How to Calculate the Outside Dimension of a Picture Frame

Art and mathematics may seem like odd bedfellows; however, understanding how to properly measure and choose the right size frame display based on the venue separates the art-show-ready professionals from the amateurs.

If you are submitting art to a gallery or setting up a booth for an art show, one of the most important measurements you should be concerned with is the outside dimensions of your framing package.

What Are the Outside Dimensions of a Picture Frame?

This is the exterior dimension of the frame moulding, measured from edge to edge of the picture frame.

Outside-Picture-Frame-Dimension

This is often confused with the picture frame size, which typically refers to the outside dimension of what is INSIDE the picture frame.

The reason the outside dimensions of a picture frame is so important is because galleries and art fair booths have a limited amount of wall space available to exhibit art. Knowing the outside dimensions of each piece of framed artwork makes the process of setting up an art exhibit or display booth much easier.

Calculate the Outside Dimensions of Complete Picture Frames

A complete picture frame is a framing package containing a mounted piece of art within a picture frame. It may or may not have a mat board and glazing.

The two main measurements needed to calculate the outside dimensions of a picture frame package are:

  1. Outside dimension of the components (what you are framing)
  2. Width of the picture frame

Example:

  • The outside dimension of what you are framing measures 11 inches wide by 14 inches high.
  • Your picture frame moulding is one inch wide.

Now comes a little bit of algebra (stay with me!) with its golden rule: whatever you do to one side, you must do to the other. Because you are dealing with a top/bottom and left/right sides, you double whatever you add.

The equations are as follows:

11 + (1 + 1) = 13 inches wide
Artwork width Frame moulding width
14 + (1 + 1) = 16 inches high
Artwork height Frame moulding width

The general outside dimension of this picture frame is 13 inches wide X 16 inches high.

If you need more extreme precision—down to the one-eighth inch—you will need to know how much larger the framer cuts the picture frame moulding so that the components fit properly inside. At Frame Destination, we cut each stick of moulding 1/16-inch larger, so you’d need to add 1/8-inch to each side.

Using the above example:

13 + (1/16 + 1/16) = 13 1/8 inches wide
Artwork width Frame moulding width
16 + (1/16 + 1/16) = 16 1/8 inches high
Artwork height Frame moulding width

The more precise outside dimensions of this picture frame is 13 1/8 inches wide x 16 1/8 inches high.

Calculate the Outside Dimensions of Canvas Floater Frames

A canvas in a floater frame is a type of framing package where a gallery-wrapped canvas is displayed within a floater frame. The floater frame is cut larger than the canvas, creating the illusion that the canvas is “floating” within the frame. This type of frame allows the entire front surface of the canvas to be visible and adds prestige to the display.

The three main measurements needed to calculate the outside dimension of a canvas floater frame package are:

  1. Outside dimension of the canvas
  2. Float space (space between the canvas and the inside edge of the frame)
  3. Width of the picture frame

Example:

  • The outside dimension of the canvas measures 18 inches wide X 24 inches high.
  • The float space is 1/2 inch.
  • The picture frame moulding is 1 1/2-inches wide.

Remember the golden rule—do unto one side what you do to the other—and double what you add!

The equations are as follows:

18 + (1/2 + 1/2) + (1 ½ + 1 ½) = 22 inches wide
Artwork width Float Space Frame moulding width
24 + (1/2 + 1/2) + (1 ½ + 1 ½) = 28 inches high
Artwork height Float Space Frame moulding width

The outside dimension of this picture frame is 22 inches wide x 28 inches high.

This wraps up today’s mini-lesson on calculating the outside dimension of framed artwork. For your convenience, all of Frame Destination’s picture frame moulding dimensions are available, however, custom frames can also be created. Please feel free to contact us with questions at any time!

About the author

author

Joely Rogers is the vice president of Frame Destination, Inc. She has been with the company since 2005. Joely has a graduate degree in English language education and storytelling from the University of Southern Mississippi. She is also a lifelong artist and paints, sculpts, and creates art journals and jewelry in her cozy home studio. Her personal website is www.cafejoely.com.

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