How to: order the right size picture frame, each and every time

Written by chris pink on January 16, 2014 in Picture Framing

If there’s one thing a picture framer likes to get right the very first time – and that goes for the customer too, no less – it’s the size of the frame. Obvious we know, but please bear with us!

What we mean by that specifically, of course, is the size of the aperture that the art-work will go into – and remember, there’s usually a rebate of around 5/6mm which will cover-up the very edges of the art-work. The last thing you want when ordering a bespoke frame for your oil painting or photograph is to discover that the fit is too tight…but equally, a too loose fit won’t be good news either.

In this how-to, we’re going to cover exactly how you avoid the common problems, resulting in the perfect fit for your piece that’s neither too tight or too loose.

Step 1: work out what overall size you want your piece to end up

Do you know what size you want your frame to be? When considering having a piece framed, remember that you could cut the photo or art-work down if it’s currently too large, and end up with a smaller size of frame than you’d originally intended. Reasons for doing this could be practical (it looks too big right now for the space it’s going into) or aesthetic (you want a wide frame, and that’ll mean losing some of the width of the mount to accommodate the look). Either way, it’s always best to consider a range of options rather than just sticking with what you’ve got.

Step 2: adding that all-important extra room…

It goes without saying – or should do! – that the frame is going to be larger than the art-work by around several millimetres on every side. Contrary to popular belief, if a frame aperture is the same size or only just larger than the art-work, it’s going to be a tight fit that will be difficult to put together (this is particularly true of canvasses, which traditionally require more room to allow for pinning-in).

To get the right measurement, be sure to add around 5mm onto the width and the height. Just make sure you don’t add it twice!

Step 3: double-checking your measurements is never a bad idea

Once you have the correct size of your frame written down – always write it down for future reference! – you’ll probably want to go back to the frame just before you order to do one last check. Especially if a week has gone by and you’re beginning to have second-thoughts about if that 3 is really a 3. This final double-check is a crucial part of the process – when you’re in a hurry, it’s amazing how costly mistakes can be made.

Step 4: for future reference…

Once your frame arrives, put your mount/art-work into the aperture. Assuming you’ve left the right amount of room, it should fit comfortably, rocking from side-to-side and up-and-down just a bit, making a clicking noise.

Step 5: useful tips and advice on too-big and too-small frames

Our advice would be to never cram and push a piece into a too-small frame. Your best option, if your piece is too large for the frame, is to cut the mount down if it has one – although this can be tricky when you’re only trimming 2mm off each side of the mount! Cutting perspex or glass down is obviously even harder, although both are relatively inexpensive, so you probably won’t need to.

Some people will occasionally cut down the inside of the frame with a craft knife, but we wouldn’t recommend this unless you’re absolutely desperate or you only have to remove a tiny amount of wood to get the piece in (note: this only usually works with soft-wood frames anyway, so often it’s a waste of time to try).

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