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How to Measure Art for Framing

February 21, 2017

Measuring art for framing may seem fairly simple, and often it is. You have a print that says it's 8x10, you buy an 8x10 frame, and you're all set. But sometimes, it gets a little more complicated than that. This post should help you understand how to measure art for framing.

 

In the picture below, we have an example of one of these simple measurements. By holding the hook of the tape measure at one end of the paper, and pulling it until it lines up with the other end of the paper, we see we have a measurement of 13". Do this again for the vertical measurement, and you're all set to buy a frame that fits the picture as is.

A traditionally cut and sized picture frame will, in most cases, cover 1/4" of the art work all the way around. This doesn't matter much on a white-bordered piece like this one, but it can cause problems in other scenarios, which is why measuring accurately for framing is very important.

 

For example, you want to add a mat - or you don't want to add a mat, but you REALLY don't like that white border. In either case, what you need now is what is called a "sight size" or a "sight opening". This means that the visual open area of the mat or frame will be cut to your precise measurement, allowing you to see only what you want to see. In most cases, this does involve covering a little bit of the printed area of the artwork - less than 1/8" all around. This ensures that even if things aren't quite squared up, you will see no white around the borders of your image.

 

In the picture below, you'll see that I have "pulled an inch" with the tape measure and am holding it firmly against the paper - and that the 1" mark is slightly into the blue area of the print. Looking at my measurement on the other side, I read the first mark that's entirely in the blue - 11-5/8". This is NOT my measurement - remember that we "pulled an inch" and we now have to subtract that inch*. So our mat opening/frame opening/sight opening/sight size is 10-5/8". Repeat for the vertical measurement and you're all set.

But what if you liked the white? What if you wanted to keep some of it just to provide breathing room between the mat and the printed area, or between the printed area and the frame? What we want to do is add a border strip. 

 

In the picture below, you'll see that I have "pulled an inch" but that I have lined up that 1" mark 1/4" of an inch away from the printed area. We read the tape measure on the other side, adding 1/4" past the measurement. This gives us 12-1/4" from which we subtract our pulled inch, leaving us with 11-1/4". Repeat for the vertical measurement and you're all set!

 

 *"Pulling an inch" is a fairly standard practice among those who need to measure precisely and who are armed only with a traditional tape measure.The problem with a traditional tape measure is that the head is often riveted on in such a way that the flange obscures the markings that you use as reference points. In addition, the flange can loosen over time. There are nicer, higher end tape measures you can buy, but for the most part, we just pull an inch. For me, it's so ingrained that I don't even think about it any more.

 

 

 

As an added bonus, here's an amazing diagram I found on Wikipedia which will hopefully help those of you who are "fractionally challenged". It helps to remember that 1/8" is equal to 2/16", and 1/4" is equal to 4/16" and so on. 

 

I hope this has been helpful to you, and that you now have a better idea of how to measure art for framing!

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