Picture Framing Information

Comments on Gallery Style Picture Frames

99% of our customers are photographers and the bulk of our sales are for galleries, art shows, and general retail of photo prints. For this reason we specialize in “gallery style”. It is not for everyone and its choice depends on your house décor and personal tastes. I will tell you a little about it and contrast it with what a custom framer will do in an effort to help make you aware of your options. In “gallery style” the goal is for the frame to set the artwork off from the wall and highlight it without detracting from the image. In general it relies on a simple, fairly thin black frame with a fairly large white mat. When I say large mat, I mean about a 4 inch border all the way around the image. Use of a mat or spacer is critical for conservation since the image must be kept off the glass or acrylic. One of the advantages of this style is that it helps provide consistency for a gallery exhibit of photographers work. Assuming the photographer has a recognizable style, the consistency of the frames will help keep them from distracting that style or theme. You can also reuse the same frames for lots of different pictures. Gallery style can work very well with some contemporary home décor styles. It does not work with “rural country’ or “rustic” home décor styles.

In the non-gallery style the goal is to create a frame package that is an extension of the artwork. Typically you would try to select one or two colors in the image and then select complimentary mat and frame colors to help cause them to pop or to emphasize those colors. You also select a shape for the frame that can help provide lines that are consistent with the flow of the image. This is what skilled customer framers are great at and it is one of the reasons custom frames are understandably more expensive. The non-gallery style may also include mat/frame selection related to the décor in your house. Of course this is not a concern when displaying work in galleries and more neutral style such as gallery style can be more beneficial in this case.

Dimensions Explained for Picture Frames

This is not a simple topic; however, we get a lot of questions about it so I decided to clarify some of the common terms.

Artwork size: This is the size of your image and not necessarily the paper. For instance, an 8x10 from a photo lab will usually be 8x10, but you can print an 8x10 at home on 8.5x11 paper.

Mat exact opening: This is the dimension of the hole cut in the mat. A typical store-bought ready-made frame for an 8x10 photo will have a mat opening of 7.5x9.5. This will allow the mat to overlap the image by ¼ inch on all 4 sides. It also helps to hold the image down. Mats cut by custom frame shops will usually have an opening of 7.75x9.75 so there is less masking of the image.

Mat external size: A mat used to mount an 8x10 image in an 11x14 frame will have an external size of exactly 11x14 +/- 1/16 inch.

Frame size: This one is trickier. In the case of an 11x14 frame used to frame an 8x10 image, the frame might be referred to as 8x10 or 11x14 frame size (assuming the complete frame package contains the appropriate mat). An 11x14 frame with no mat will always be an 11x14 frame. So is the actual frame dimension 11x14 or 8x10? The answer is neither. If the frame size (not mat opening) is 11x14 then it is referring to the inside dimension. However, the frame will be cut a little larger, typically 1/8 inch. That allows room for the glass, mounting board and mat to fit without binding. It also allows for up to 1/16 inch error on the mat and glass dimension, as well as for expansion and contraction due to temperature changes.

Outside frame size: This dimension is the very outside of the frame. It is seldom referred to unless you are concerned about placing the frame in a limited space. An 11x14 frame might actually have an external dimension of 14x17 if the moulding is 1 and ½ inches wide.

Rabbet depth: This dimension tells you how much room you have inside the frame for mat board, glass, and mount board. Some frame mouldings are not deep enough to allow a double mat or an 8-ply mat to fit.