp. It also retracts when not in use.
Beyond that, it doesn't really have any clever features, and you do need to apply a bit of pressure to make successful cuts. But overall, it does the job well and offers excellent value.
If you want to move beyond squares and rectangles, this compact mat cutter is the only one on our list which is designed to cut freehand shapes. Its blade can be adjusted to any depth or angle using a knob, so it's able to cut both beveled edges and straight edges. And its curved body rests against your palm nicely, making it very comfortable in use.
If you're using a mat cutter as a professional photographer, artist or interior designer, you'll benefit from moving beyond cheap, handheld mat cutters, and investing in a more sophisticated kit that can help you achieve greater precision and accuracy. Our favourite right now is the Elite 450-1 Artist Mat Cutter.
Firstly, it has a 40-inch cutting capacity, making it suitable for large-scale projects. You get both a straight cutter and a pull-style bevel cutter, giving you a lot of flexibility in the types of cuts you can make. And you can ensure your cuts are super-accurate, thanks to a number of handy tools. These include a squaring bar to ensure your mat board is held square, a parallel mat guide which makes it easy to mark your borders, and two production stops to ensure you don't overcut your mat board.
That all might sound complicated, but this mat cutter is surprisingly intuitive and easy-to-use in practice, so even a beginner can use it. The main downside is the high price, which means that it's best suited for professional use.
If your use of a mat cutter is more semi-pro than pro, you might want to spend a bit less than our number four choice, above. In which case, we'd recommend the Logan Graphics 301-1, which you can use to make cuts up to 32 inches in length.
To keep your mat board in place and help you achieve precision cuts, you get a base board, a hinged guide rail, a start-and-stop indicator, and a parallel mat guide. There's also a push-style beveled cutting head as well as straight cutter, with three depth positions to choose from. Overall, this is a great way to achieve pro-level results at a relatively affordable price.
This board-mounted cutting system is pretty similar to the 450-1, number 4 on our list; both for example, cut matboard up to 40 inches long. But this one is more expensive... so why buy it?
Well, one advantage is that it has a full 32-inch squaring arm, which makes right-angled cuts on large mats a lot easier. Another is that the alignment guides are more securely attached, so they're more likely to stay in place over time if you do a lot of cutting. A third is that it can cut glass, plexi and other materials – as well as giving 45° and 90° cuts to the mat.
These are pretty subtle differences, though, so for most pros we'd still recommend the 450-1. If, however, you're cutting at high volumes and are finding the accuracy of your 450-1 is wearing out, you just want to the larger squaring arm, or you need to cut other materials, it may be worth the extra spend. A larger 60in version of the Logan 750-1 is also available if you want to do even bigger mounts.
This handheld bevel mat cutter features a retractable blade, and a blade slot that stops the blade from bending. A start and stop indicator helps to guard against over cuts. It's simple to use. And overall this is a cheap and cheerful option that does the job well.
In all honesty, it doesn't excel at anything in particular. Which perhaps suggests why its Amazon.com listing features such meaningless marketing phrases as: "Product is unique and carries its own natural characteristics as this is a natural product." Incredible. But we still thought it was worth including on this list, as ultimately it's a good budget choice, if others aren't available.
How to make a mount with a mat cutter
1: Cut the mount board to size
Remove the backboard from the glass frame and line it up with the top and side edge of the reverse of the mount board. Mark along the other two sides with a pencil and the carefully cut along these lines using a metal ruler and craft knife.
2: Measure your print
You’ll need to measure your print in order to calculate the width of the window mount. It’s best to leave a 1cm gap between the black border on the print and the edge of the window mount, so allow for this excess when measuring the print.
3: Size up the window mount
Decide how much of a border you want around the window of the mount. In this image the mount board is 50cm by 40cm, compared to the print size of 36cm by 24cm: a difference of 14cm horizontally and 16cm vertically. This equates to a border of 7cm on the sides and 8cm on the top and bottom. Mark lines on the reverse of the mount board as shown and cut out the center piece.
4: Line up the bevel cutter
Make sure the side of the ruler lines up with the edge of a line you have drawn. Next, line up the mark on the bevel cutter with the edge of the adjacent line, as shown in the image above. This ensures that you don’t over-cut the board.
5: Cut out the frame
Now push down hard on the metal blade to score a line along the board, making sure you stop as soon as the mark on the bevel cutter reaches the other adjacent pencil line. Repeat this process about three times to ensure the board has been cut all the way through. Repeat for each of the edges and then pop out the center piece.
6: Assemble your print
Stick a strip of acid-free tape to two corners on the underside of your image. Hover the window mount over the image to line up the print, and then press the frame down to secure it. Turn the board over and add more tape if you need it. You should now have a perfect mount that can be placed back in the frame.