5x7 no mat board
5x7 framed without matting.

To Mat or Not to Mat …

What is this question that you’re asking me? 

Choosing the right frame starts with determining the dimensions of the artwork you want framed — namely, the height and width. Those two numbers will determine the size of the frame’s pocket and is the size we refer to when we talk about frame sizes.  For example, a 5″ x 7″ frame has an opening that is 5″ x 7″.  However, if your 5″ x 7″ artwork is matted to a finished size of 8″ x 10″, then you would need an 8″ x 10″ frame. 

5x7 matted to 8x10 then framed.

If it’s a photograph, a letter, card, or flat art piece you want framed, you might consider putting a windowed mat around it to size it larger in order to make it more aesthetically pleasing. Matting adds a wow factor and gives your work greater presence while creating a space between the print and glazing (usually glass or plexiglass) to help preserve and protect your photo, certificate, or artwork.   If you’re planning on putting a collage of frames on the wall, consider mixing it up with matted and non-matted works. 

When I first got into fashioning picture frames someone wise taught me that art is composed of 30% inspiration and talent.  The remaining 70%?  Is in its presentation. I have since, kept that in mind whenever I’ve been entrusted with something to frame.

The rabbet or pocket height determines how much can go in the frame. Deep frames are great for 3-D artwork or to 'float' special pieces in the center of them.

Natural wood frames have rabbets or pockets that are just slightly over 1/2″ deep. That’s just enough to insert a 1/8″ thick piece of glazing (glass or plexiglass), a mat board, photograph or art paper, and 1/4″ backer.   If you need deeper pockets consider our taller moldings, or email us with your specifications and let us fashion your custom frame.

Once you have the dimensions of your work to be framed you need to decide on the width of the molding.  Look at the illustrations below for a perspective of how molding width affects it’s appearance and select the width you like best based on the frame size closest to what you need. 

Popular Frame Sizes in Scaled Perspective

(with mat board inserts for visual reference)

How wide a frame you need is a matter of choice, personal taste, or a need to fit into its future surroundings.  Do you want it to blend in or stand out? Is the frame’s presence more important that the art piece, itself? Of do you want the frame to simply complement the artwork. Maybe an equal balance – a high-end frame for a high-end art work?    Do you want a heavier look to anchor the space where it will be placed?


5″ x 7″ frames shown with a 4″ x 6″ mat board insert.  (click to see larger image)

1-inch 5x7
1" x 5" x 7"
1 1/8" Wide 5" x 7"
1 1/4" Wide 5" x 7"
1 1/2"W x 7/8" Tall
1 7/8" Wide 5" x 7"
2" Wide 5" x 7"

8″ x 10″ frames shown with 5″ x 7″ mat board insert.  (click to see larger image)

1-inch 8" x 10"
1 1/4"W 8" x 10"
1-inch 8" x 10"
2-inch 8" x 10"

11″ x 14″ frames shown with 8″ x 10″ mat board insert.  (click to see larger image)

1.0"W 11" x 14"
1 1/4-inch 8"x10"
1 1/2-inch 11x14
2-inch 11 x 14"

16″ x 20″ frames shown with 11″ x 14″ mat board inset.  (click to see larger image)

1"W 16" x 20"
1 1/4"W 16" x 20"
1 1.2-inch 16"x20"
2-inch 16" x 20"

If you know the size and ‘look’ of the frame you want, it’s time to select a molding style. 

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