Understanding Print and Frame Size.

Prints, mats, and frames come in a bewildering variety of sizes and often list multiple measurements.  Ordering online can make the whole process even more confusing.  Decorating a nursery is a lot less fun when you find that your new nursery art doesn't fit the frames you purchased.  Let's talk about what all the numbers mean so that you can order online with confidence.

Ok, let's get started with art print info first.

Print Sizing. Prints usually include two sets of measurements.

  • Paper size = The total exterior dimensions of the paper.
  • Image size = The dimensions of the image itself.

If the artwork has a colored background the image size is fairly straightforward. If the art sits on a white background it can be a bit more confusing.  Is the image size the size of the actual drawing, how do you know what size frame that fits? Thankfully, the image size is the area that is meant to be displayed.  This includes some white background. We include a dotted line that indicates the background edge and our image measurements are taken from there. 

Diagram of Paper Llamas print and paper size information.

All of our prints are sold by image size. That means when your print arrives it will be on paper larger than the image itself. We leave that extra white margin because it offers a lot of protection in transit. If your postman has anger issues the prints can be knocked about a bit and survive.  The margin provides a built-in insurance policy against dinged corners. The extra canvas paper also stabilizes the print behind a mat.

If you don't want to use a mat the extra margin will need to be removed since it will prevent the print from fitting into the correct size frame. Thankfully someone a long time ago invented scissors for this very purpose. Trimming prints is easy! Just cut along the dotted line or along the edge of the colored background. You have a ¼ inch lip so any uneven cutting will disappear behind the mat or frame edge.  That brings us to frame sizing.

Mat and Frame Sizing:  

  • Frame size = The inside dimensions of the frame. The size of the area where the art should go.
  • Mat outside size = This larger size indicates what frame the mat will fit.
  • Mat inside size = This smaller size indicates what size the art should be. 

Frame labels indicate the size of the opening behind the lip on the back side of the frame.  This is the area where the image goes.  So an 8 x 10 frame would fit an 8 x 10 mat or image. The front openings of mats and frames are ½ in smaller than the labeled size.  This gives a ¼ inch margin all the way around to hold the print in place and cover the edges of the paper.

The outside measurements of frames aren't advertised and vary based on the thickness of the frame.  They don't affect the framing process.

So if you don't intend to use a mat be sure to purchase frames that are the same size as your prints, and be ready to trim off the extra margin of white that is included with the print.

If you do intend to use mats then the prints should be the same size as the advertised mat opening.  For example, 16 x 20 frames often come with 12 x 16 mats and that combo would require 12 x 16 prints.

Here is a handy infographic with all the measurements for 11 x 14 frames with 8 x 10 prints spelled out.  

Learn all the measurments you need to know to purchase art online.

So now that we have all the numbers straight, let's see how do these puppies work on the wall.  Be sure to check out my handy-dandy write-up on frame size and groupings. 

How to Hang Nursery Art: Size and Groupings


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