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how to draw oval #1I noticed several people found my series of posts about how to build your own custom frame by searching for how to cut an oval mat.  So, I thought I would write a more detailed article about how to draw or cut an oval. The easiest way would be if you already have an oval that you can trace. There are also several products available at art and craft stores that will cut a perfect oval;  however, these are a bit expensive (around $80 last time I checked) unless you need to cut a lot of ovals and need them exactly perfect.

how to draw an oval #2With some practice and a few simple tools you can get a pretty decent oval without breaking the bank. Most people probably already have all the necessary tools at home. You’ll need a pencil, ruler, scissors, eraser (optional), and some paper to practice with.

First fold your paper in half. Then fold it in half the other way–much like you would if you were going to make a paper snow flake. Measure half the width you would like your oval to be from the folded corner and mark that distance on the longer fold with your pencil. Next measure half the height you would like your oval to be, and mark it on the shorter fold. Now this is the part that will take practice: draw a curved line that connects the two marks and then unfold your paper. Be careful not to curve too sharply near the folds or you will end up with either a football or diamond shape. If you draw in a straight perpendicular line for about the first 1/4 inch or so it may help you avoid the temptation to curve too sharply.

how to cut an oval #4If after unfolding it, the oval does not look right there are several ways to fix it. You can either trim a little to round it more where the paper was folded, or place another paper under it ( or put tracing paper over it), then make corrections with your pencil on the uncut paper and try again. If you choose to trim the paper make sure it is folded or it will come out uneven and you will be unhappy with the results. Usually if I have an oval that did not turn out well it is because I tried to taper the oval too much near the fold. Try to stay as close to perpendicular near the fold to avoid having it look pointy when it is unfolded. Be patient and try this on scratch paper several times if necessary. It took time as a kid to learn how to cut hearts, circles, and snowflakes with ease, and with a little practice this will become easy to do.

Although this process does not always produce a perfect oval, with some practice you can make one that looks very good–all for the cost of several sheets of paper. Once you have a satisfactory oval, simply trace it onto the surface where you wanted it (such as your mat board or scrap book page), and VOILA–you just saved $80 on not having to buy a contraption to make one for you 😉

 

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matting1Once I had the frame assembled, I took it with me to my local art supply store to pick out matboard. Bringing the picture with me, in a protective sleeve, was also very helpful. After spending quite some time laying down different colored mats around the picture and laying the frame on top to see how it would look, I ended up choosing a kind of burgundy color which complemented both my artwork and the frame very nicely. The store had two options for buying matboard: I could either have them cut the mat and the opening for it for about $13 which would certainly have been convenient, or I could buy a very large sheet of matboard for about the same amount and cut it myself. I decided to buy the larger board and cut it myself so I would have some extra for other framingmatting2 projects. I also wanted to try cutting an oval freehand. The picture I am framing had a oval shape already drawn on it, but I drew it by hand– without a pattern– making it more of an egg shape. So It really would not have worked to have the store cut the matboard for me. I think the reason it was a little off from being an exact oval is that I trimmed the folded areas of my original pattern when it was not folded. See my post on making ovals for instructions. I think for this drawing the egg shape worked well though.

An artist friend of mine had offered to let me borrow her mat cutter, but could not find it. I have on previous occasions had a lot of experience with using Xacto knives for some pretty intricate cutting–so I thought maybe that would work if I was very careful. I laid the matboard on my clean kitchen table and lined the frame upmatting3 carefully with the corner of the board. then I traced the inner side of the frame with a pencil on the white side of the board, but tracing the glass would also have worked and probably been simpler now that I think of it LOL 😉 (good thing I can laugh at myself sometimes). I chose to cut starting on the reverse side of the mat because it is easier to hide mistakes that way. It was not the easiest thing in the world to cut through the mat with an Xacto knife, but it was possible after many passes over it. It did not look bad, and even if it had the edge of the frame will cover it by 1/4 inch.

matting7The tricky part was getting the oval. I got out some tracing paper I had on hand and traced my oval from the picture. If you are using a hand drawn oval rather than a pattern MAKE SURE TO MARK WHICH SIDE IS UP AND LEFT AND RIGHT, also make sure to make a note to yourself to FLIP IT OVER SIDEWAYS when you copy it to the back side of the matboard. I neglected to do this and it caused me a lot of grief and extra work. I had forgotten that the original oval I made on my drawing hadn’t turned out quite right at first and so I had trimmed it with the scissors while the pattern was not folded–which resulted in more of an ellipse). Copying the oval can be done several ways. either use a sheet of carbon paper matting34and trace it on, or cut out the oval and tape on the paper you cut it from, making sure to center it, and then trace. Cutting out the oval with the Xacto blade was much more difficult than doing a straight line. It might have been ok I I had remembered to mark and flip the pattern, but even then the cut was not as smooth as I would have liked. it’s extremely difficult cutting something that thick with an xacto and trying to keep the angle of the blade consistent.

matting 8I thought about remedying the situation by just cutting the board with a rectangular opening, but after getting a glimpse of how nice it would look with an oval I just couldn’t make myself do it. So, I started hunting for an inexpensive mat cutter. they can get pretty expensive up into the hundreds of dollars depending on what you want. A really basic model for cutting at either a 45 or 90 degree angle straight line runs anywhere from $50 or more. Freehand ones cost closer to 25, but the salesperson said that was not really any good for doing oval shapes with. Matcutters specifically designed for cutting ovals were matting5about $70. Ebay did have some mattcutters for much cheaper–anywhere from $10 and up mostly, but I was not sure how much shipping would be. Finally I went to another art store and found a mattcutter much like and Xacto knife, only much sharper. It also has a nice flat edge to rest it on while cutting. I had a coupon for 40% off and was able to get it for under $6. I still had to go over my cuts with it several times to get all the way through the board, but it was much easier. It was also much easier to hold the knife steady.

In order to fix the problem with having the oval flipped the wrong way , I enlarged the oval just about 1/8″(flipping it this time of course 🙂 ) then recut it. I taped my picture on the back with acid free tape, making sure to keep it level and centered.

***update*** 6/4/2012

I was just talking to a lady at a framing shop today, and she said to be sure to only attach the tape at the top, using a t hinge and attach it to the foam-board rather than the mat-board. You can make a t hinge by taking 2 strips of tape, and putting them, sticky sides together, in the shape of a T. I’ll take a photo of this to post later…

how to make ovals

matting6stay tuned for part 5…
Images and content on this blog are the intellectual property of  Dawna Morton.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Do not copy.
Dawna’s Buy               my art Gallery of Greeting Cards, Matted Prints, and T-shirts at RedBubble Buy               art

Dawna’s Fine Art Prints at imagekind.com

Dawna’s Zazzle Gallery of items featuring her Art and Photography

Dawna’s art on FineArtAmerica

Dawna’s art on Amazon

Visit Dawna’s fan page and become a fan on facebook!

see Dawna’s art & photography with the poetry of Glennis Roper
http://PoemsProseAndArtistry.imagekind.com/
http://www.zazzle.com/poemsproseartistry*
http://www.redbubble.com/people/poemsproseart

Buy my t-shirts

 

You can also find Dawna on flickr

 

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