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Your Guide to Framed Photographs

Author: Collaborator - Printique by Adorama

So you’ve captured a breathtaking photo and edited it to perfection. For a professional look, you know the next step is to put it in a gorgeous frame. Whether you want something ornate and complicated or simple and minimalistic, a frame can make your photo look much more sophisticated and professional — but there are a lot of options to sort through!

Float frames, mats, archival backings — what do all these little details actually mean? Each component of a framed photo can influence its final look and the longevity of your image. To help you sort through it all, we’ve put together a guide to frames, complete with our tips for framing art and printing it.

Common Picture Frame Sizes and Styles
You’ll find picture frames in an immense variety of styles. From elegant gallery frames to modern, minimalistic borders, you can find a frame for almost any look. When browsing through them, you may see a few unfamiliar terms, such as:

Rabbet: The rabbet is the measurement of the part of the frame where all the materials go. A frame will have a mold or lip at the top, and the rabbet is the area between that lip and the bottom of the frame, where you can place your cover, artwork and backing. If you have an unusually thick piece of artwork, you may need a deeper rabbet.
Lip width: The lip is the part above the rabbet that overhangs the image. The width is about how much of your image will be covered by the lip. This measurement is usually around one-quarter-inch.
Width: The width of a frame is exactly what it sounds like, the width of the frame itself. The width can vary greatly and includes incredibly thin borders and thick frames nearly as big as the mat.

Picture Frame Sizes

Photos come in all shapes and sizes, so their frames need to do the same, though standard picture frame sizes are common. Remember that mats can affect the size frame you’ll need, and some labels can be misleading. A frame that includes a mat might list itself as being for an 8×10-inch photo, but that means that the actual frame could be more like 11×14 inches. The cutout of the mat is sized for your 8×10 photo. In this instance, 8×10 does not refer to the size of the frame, but the photo that fits within the mat. Pay careful attention to mats and sizes when you’re shopping around.

Many print measurements follow typical picture frame sizes and some of their common matted equivalents, which adds an inch or two to the print size. The mat size can always be adjusted and may vary, but here is a picture frame size guide to help with typical measurements:

  • 4×6: This is one of the most common photo sizes that you’ll see in photo albums and simple prints. If you’ve ever ordered a large collection of prints, these are typically the cheapest and simplest ones to get. A frame with a mat might run 6×8 or 8×10.
  • 5×7: 6×8, 8×10 or 11×14 for matted frames.
  • 8×10: 11×14, 12×14, 16×18 or 16×20 for matted frames.
  • 16×20: 20×24 for matted frames.
  • 20×30: 24×36 for matted frames.
  • 22×32: 30×40 for matted frames.

Anything larger than these sizes likely doesn’t need a mat. Large-format artwork typically takes center stage on its own.

These guidelines are more appropriate for in-store shopping. Framing options for prints are versatile online. With Printique, for example, you can adjust the mat size on any frame between one and ten inches. Plus, your image and frame sizes are clearly labeled.

Picture Frame Styles

There are several different frames you can get, but the general style of design tends to fall into a few categories. The three main types of decorative picture frames are:

  • Gallery: Gallery frames tend to be wide and bold, with a large mat for a frame-in-frame look. They would look great in a professional gallery or as a focal point in a living room.
  • Modern: Modern frames aim for a minimalist approach. These frames have thin edges and tend to lay flatter. They put the focus on the print.
  • Float: Float frames use a piece of clear glass or acrylic that is larger than the print to make it pop off the wall. Essentially, the glass replaces a mat. The photo is centered in the middle, with a border of clear glass or acrylic and the frame itself.

You can also find frames that utilize deep-set edges, similar to a shadow box. The frame is raised, making a shadow on the mat.

Frames can work for a variety of mediums, whether it is a delicate painting, a standard print, textile art or canvas. While part of the appeal of a canvas is its frame-free nature, knowing how to frame canvas art can take it to another level. Canvas frames leave a small gap between the artwork and the frame, creating an impressive floating effect that emphasizes the artwork.

Materials for Printing and Framing

Professional results require professional tools. When it comes to printing photos for framing, pay attention to the materials you’re using. Some aspects of the print that you’ll need to pay attention to include the following:

  • Printer: Any printer you use needs to be specialized and high-quality, designed for the task at hand. Professional-grade printers will ensure the sharpest, most vibrant and most accurate results. If you’re looking to print in a big size, you’ll also need a large-format printer.
  • Inks: In addition to being vibrant and true to color, inks should be archival. Archival quality is something that every component of a print and frame should have. This aspect ensures that the image won’t deteriorate, fade or otherwise degrade over time.
  • Paper: Most of the differences in the paper come down to personal preference, but they should be archival. At Printique, all our papers fit the bill. For our framed photo offerings, we have satin, matte and hot-press rag finishes. Hot-press rag has a silky smooth texture. For standard prints, we have a wider range, including luster, matte, glossy, silk, metallic and deep matte papers. Fine-art Giclee paper comes in low, medium and high-texture options. Keep in mind that framed photos will have a layer of glass in front of the image, so some finishes may look different underneath it.

