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Calculating Border Sizes

Knowing what size to cut your mat borders to is a mystery to some first time framers. But in reality a perfectly cut mat that proportionately surrounds your artwork can be done without needing a degree in physics. Unless you happen to own a $50,000 computer programmed, automated mat cutter, some simple mat skills are still required when figuring border sizes of mats. But don't worry, it's not that difficult. The following show the steps on how to measure your artwork, decide on the overall mat size, and identifying each of the border widths.

1. Measure your artwork
Use a reliable ruler and measure both the left to right and top to bottom dimensions of your picture. Measure exactly at the edges from where you want to the image to show through the mat. In this example the overall photo size is 8-1/2" x 10-1/2" (21.6cm x 26.7cm) but the actual image size measures to exactly 8" x 10" (20.3cm x 25.4cm). This tells you that the opening of your mat needs to be 8" x 10" (20.3cm x 25.4cm).

2. Decide what frame size to use
An average border size for mats is from 1-1/2" (3.8cm) to 3" (7.6cm) so deciding what frame size to use can be easy. Add three to five inches to the out side dimension of the photo to see what the closest standard frame size to use would be. Example, your photo size 8" x 10" (20.3cm x 25.4cm) so add three inches to these numbers and you get 11" x 14" (28cm x 35.6cm) which is a standard frame size. To figure out what the border sizes for this mat would be simply subtract each dimension of the photo size from the frame size and divide by two. Example: 11" - 8" = 3" (28cm - 20.3cm = 7.7cm). Divide 3" (7.7cm) by two which leaves 1-1/2" (3.8cm) to be used as the left and right mat border. Use the same steps to find out the top and bottom border.

3. Put it all together
This project consisted of a photo with an image size of 8" x 10" (20.3cm x 25.4cm) that was placed into an 11" x 14" (28cm x 35.6cm) frame. It used 1-1/2" (3.8cm) borders on the right and left and 2" (5cm) borders at the top and bottom. Now all thats left is to attach the photo into the back of the mat and pick out a nice 11" x 14" (28cm x 35.6cm) frame to finish your piece and hang it on the wall.

Standard U.S. Frame Sizes:

More Mat Cutting Advice

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