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.
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. /
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.
- 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.
This is where it gets a little tricky. For example, an 11x14 picture 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, be it one of our largest or smallest like our 5 x 7 frames, 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.
- 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.
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.