Each component of a photo frame can influence its look, durability and archival qualities. The frame itself can be made of a variety of materials, including wood, medium-density fiberboard, aluminum and more. Some of these will be more durable, with different finishes and costs. Most notably, they’ll have separate aesthetic appeals.

If you want to protect your photo in the years to come, frame backings and matting materials need to be archival and acid-free. Any components that aren’t acid-free can eat away at the photo over time. A dust cover can help keep contaminants that could ruin the look or degrade the print away from your artwork.

Even the glass front of the frame can come in different styles. Typically, the glass cover is going to be regular glass or plexiglass. Plexiglass is lighter in weight and shatterproof but tends to scratch more easily. Whatever kind of glass you use, you want it to be protected from ultraviolet (UV) rays, which can prematurely fade the image. Other qualities to look for include:

  • Non-glare: Both glass and plexiglass can be treated to minimize glare, making them easy to see in any part of a room.
  • Reflection-free: Minimizing reflections is another way to make your image as visible as possible.
  • UV glass: While most glass has some level of UV protection, some of it is specifically designed to block out as much as possible. For example, our regular glass offers 45 percent UV protection, while many of our UV glasses reach up to 99 percent protection. If your artwork is consistently in the sunlight, look for this kind of cover, especially if the piece is watercolor or a vintage print.
  • Museum-quality: High-end glass covers can combine glare elimination, UV protection and improved light transmission to create an all-in-one solution that gives your image a VIP treatment.

What Is Matting?

Often, the mat is what adds elegance to framed photos. This thin, decorative piece of paper creates a wide border around the artwork. You can even add engravings to the mat for something extra. Typically, the print is placed on top of a foam board to make it level with the mat or to raise the photo in a float style.

Most artwork will look great with a simple white or off-white mat around it. Large-format photography, however, is usually better off without a mat, as the picture’s size speaks for itself. While most mats are black or white, you can also use an accent mat to add some color. We offer double and triple mats, with one or two thin lines bordering your image. Typically, accent mats work well when you pull colors from the photo, such as a highlight color.

How to Frame a Photo Online

Some people struggle with the array of framing options for prints when searching in-store, so you might think shopping online would be even harder. It actually tends to be easier and cheaper. Since the print is designed for your frame, you know that they will match up. Plus, you can see a virtual rendition of your framed print before buying, which can make choosing the frame easier. Our experts also work with them frequently, so they know how to make a framed product that impresses.

With Printique, framing a photo online is as easy as uploading your photo and entering our editing wizard. There, you can swap out frames and change your image orientation, shape and size. You can also move your picture around and adjust the mat settings. Once you’ve created a framed photo you’re happy with, you can finalize your selections and add the item to your cart.

How to Choose the Right Print Size

Choosing the right print size can help you know what size picture frame you need and how you’ll place it. The most significant concern in selecting a print size is making sure it complements the image. Your print will need to be high enough in quality for the size you’re going for. If your photo was taken on a modern smartphone or camera, you’d probably be fine. Old images or art can be harder to work with.

To make sure your resolution is high enough, just upload your image to the Printique photo editor. It will alert you if your picture is too low in quality. Generally, the more people in the photo, the larger your print should be, so viewers can see all the details. Landscapes tend to offer a little more leeway.

Another thing to look out for is the aspect ratio. Make sure your image stays cropped the way you want it.

Tips for Choosing the Right Frame

When it’s time to select your frame, you’ll be faced with several questions to ask yourself, regarding:

  • Subject: What are you framing? Is it a vintage photograph that needs special handling, a piece of irreplaceable artwork or a new photo print? These items all have different needs and styles that look best. Consider if the item has unique value and how important the framing process is. It may be better to leave it to a professional.
  • Size: How big is the piece? Is it so big that you should forego a mat? Will it fit where you want it to go?
  • Style: What style are you going for? Will the piece look better with a rustic or modern style of frame? Do you know what the decor will look like? Is it sleek or old-fashioned, or some other style that will look best with a specific type of frame?
  • Location: Where will your frame be going? Will it be in front of direct sunlight, where you need UV protection and glare-free materials? Is it going to be part of a photo wall or a small space where it needs to fit?

Here are a few more tips for framing pictures and art:

  • Don’t forget about how you’ll hang the picture frame. Use the right tools for the job. We offer easy-hang systems, d-rings and wire, saw-tooth hangers and easel backs. D-rings may be necessary for heavy-weight frames, while smaller ones can use the saw-tooth option.
  • If you already have a printed photo and are shopping in-store, take the picture with you. Hold it up to the frame to get an idea of the final look.
  • For thicker pieces, consider a shadowbox. Shadowboxes can hold much thicker pieces than a traditional frame.

Table in front of sofa next to lamp in white apartment interior with plant and posters. Real photo

Print and Frame Photographs With Printique

Framing your prints adds a touch of elegance to any picture, whether it’s going in a gallery or on your living room wall. You work hard to take stunning photos, so you need a print and a frame that shows them in the right light. Photographers everywhere turn to Printique to create high-quality, long-lasting framed prints.

With extensive customization and sophisticated design options, we can help you pick the perfect frame for your artwork. All of our products are backed by the Printique Promise, our satisfaction guarantee. To see what a framed print from Printique would look like, try uploading your photo to our editor today!