This page is here to help you choose the right picture frame, which can be surprisingly confusing. You may be worried that your photo or artwork is an odd size, or you might want a picture with borders and you aren’t sure how to figure the final size. Hopefully we can clear that up and you can buy a frame with confidence.
What frame size will fit my picture?
The simplest answer is to just match the frame to the size of the picture! Frames are always listed for sale by the inside dimension. This means if you have a 16×20 piece of artwork, it will fit a 16×20 frame, as simple as that! Here is a list of the standard frame sizes in inches. Click on a link to find these picture frame sizes on Amazon.
The Standard Picture Frame Sizes:
Picture frame sizes with matted artwork
For a nicer presentation, most people want a border around the picture before the edge of the frame starts. This is called a mat or matte, and it is not merely cosmetic. It is also important for keeping art or photographs off of the surface of the glass or acrylic where condensation can occur and cause damage.
When buying a frame for something already mounted onto a mat, measure the outside dimension of the mat. Purchase a frame that matches this size (remember, standard picture frame sizes are listed by the inside dimension).
In order to figure out what picture frame sizes you need to look for, start by carefully measuring your picture. Next, you need to decide how much border you want on the outside of the picture. There is really no rule of thumb here, but if you are stumped try using this chart as a starting point:
Image Size in this chart refers to the size of your artwork or picture. This is just a quick guide that shows a few of the more common standard picture frame sizes. From this you can see that an image border (the exposed mat) is usually between 1 1/2-4 inches.
For example, in the image below you can see a standard photo size with an 11×14 mat, placed in a 16×20 frame. The border in this image, which is centered in the frame, is 2 1/2 x 3 inches:
Once you know the border size, and thus the mat size, you can shop for picture frame sizes that match this. Using the example frame above, you would be looking for a 16×20 frame with a mat for an 11×14 picture, like this one for sale on Amazon.
The illustration above is actually a simplification of reality. In practice, most pre-cut mat openings will be 1/4inch smaller (on each side) than the dimensions of the photo the mat is designed to fit. This is simply to prevent the artwork from falling out of the mat window, or leaving a gap around the image. Although this 1/4inch discrepancy is not usually mentioned when purchasing pre-cut mats installed in frames, it is critical to keep it in mind when ordering custom cut mats. Most professional frame shops will attempt to reduce this overlap to 1/8inch on each side to maximize image area.
Picture frame sizes for odd-sized art
What if the art you need to frame doesn’t fit into the list of standard picture frame sizes at the top of the page??? Don’t be afraid. Here are a couple options:
Order a custom-cut mat, or find a pre-cut mat that matches your picture
Even if your artwork doesn’t fit into one of the standard picture frame sizes, there may be mats available for it. If you can find a mat whose opening (or sometimes, “mat window”) matches your artwork, you’re golden! Remember to check whether the listing shows actual mat window size or “will fit picture of X size.” If the vendor only lists actual mat window/opening size, be sure to factor for 1/4inch smaller than the measured size of your picture.
There are several options for custom cut mats. If you plan on doing a lot of custom sized work, consider purchasing a mat cutter and learning to cut the mats yourself. There are several online retailers that will cut mats to any size you want and ship them to you. Don’t forget that the nearest town probably still has a frame shop, and most of them are more than willing to cut a mat for you. At a price, of course!
Trim your artwork
Eeek! Trim the artwork?? Well hey, as long as this isn’t a museum quality piece or highly valuable artwork, this is a viable option. A good quality paper cutter, or even a steady hand with a straight edge and a razor blade are all you need. Just find a mat that is o-so-slightly smaller than your picture and cut down to the image size that the mat is rated for. Buy picture frame sizes for the outside dimensions of the mat and you’re on your way.
Or if you want to save even more money (and clearly you do, since you just butchered little Johnny’s picture he gave you) you can scrimp on the mat and just trim the picture down to one of the standard picture frame sizes listed above, for a flush frame (with no mat).
Go buy the picture frame you need!
Whether you’re looking for a cheap picture frame to display your nephew’s drawing, or a fine museum quality frame, now know how to select the proper frame size. Happy shopping!
This article brought to you by the Frame Guy