Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How to take the insanity out of framing artwork.

Stacks and stacks of picture frames next to dozens of precut mats in an assortment of sizes… you have seen them displayed, admired the choices, and found that none of them fit your artwork. Help is on the way!

You see, there is (as Mom said) “method in the madness”! You just have to know what the method is and how to separate it from the madness. In picture framing, the method is “standard size frames and mats” and the madness is “paper sizes don’t always match the frame sizes”.

Here’s the scenario… You dash into the art store and race down the paper aisle. You find a luscious tablet of paper that is just what you want, so you rush home and start creating. Then you find out that the paper just flat doesn’t fit any precut mats or frames.

Here’s the answer: If you want to be able to use the readymade frames and mats, know your standard sizes before you create your artwork.

So, here you go ~ from my umpty-ump years of professional picture framing experience, I give you ***tada*** the most common standard (imperial or inches) sizes:

5 x 7

8 x 10

8.5 x 11

9 x 12

10 x 13

11 x 14

12 x 16

14 x 18

16 x 20

18 x 24

20 x 24

24 x 30

24 x 36

Aren’t you glad you know that now? Oh, why are some italicized? Those sizes are a little less common and you may have to seek a picture frame supplier who has a larger selection in order to find them.

If your artwork doesn’t require a mat, all of your framing problems have been solved. Well, a good portion of them, at any rate.

If your artwork needs a mat, then you just need to match up your mat opening size with the frame size. For instance, 5 x 7 inch artwork will fit nicely in an 8 x 10 inch frame. 14 x 18 inch artwork will fit nicely in a 20 x 24 inch frame.

When you purchase readymade mats, you will probably notice that many shops won’t have mats for frames that are larger than 11 x 14. That’s because lots of people are creating a custom frame for the larger sized artworks. Do not panic. You can still buy a readymade frame and have a mat cut to fit your artwork. In fact, if you don’t like that fucia mat or you are tired of white mats and more white mats, you can have a custom mat cut for your artwork and your selected readymade frame. Picture framers are nice people with lots of wonderful ideas so wander around in your favorite shop and ask them to show you what they would suggest.

Your country uses metric? Yes, you have standard sizes, too! They are close to these sizes, but not exactly the same. Do a search for “standard metric picture frame sizes” and you will find lots of information about standard sizes as well as many companies who sell readymade picture frames.

There you go! No you have the “method” and you can toss the “madness” out the window when you go to frame your next treasure.

Happy creating!




  1. That seems to be how it always goes doesn't thing is perfect, but doesn't fit with another! That's where we get crafty :)

  2. I can remember my very first Arches block at 7x10 and no ready cut mats!
    After the cost of a custom cut mat I quickly ordered a mat cutter and a bunch of matboard.

    It's still one of my favorite sizes for painting and looks good in an 11x14 frame.

    (Plus it makes a nice 5x7 greeting card when folded in half :D )

  3. Very true, memories! Especially fun when you are working with artwork that is on paper.

    Me, too, Lee! LOL - I owed a frame shop at the time and I quickly went and cut a bunch of readymade mats with openings to fit my paper! Nice idea about the card = I had used it to make two 5 x 7s before, but I hadn't thought to turn it into a card.

    Thanks, Pam. The standard metric sizes are really close to these, too.

  4. As good presentation can make a world of difference in any artwork, these are great tips for aspiring photographers and artists who have never worked around with frames and pre cut mats before.

  5. A lot of great information, Kathy. Thanks.

  6. Thanks, Sarah. Using readymade mats and frames from a custom frame shop may give you a greater variety in sizes as well. Custom picture frame shops are usually more sensitive to the harder to find "standard" sizes in both frames and mats. Additionally, many custom frame shops will use smaller pieces of custom moulding to create standard size readymade frames. Voila! Beautiful custom framing at a readymade price!

    Thanks, Carole - Just thought I would share some of the tips I learned from all of those years working in the picture framing industry! Glad you liked the post =)


Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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