Why Do Magicians Use Black Mats- When Do You Need One

I have been a full-time magician for over 20 years. I use a magicians close up pad at every performance. Let me answer for you, why do magicians use black mats-

A magicians black mat looks very professional and sets up a small stage for everyone to watch. The soft cushiony surface makes it easier to pick up and manipulate items like cards and coins. In addition cards, coins, and other close up items look very good against the black surface. The mat allows a magician to perform many close up magic tricks that cannot be performed on a hard surface.

When I first got into magic I did not use a black mat. I’ll tell you when I started using one and why. There are many colors, sizes, and styles of magicians mats. I have tried them all and will tell you what I have found. Check out this mat if you are getting started with close up magic.

How Does a Close Up Magic Mat Work

You need a table if you want to lay down a magicians mat. Most of the time I try to find a table or some sort of surface when performing. I love putting down my mat. It sets the stage for my magic. There are many wonderful visual magic tricks that can only be done on a magicians mat- card spreads, coins matrixes, 3 shell game, cup and ball routines, etc. Visual magic is fun to watch and is great when it is loud at an event.

There are many colors of close up magic mats. They all look great, what you use is based on personal preference. There are also many shapes and sizes. The one I use in my professional work is 18″ x 14″. It is big enough to perform card and coin tricks on yet not too big that it takes up too much space. There are super small mats, both square and round. These are kind of a waste in my opinion.


Some mats are rigid, some mats roll up. I prefer the ones that role up, they are easier to throw in my bag and transport. Sometimes there is no table surface yet when there is I am very happy that I brought my close up pad.

To use a magicians mat all you do is place it down on the table and perform your tricks on it. Sometimes when there is not that much space I will place the mat on the table with half hanging off the edge. This way it takes up much less space and I can still use it for certain tricks. The rubber backing grips the table so it doesn’t fall.

Why Use a Close Up Pad

There was a time when I was totally against bringing a close up pad to an event. I thought it was obtrusive to place it on the table. I was missing out on performing so many incredible close up magic tricks. After starting to use a magicians mat I realized nobody cares if you place it down. In fact, if there is stuff on the table most of the time people will help clear it off to make space for your mat.

Having a close up pad looks very cool. When you place cards, coins, and other items on it they stand out, almost like they pop. It adds some class to your performance. This is probably why black is the most popular color.

The mat becomes your stage. It is perfect for some people who just want to watch and not get involved. They know exactly where to look. Plus most of the magic I perform on the black mat has no angle restrictions. This is great for when spectators gather around. You can control where the magic happens and where the spectators focus their attention. This is very important if you are performing in the real world.

Magicians Card Mat

There are many many tricks you can perform on the mat. The most common is card tricks. The soft surface makes it easy to pick up cards and shuffle them. Plus it opens the doors to so many card tricks that require placing cards on the table. Another point is you never know if a table is wet or dirty. Placing a card on a wet surface will ruin it. When you use a pad there is no chance of ruining your cards.

The back of a black mat is usually a rubber surface. This makes it stick to the table and not move around. If a mat does not have a rubber backing, stay away from it. It is probably super cheap and junky. If you lay down a magicians mat on a tablecloth, it might move around. I hate when this happens. I use the rubber surface to perform my favorite card trick-

YouTube Video of Me Performing My Favorite Card Trick

Another amazing use of the mat is for what is called a card spread and flip over. It looks so impressive and always gets a great reaction from people. In fact it is super easy to do. It is a great flourish to teach someone because it is pretty easy to do. You can learn it in the video below.

YouTube Video- How To Spread Cards

Which Close Up Pad is Best

There are so many to choose from and so many places to buy them. First thing I recommend is choosing the size you want. Don’t worry about the thickness, that doesn’t matter. Then choose the color you want. Make sure the backing is rubber and the surface is soft and plush. Get one that can easily role up and be thrown in your bag. I read online about people making their own luxury close up pads. I recommend buying one instead.

I have also heard that some people cut their close up pad so it is the right size. I recommend against this. Cutting it will change the shape and make your close up pad look cheap. Also the rubber backing is glued to the soft surface. If you cut it those surfaces can start to peel. Once that happens the pad is as good as garbage.

Black Art Black Mats

Nowadays there have been a bunch of magicians who are using black mats not just as a surface, more as a method for the tricks. It is called black art. With the correct lighting and filming, the tricks look really amazing. Yet they are not practical for real world close up magic. If a spectator were right there and looked closely they would see exactly what the magician is doing.

Magician Using CGI

You will notice, especially in the video below, that it is very dark. This helps hide the tricks of the black mat. Personally I think this is kinda cheating. Magic should involve sleight of hand and skill, not (CGI), computer generated imagery or black art. Using this kind of stuff really limits where you can perform. Card magic can be amazing and great without the usage of a special pad.

Magician Using Black Art

I recommend using a card tricks black mat at every single performance. One point to consider is that card magic or close up magic performed without a table is completely different than magic performed on the table. You want to learn and practice both so you are always set in any performing environment. You don’t want to be dependent on the mat because there are many times that you won’t have a table.


Hi, I'm Matt Furman. I've been a full-time professional magician for over 20 years, ever since I left medical school to pursue my passion.

I have a ton of real world experience and I am constantly practicing and performing new mind blowing magic.