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How thick should a picture frame be?

What are the proportions in picture framing?

If you’ve ever wondered what the proportions are in picture framing this is the best way to find out.

It may be fun, to play around with proportions until you find the perfect one but, it’s sometimes a good practice to follow a template that guarantees a good result.

The following concepts will be gone over to see how they can positively and negatively impact the final result of a framed display.

This is something that has been used for a long time by architects and artists and is considered aesthetically sound. It can be used, in picture framing, to determine a visually pleasing photo to mat ratio.

The traditional mat sizes that are considered correct aren’t exactly aligned with the golden ratio calculations.

Frame Size

The size of the frame has an impact on the visual effect of a framed artwork as much as the mat size does. There are certain guidelines that keep the image from being overpowered by the border.

Aspect Ratio

The aspect ratio is used to figure out alternate sizes for photographs so that they can be resized without flattening or stretching an image.

What is the aspect ratio?

The aspect ratio is one of the most important mathematical concepts that one needs to understand when it comes to framing and printing photos. It’s not a very complicated equation but it does cause confusion.

So, what is the aspect ratio?

It is the comparison of width and height of a 2-dimensional surface. You may be able to understand it if you’re familiar with television screens. If you’ve ever had a squished up or stretched out image on your screen, you’ve likely had to play around with the aspect ratio to fix it. There is a rhyme or reason to it, even though some of us just go through the options until the image looks correct.

What does this have to do with printing and photography?

Well, this comes into play when you decide you want your image resized. Take this for example, if you have a 10 x 14 image and decide that you want it resized you wouldn’t be able to resize it to 20 x 30 or 10 x 14 and still have the image be properly proportioned. 20 x 25 would work, but you would need a way to figure that out. If you don’t have an image editor such as Photoshop on hand, there are ways to figure it out with a calculator.

For example:

10 x 10 aspect ratio: 10/10 = 1; aspect ratio = 1:1 (all square images)

16 x 20 Aspect ratio: 20/16 = 1.25; aspect ratio = 1:1.25

20 x 24 Aspect ratio: 24x20 = 1.2; aspect ratio = 1:1.20

What is the Golden Ratio?

The Golden Ratio is represented by Phi, a greek letter and means: “the ratio of two quantities is the same as the ratio of their sum to the larger of the two quantities.” This translates to Phi is equal to 1.618 (rounded to 3 decimal places).

You’re probably wondering what this has to do with a picture frame. Well, the Golden Ratio is often considered the most aesthetic of the visual proportions. Salvador Dali created art, for instance, using it. The reason for this respect (one of them at least) is the way that it manifests itself in nature.

One can determine a version of “the best” display by deciding on a picture mat or frame that has the golden ratio in relation to the photo.

The golden rectangle is manifested via the golden ratio. A golden rectangle is created by following the steps below.

  1. Make a simple square

  2. Draw a line from the midpoint of one side of the square to an opposite corner

  3. Use that line as the radius to draw an arc that defines the height of the rectangle

  4. Complete the golden rectangle

What does mat size have to do with frame size?

Once upon a time there were very specific rules on the perfect mat size. Today however, the laws have been bent and broken with skill and style, but there are still those who would like to be told the ideal width.

Frame Proportions

The Frame Size

It’s not a bad thing to have a large frame for a small image. In all actuality, in this day and age, wide mats have been quite the trending topic. The berth of white space may even be the intended focus of the display, depending on the piece being displayed and the style of the frame.

The Frame Face

Most of us are aware of this but, the bigger the photograph or piece of artwork, the wider the picture frame face. Nowadays many artists and decorators are choosing to frame smaller pieces in smaller frames with faces that are nearly as wide as the width of the image.

More important than the photograph to frame ratio is the frame to mat ratio. Avoid pairing a mat with a frame that is larger or of the same size as the frame. Your mat should usually be 1.5 times as wide as your frame or wider. If the mat is smaller than the frame, you actually run the risk of the artwork appearing stuffed into the frame. If the mat and frame are similar in size, they fight for attention and the artwork is lost in that battle.

There you go, you now know how thick a mat and frame should be. If you need help with framing your piece or would like to view more articles, go here or here, respectively.


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