Accurately Measure Artwork for Framing

Measuring your artwork for framing is often the first step in the framing process. This might seem like a redundant first step, but often the error occurs due to a missing tool or any unexpected disturbance.

Best approach to find the correct size of the picture frame is to work from the artwork size outward, adding measurements until you arrive at the frame size. This involves easy arithmetic and good concentration.

Following measurement needs to be considered while measuring artwork:

  • Window’s Mat’s size

  • Border of the Mat

  • Overall Mat size

  • Glass size and its backing

  • Frame’s size


As per popular belief, “Frame Size”, is not a measure from edge to edge of a frame, rather it is measure of the “rabbet” of the frame or recess at the back of the frame, the area that holds the modules that load into it.

The process to find the correct Frame size starts by finding the size of mat’s window. Normally this is decided by the way we plan to choose to display the artwork. There are three methods to display artwork:

  • Only the image is shown in the window of the mat.

  • Image and some of the border area surrounding the image is shown

  • Show the edges of the paper

If the plan is to show the edges of the paper, the best method is to allow the edges of the mat’s window to overlap the edges of the image by ¼” on each side. Since there are two sides to each dimension (one on either side of the width and one on either side of the height) the window can be determined by subtracting a half inch from the height and width of the image. If you plan to show only the image then the best approach is to allow the edges of the mat’s window to overlap the edges of the image by ¼” on each side.

Once the size of the window is determined, next step is to determine the size of the border around the picture. There are tools such as Border Finder available to simplify the process. For determining the size of the mat, you can add size of the window and border size. This will help in determining overall size of the mat, which is also equal to size of the glass and backing board and, most importantly, the frame size.

Write down these measurements in a way it is easy to follow as these will form the basis for cutting the mat and building the picture frame of a correct size. Hence, this is how to measure artwork for framing and make sure you have

  • Flat surface and a good lit up area

  • Good quality ruler or tape measure

  • A pencil, sheet of blank paper and an eraser

  • High concentration to avoid errors.


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