Measuring Your Artwork

Measuring artwork may not be rocket science, but there are some procedures to follow that help ensure a perfect-fitting mat and picture frame.

First, remember that the first inch on most rulers and tape measures is not a true inch. Start from the second inch for a more exact measurement – don’t forget to subtract an inch for the final number. Be sure to measure to the closest 1/16”.

American®Frame offers the following measuring suggestions to help you get the perfect art frame every time:

Tape Measure

Measuring Art Without Mat

Measuring artwork to frame without a mat


When framing artwork without a mat, measure the width and height of the art, entering those numbers as the art size when ordering. The art size is the inside measurement of the frame – not the opening at the front of the frame. The frame lip will overlap the artwork by approximately 1/4.” If the desired frame package includes a mat, remove it from the online order by clicking “remove all matting” or the “remove” button next to the mat in the shopping cart.

Measuring artwork to frame with a mat


The mat window is typically cut 1/4” smaller in both directions, allowing the mat to overlap the artwork by 1/8” on all sides. This enables the art to stay secure in the framing treatment without the risk of falling through the window opening. The American Frame website automatically calculates this when you order a custom frame package. Just measure the width and height of the artwork, entering those amounts as the art size when ordering.

If the artist signature is close to the edge of the art, the mat overlap may be changed from 1/8” to 1/16”. Note: Making this change can make the art tricky to mount.

Design Your Package
Measuring Canvas For Framing

Measuring artwork to float within a frame


A floating treatment can be a good option if the artwork is on textured paper, has a deckled edge, or is a time-worn document for which seeing the edges adds character.

First, the artwork must be attached to an uncut mat board or mounting board. To do this, measure the width and height of the art. Then decide how much of a border you want around the piece. Add the border width on the left and right to your overall width. Then, add the boarder width from the top and bottom to your overall heighth. This total is the size of the uncut mat, frame, acrylic, and mounting board needed. On our website, this would be entered as the frame size.

Measuring canvas for framing


Canvas isn’t always square, so we recommend measuring at the top, middle, and bottom in both directions for the most accurate measurement. If these numbers vary, order a frame with the largest measurement to ensure the canvas fits. If the measurements vary by more than 1/4”, a canvas floater frame is recommended.

Be sure to include the additional canvas folded at the corners – not just the size of the stretcher bars. The folded canvas can add up to 1/8” to the measurement. Remember to also take the canvas depth into consideration. Select a frame with a rabbet depth – the inner portion of the frame that holds the canvas – that is deeper than the canvas stretcher bars. Note: Rabbet depth of all our picture frames can be found on the frame detail page as the “R” measurement.

Measuring Canvas For Framing

Measuring artwork with an existing border or reveal


Prints and photographs often have a border around them that the owner may want to display because the artist signature resides there. Measure the artwork, including the extra space you want to be showing. Double the border width, adding this number to the artwork dimensions, which will be the size of the mat window opening.

When ordering this, enter the dimensions of the mat window as the art size. Then, change the mat overlap amount to “zero” so the website does not automatically calculate it.

Design Your Package