Picture Frame Dimensions Explained

At Frame Destination, we get a lot of questions about picture frame sizes:

“What are standard picture frame sizes?”

“What is the picture frame size actually referring to?”

“How do I know my artwork will fit?”

And, of course, “Why are you talking about rabbits?” (It’s rabbet!)

You would think that explaining picture frame dimensions would be a simple topic—unfortunately, it is far from it! To best help our customers find the right size picture frame for their artwork, we are here to fully clarify how picture frames are measured and what you should look for when shopping for a picture frame.

The Artwork

Before we get to the frame itself, there are a few other components that must be measured. The artwork is the focal point of the framed piece - and it is what you base the frame size off of—so you must first measure the correct part of the piece to be framed.

  • The artwork size is the size of your image, not necessarily the paper on which the artwork is printed.

Example: An 8×10-inch print from a photo lab will usually be 8×10 inches, but you might print an 8×10 at home on 8.5×11 paper. Therefore, the correct size is 8x10, not 8.5x11. /

 

1-ArtworkAndPaper

 

The Mat Board

If you choose to include a mat board in the framed piece, this can complicate the frame size a little. The mat board surrounds the artwork and adds extra space, so the frame must accommodate the size mat board you choose. /

  • This mat exact opening is the dimension of the hole cut in the mat.

Example: A typical store-bought, ready-made frame for an 8×10 photo will have a mat exact opening of 7.5×9.5. This size mat board will overlap the image by ¼ inch on all four sides, allowing it to hold the image down. Mat boards cut by custom frame shops will usually cut the mat with an opening of 7.75×9.75 so there is less masking of the image.

 

2-ArtworkAndMatBoard

 

 

  • The mat external size is the perimeter, or outside dimension, of the mat board. The mat external size should match the dimensions of the glazing.

Example: A mat board used to mount an 8×10 image in an 11×14 frame will have a mat external size of exactly 11×14 plus or minus 1/16 inch.

The Frame

This is where it gets a little tricky. For example, an 11x14 frame (which refers to the inside perimeter of the frame) used to frame an 8x10 image could be referred to as both an 8x10 frame or an 11x14 frame, assuming the complete frame package contains the appropriate mat board. However, an 11×14 frame with no mat will always be an 11×14 frame.

So is the frame dimension 11×14 or 8×10? The answer is neither.

If the frame size—not the mat opening—says 11×14, it is referring to the inside dimension. However, the frame will be cut slightly larger (typically 1/8 inch). This extra space allows room for the glazing, mounting board and mat board to fit without binding. It also allows for up to 1/16 inch error on the mat and glazing dimension as well as for expansion and contraction due to temperature changes.

When you’re purchasing a frame from Frame Destination, the size frame you select depends on whether or not you are including mat board. If you are including mat board, the frame size will be larger than the artwork size. If you are not including mat board, the frame size will match the artwork.

 

3-WithAndWithoutMatBoard

 

  • The outside frame size is the very outside of the frame, or the frame’s outside perimeter. It is seldom referred to unless you are concerned about placing the frame in a limited space.

 

5-OutsideFrameSize

 

Example: An 11×14 frame might actually have an external dimension of 14×17 if the moulding is 1 and ½ inches wide.

  • The rabbet depth tells you how much room you have inside the frame for mat board, glazing, and mount board. Some frame mouldings are not deep enough to allow a double mat or an 8-ply mat to fit.

 

6-RabbetDepth

About the author

author

Mark Rogers is an amateur photographer and the founder of Frame Destination, Inc. In 2004 Mark realized the framing industry was not keeping up with the evolution of photography via new digital technology and started Frame Destination in his garage. Now his company has thousands of do-it-yourself framing customers across the US that it helps with its 11,000 square feet production facility in Dallas, TX.

25 thoughts on “Picture Frame Dimensions Explained”

  • Adina Taylor

    Hi! I am having major issues in this department lol. My husband is an artist. His work is 11'' x 14'' what size frame would look right with his work? I am gonna put a 1 or 2 " mat on it.

    Reply
  • Mark Rogers

    Adina, Our standard size mat for 11x14 has equal 3 inch borders resulting in a 17x20 frame size. We also have a one that takes 11x14 to a standard 16x20 frame if you want to use an off the shelf picture frame. I would not recommend a 1" mat border since the frame over laps it a little and will look too thin. 2" is ok and select "custom" on our website and just enter in the opening of 10 3/4 x 13 3/4 and borders of 2-1/8" resulting in a 15x18 frame.
    http://www.framedestination.com/
    Cheers,
    Mark

    Reply
  • Kitty

    Where can you get frames that are deep enough to hold double mats?

    Reply
  • Mark Rogers

    Kitty,

    Most of our frames are deep enough for double mats. Any frame with a 3/8 inch rabbet can handle a double mat.

    Reply
  • Linnea

    I would like to know what the ratio of the picture to both the mat and the frame should be. Thank you.

    Reply
  • Mark Rogers

    Linea, I am afraid mat border size is very subjective and personal choice depending on what kind of art and picture frame you are hanging and where you are hanging it at. If you have little wall space, or want to save money on the frame cost smaller borders will help you with that. If you want more of a gallery look to the framing package or you will be displaying it in an actual gallery with high ceilings and large walls then 4 inch and larger borders will look good. You can get an idea of some typical choices for various sizes of artwork by looking at our list of standard picture frame sizes.

    Reply
  • Susana

    I have a Business License which is 3 5/8" x 8 1/2" I don't know what the dimension of the frame should be but I'd like it to have a matt.

