How to Size Your Picture Frame

To grasp basic measuring for picture framing, think of it like this: a frame is like a foot in a shoe. The size conforms to what fits inside of it. If you know the foot size, you know the shoe size.

The same goes for picture framing. If you know the size of the contents you are loading into the frame, you know the frame size. That’s why knowing exactly what size you need when buying or building a picture frame is essential.

Before sizing your picture frame, take a couple of minutes to figure out what type of frame you’d like and what style would look best in your home. After you’ve made those choices, the next step is to figure out what size picture frame you need for your artwork.

Depending on what you want to frame, the approach is different. By grasping the basics around measuring for a picture frame, you’ll have a foundation to build your own custom frames.

Measuring Your Art

The most important thing to remember when measuring your art is that you are measuring only what you want to see in the frame itself. Frame size is considered the size of the recess at the back of the frame that contains the glass, mat, art, and backing you load into it.

If you want to hide a small border, or the edges around your image, simply don’t include them while measuring your art. If your art fills the entire area and you want the entire piece to appear, you may consider adding a cut matboard to surround the edges of your artwork. 

Remember, every frame has a “lip” to hold the artwork in the frame – the lip will cover the artwork unless you add mat board to surround the art. Framing 4 Yourself offers pre-cut and custom cut mat board to allow for easy framing.

A tip from our framers – don’t use a flexible measuring tape, as it can often lead to inaccurate measurements, and if you’re building a custom frame, accuracy matters.  

  1. 1. Lay your picture down on a flat surface.
  2. 2. Take a rigid measuring tape or a ruler, and measure the area you want to see in your picture. It’s important to remember that your measurements need to be in width x height format and that they must be within 1/16 of an inch.

Measuring your art is that simple. Once you have those picture measurements, visit our framing page to purchase a cut-to-size frame or build a custom one yourself. We can cut to within 1/16 of an inch, so please ensure your measurements reflect this.

Important Considerations When Selecting a Frame

Depth

If you are framing artwork with some dimension (thickness), you must measure the depth of the artwork to ensure it will fit in the frame. This especially holds true when framing canvas or shadowboxes. 

To understand whether a frame will work for your artwork, you must compare the depth of your artwork to the rabbet depth of the frame. For example, if you are framing a canvas with a ¾” depth, you must select a frame that has a rabbet depth of ¾” or deeper to ensure your frame hangs flush to the wall

Allowance

Another consideration when ordering a custom cut frame is whether or not an allowance needs to be added when entering the dimensions. The answer is: it depends. Below we review various frame styles and whether an allowance is needed.

Standard back loading frames (product is inserted into the back of the frame).

No allowance is needed when ordering these frames. The framer will automatically add a 1/16” allowance to ensure your artwork fits into the frame.

We explore different examples of measuring standard back loading frames below.

Floater Frames (artwork sits within the frame)

Non-stepped floater frames require an allowance to be added to the dimensions to achieve the “float.” Float is the space between the artwork and the frame. This is a subjective number, but based on our experience, most clients select ¼” float when ordering.

To calculate the allowance needed to achieve your desired “float”, you would multiply 2 times the “float.” For example, if you have a 24 x 24 canvas and you want ¼” of “float,” you would place your order as 24 ½ x 24 ½ (the ½ being 2 times ¼).

Stepped floater frames are very handy for novice framers as they already have the “float” built into the structure of the frame with the bottom step. While you don’t need to add “float,” you will still want to add a small allowance of 1/16” to ensure the frame has enough space for your artwork to fit into the frame.

For example, if you have a 24 x 24 canvas and you’re ordering a stepped floater frame, you would order the frame as 24 1/16 x 24 1/16 to ensure your canvas will fit comfortably within the frame.

Examples of Frame Measurements

Please note that the website will not permit you to order custom sectional frames larger than 84” x 84”. If you want larger frames, email us at info@framing4yourself.com with your request.

For your ease, each custom cut frame has a price calculator built into the website so you can price out different frame variations for your artwork.

You want to frame art under acrylic but without a mat.

Measure the width and height of the art. This is what you enter into the calculator.

You want to frame matted art.

Measure the overall size of the mat. This is what you enter into the calculator. We will review the sizing of mats at the end of this article.

You want to frame art mounted on a backing board without a window mat.

Measure the overall size of the backing board. This is what you enter into the calculator.

*Note: Framing 4 Yourself will not measure for you, but we will help guide you based on the information provided. You are responsible for measuring and ordering correctly. Please be aware that custom-cut frames are not returnable and will not be refunded if ordered incorrectly.  

Adding Mat board to Your Artwork

Mats, in regards to picture framing, are thin, flat pieces of paper-based material included within a picture frame. Often they are decorative, but various mats offer preservation qualities, like our Crescent Museum Rag 100 Mat Board.

Adding a mat board allows you to properly maintain, preserve, and protect the art pieces you are framing. Plus, it adds a museum-quality touch to your artwork.

How do you measure a mat board?

There are two important dimensions when measuring a mat board:

  1. 1. The outer dimension: the dimension that is inserted into the frame
  2. 2. The inner dimension: the dimension that shows the artwork

Outer Dimension

This is dependent upon the border you want surrounding your artwork, but we have an easy way to calculate this dimension.

If your artwork is 12 x 12 and you want to add a 2-1/4” border, you would add 4-1/2” to the artwork size to get the outer dimension. The calculation is (2 x the border measurement) + the artwork measurement.

In the 12 x 12 example, your matboard would be 16-1/2 x 16-1/2. You would also use the outer dimension to determine the size of your frame.

Inner Dimension

The inner dimension or window should be slightly smaller than your artwork to allow the art to be supported by the overlap of the mat. Typically a 1/16” allowance is subtracted from the inner dimensions to achieve this look.

In the example above, we used artwork that is 12 x 12, so the inner dimension would be 1/8” smaller than the artwork. A similar calculation is used (2 x the allowance) subtracted from the artwork size.

In the 12 x 12 example, your inner dimensions would be 11-7/8 x 11-7/8.

If this seems complicated, Framing 4 Yourself offers custom cut mat board with windows. You are only responsible for determining the outer dimension of the mat board – we calculate the inner dimension for you.

Adding Foam Board and Acrylic to Your Artwork

Measuring for foam board and acrylic is relatively easy. These two components should be ordered in the exact measurements of the frames. Let’s review the two most common examples:

Artwork without mat board

In this instance, your foam board (also called backer board) and acrylic (plastic glass) would be ordered to match the size of the frame (which coincidentally also matches the size of your artwork).

Artwork with mat board

In this instance, your foam board and acrylic would also be ordered to match the size of the frame, but all three are dependent upon the outer dimensions of your matboard.

In the example above, the 12 x 12 artwork with a matboard that had a 2-1/4” border was 16-1/2 x 16-1/2. Based on this, your frame, foam board and acrylic would all be ordered at 16-1/2 x 16-1/2 allowing all pieces to fit snugly in the frame with the matboard enhancing your artwork.

Framing 4 Yourself has Frames for Every Room

No matter the room, photo, or art piece, Framing 4 Yourself  has a vast selection of custom frames to enhance your artwork. After choosing your style and type, simply enter the dimensions of your art into our calculator (if it’s cut-to-size) and let Framing 4 Yourself do the rest. 

All of these equations may seem daunting, but once you do this a few times, it becomes second nature. If you still have questions, please feel free to reach out to Framing 4 Yourself at info@framing4yourself.com.

3 comments

  1. I appreciate the detailed instruction on framing and mat board measuring. Learned a lot to help show casing my photos. Do you recommend a spacer between the glass and the art work?

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