Understanding Picture Frame Sizes

If you take pictures, then understanding picture frame sizes will be a snap. However, if you’re new to the world of picture taking and frames then this will give you the info you need to understand picture frame sizes.

Picture Frames come in a huge selection of sizes but they are generally categorized into standard and non-standard sizes. Standard means that the sizes are more common and are commonly typical photo sizes. So, anytime you hear standard frame size, you really should be thinking about the size of your picture.

Frame sizes are measured in inches in the US and centimeters in most other parts of the world. The standard way to measure picture frames is by measuring width by height. So, if you have a 4x6 horizontal photo then the frame size would be a 6x4. However, if you had a 4x6 photo that was taken in the vertical direction then the frame size could be EITHER a 6x4 frame or a 4x6 frame that could be used vertically. A good rule of thumb is that 6x4 frames can only be used horizontally while 4x6 frames can generally go either horizontal or vertical.

Just remember that the frame size is intended to represent the size of the picture NOT the exterior size of the frame. So, if you ever wanted to measure a frame to see if it was the right size measure the inside dimension of the opening not the outside dimensions of the frame. Keep in mind that the frame will always be a little smaller than your actual image. For example a 4x6 frame will have an opening that’s 3 ¾’ by 5 3/4’. Keep in mind that there has to be a ledge that keeps the glass and picture in place so there will always be a thin border around your picture that you won’t see in the frame. The only way to measure the opening exactly is by opening up the frame and removing the back so you can measure the size of the glass.

So before you buy a frame always pay attention to whether the frame can be used both vertically or horizontally. Often times, you will find a frame that can only be used in one direction. You can spot these frames a couple of different ways.

One way is because of the frame shape. For example a heart shaped frame can’t be turned it on its side otherwise it would be a sideways heart. Another way is to look for any decorations on the frame that imply the frame has to sit in one direction. For example imagine a pewter picture frame with giraffes on it. If you turned it on its side it wouldn’t look right because the giraffes would be lying down. And the last thing to look at is the back of the frame. If you plan to use the frame on a table instead of a wall, you’ll need to check if the easel on the back can be used as both a vertical and horizontal frame.

Now that you know that frames are always measured in width by height, here are the standard frame sizes that you’ll generally find:

Common Frame Sizes

2 ½ x 3 ½ (wallet size)

3 ½ x 5

4x6 (vertical or horizontal)

6x4 (a 4x6 standing horizontal)

5x5

5x7

7x5 (a 5x7 standing horizontal)

6x8

8x10

10x8 (8x10 standing horizontal)

8 ½ x 11 (certificate size)

11x14

16x20

20x24

 

Less Common Frame Sizes

1x2

2x2

2x3

3x3

3 ½ x 3 ½

3x4

4x5

 

You can find non-common frame sizes pretty easily but they just don’t come in as large of a selection as the common frame sizes. If the picture frame size you need isn’t listed here chances are good you may need a custom frame. If you’re not sure just ask.

There are also other sizes or types of frames that have multiple “openings” or “windows.” These frames are very common and are often called doubles, triples, multi or collage picture frames.

Double picture frames have two identical openings that normally fit two 2.5x3.5, 4x6, 5x7 or 8x10 pictures and are often used for portraits. Triple picture frames, on the other hand, have three openings and normally fit three 2.5x3.5, 4x6 or 5x7 pictures (8x10’s aren’t as common due to the large size of the frame).

And lastly there is the multi picture frame. Multi picture frames have multiple openings or windows in them and are often called collage picture frames. They normally are hung as wall frames because of their size and allow for a wide selection of different pictures sizes to be displayed. If you have a lot of smaller pictures and one them to all fit in one large picture frame then you definitely want a collage frame. To read more about ways to decorate with multi opening frames check out the article on Collage Frames.

 

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