    Reply
    • Mark Rogers

      Susana, Mat size is pretty up to you but typical mat border size for an image that size is 1-1/2 to 2 inches. You can also get a mat that will create a frame size of 11x14 so that you can use off the shelf picture frames or just buy everything in a custom frame kit from us. We have help on custom mat sizes here: http://www.framedestination.com/double_custom_mat_help.html Also free feel to call or us at 972-479-1188.

      Reply
  • Corinne

    Hi! My daughter did a drawing that i would like to frame. It is 8 1/2 x 14? What size and type of frame can I get for this? Thanks so much!

    Reply
  • Mark Rogers

    Hi Corinne,

    You can get any type of frame we carry in that size. You can see our wood frames here:
    http://www.framedestination.com/Wood_Picture_Frame_Moulding.html
    and our metal frames here:
    http://www.framedestination.com/Metal_Picture_Frames_Moulding.html
    If you do not want a mat and you just need glass and backing you can go here:
    http://www.framedestination.com/Picture_Frame_Kits.html
    Select wood or metal and on the next page select "no mat".
    Then select "custom" for the size and enter 8-1/2 x 14.
    If you do want a mat that makes things a little more complicated and I would suggest you call our customer service at 972-479-1188 so they can help you understand your options for mat types and mat sizes.

    Reply
  • Regina Simpson

    I have a 5 1/2 x 13 3/4 photo I am looking for a frame to fit this photo or a size of mat to a 7 1/2x 16 1/2 frame that it is displayed in already.

    Reply
  • Mark Rogers

    Regina, since the frame is larger than the photo, doesn't it already have a mat? Regardless we sell mats and frames by themselves, or together in any size. Check out our website and feel free to call us if you have questions at 972-479-1188.

    Reply
  • Tom

    Mark,

    First, great site. Second, I am making a custom frame for my God Son's poster I got him that is 22 x 34 inches. I was going to get some chair rail to use for the frame since its more decorative and has a rabbet already cut.

    1. Is this sound reasoning?
    2. what dimensions or formula should I use to cut the chair rail?

    Thanks for any help you can give me.

    Tom

    Reply
  • Mark Rogers

    Tom, you will need to make sure the inside dimension of the frame is about 22-1/8 inches by 34-1/8 inches. The extra 1/8 inch is so you can have a little error on the frame size and the glass or acrylic size and not have the wood and glazing bind.

    Reply
  • jay

    Tom,

    Backwards question, I have glass that is cut 20 by 24 and need to purchase a metal frame for a print to fit that size glass.What size frame should I order?

    Thanks

    Reply
  • Mark Rogers

    Hi Jay,

    For 20x24 glass you would purchase a 20x24 frame.

    Reply
  • Emily

    Hi Mark,

    I'm framing a set of stamps, (dorky, i know!) and they measure out to be 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" and there is no room on the edges for overlap, but i feel they will look better with matting. Do you have any suggestions? I was thinking that I could just have the opening as 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" and adhere the stamp set to the matting before framing.

    Reply
  • Mark Rogers

    Hi Emily,

    That might work, but it is tough to do since it is unlikely they will be exactly the same size and the mat and stamps can change size as the temperature changes. I would cut the mat larger and float mount the stamps on the mounting board. For example you could make the mat opening 9"x5" which would leave a 1/4 border around the edge of the stamps. Then just t-hinge the stamps to the foamcore backing board.

    Reply
  • Berta

    Is it okay to have side mat borders a bit narrower (1/2" each side) than top and bottom? Picture is horizontal landscape about 21 x 12.

    Reply
    • Mark Rogers

      Yes Berta, if you feel it gives you the look you like. You can preview that on our website and maybe temporarily make then even narrower to make sure you like the effect. 16x20 frames with mats for 11x14 artwork have borders that are 1/2 inch different.

      Reply
  • Michael

    My mount size is approximately 13" x 11"
    Can you tell me what frame size I need to look for?
    Many thanks.

    Reply
  • Mark Rogers

    Michael, if you do not need a mat then you can just get a 11x13 picture frame from us. Just select "customize this preset frame size" below the popular size pull down. If you want a mat will still need to select custom size, however, you can select 2 or 3 inch borders and the website will calculate the frame size for you. Please call us if you have more questions. 972-479-1188.

    Reply
  • Dan

    hi im having trouble. I ordered 2 prints that came in and have a white 5 cm border around them. I want to get it framed and mated. The dimensions of the image are 40x28 cm and 40x34 cm. I know that the mate has a 1/4 overlap so im not sure what size i should order.

    Reply
  • Prasanth Sylvester
    Prasanth Sylvester December 4, 2016 at 3:00 am

    Awesome Info. I've been looking for this sort of information for last few days.
    Is there any relation btw picture (the actual picture, in your example 8x10) & Mat opening 11x14?
    Also, frame border I want to keep it thing. How about 1/2 inch?
    I've never done this before, I am kind of worried, if these three have any relation? :-) (Frame border x actual photograph x matt opening).

    Reply
    • Mark Rogers

      In the case of 8x10 opening for 11x14 frame it is one standard frame size 8x10 being placed into another standard frame size of 11x14 which is what causes the borders to be unequal. There are not hard rules but generally it does not make sense to have mat borders much larger than the image but there are times were that guideline is ignored. Generally as the image gets larger it makes sense to have the borders get larger as well. 4x6 matted to 8x10 has smaller borders than 11x14 image matted to 16x20 frame. In regards to the frame border again, no hard fast rules, but it does not make much sense to use a 3 inch wide frame moulding for an 8x10 picture frame. For photography a gallery style is very common where the idea is to have a narrow frame to help keep the frame from detracting from the print. For most images 16x20 and smaller frame sizes between 1/4 inch and 1 inch are fine. It mostly depends on what you like and what the decor you are placing the framed image in.

      Reply

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