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what size frame do i need for a 9×12 picture

At Frame Destination, we get a lot of questions about picture frame sizes:

“What are standard picture frame sizes?”

“What is the picture frame size actually referring to?”

“How do I know my artwork will fit?”

“How much bigger should a frame be than the picture?”

And, of course, “Why are you talking about rabbits?” (They’re called rabbets!)

You would think that explaining picture frame dimensions would be a simple topic. Not so! To best help our customers find the right size picture frame for their artwork, we are here to fully clarify how a picture frame is measured and what you should look for when shopping for a picture frame.

Measuring The Artwork Dimensions

Before we get to the frame itself, there are a few other components that must be measured. The artwork is the focal point of the framed piece – and the artwork is what you base the frame size on — so you must first measure the correct part of the piece to be framed.

  • The artwork size is the size of your image, not necessarily the paper on which the artwork is printed.

What size picture fits in a 8×10 frame?

Example: An 8×10-inch print from a photo lab will usually be 8×10 inches, but you might print an 8×10 at home on 8.5×11 paper. Therefore, the correct size is 8×10, not 8.5×11. /


Dimensions Change With Mat Board

If you choose to include a photo mat in the framed piece, this can complicate the frame size a little. The mat board surrounds the artwork and adds extra space, so the frame must accommodate the size mat board you choose.

  • This mat exact opening is the dimension of the hole cut in the mat.

Example: A typical store-bought, ready-made frame for an 8×10 photo will have a mat exact opening of 7.5×9.5. This size mat board will overlap the image by ¼ inch on all four sides, allowing it to hold the image down. Mat boards cut by custom frame shops will usually cut the mat with an opening of 7.75×9.75 so there is less masking of the image.

If you’re customizing a frame size from our website, you can select the border size of the mat, and the website will calculate the frame for you.


  • The mat external size is the perimeter, or outside dimension, of the mat board. The mat external size should match the dimensions of the glazing.

Example: A mat board used to mount an 8×10 image in frame that is 11×14 will have a mat external size of exactly 11×14 plus or minus 1/16 inch.

The Frame: What Size is 11×14?

This is where it gets a little tricky. For example, an 11×14 (which refers to the inside perimeter of the frame) used to frame an 8×10 image could be referred to as both an 8×10 frame or an 11×14, assuming the complete frame package contains the appropriate mat board. However, a frame that is 11×14 with no mat will always be an 11×14 frame.

So is the frame dimension 11×14 or 8×10? The answer is neither.

If the frame size—not the mat opening—says 11×14, it is referring to the inside dimension. However, the frame will be cut slightly larger (typically 1/8 inch). This extra space allows room for the glazing, mounting board and mat board to fit without binding. It also allows for up to 1/16 inch error on the mat and glazing dimension as well as for expansion and contraction due to temperature changes.

When you’re purchasing a frame from Frame Destination, be it one of our largest or smallest like a 5×7, the size frame you select depends on whether or not you are including mat board. If you are including mat board, the frame size will be larger than the artwork size. If you are not including mat board, the frame size will match the artwork.


  • The outside frame size is the very outside of the frame, or the frame’s outside perimeter. It is seldom referred to unless you are concerned about placing the frame in a limited space.


Example: Frames that are 11×14 might actually have an external dimension of 14×17 if the moulding is 1 and ½ inches wide.

  • The rabbet depth tells you how much room you have inside the frame for mat board, glazing, and mount board. Some frame mouldings are not deep enough to allow a double mat or an 8-ply mat to fit.


At Frame Destination, most of our frames are deep enough for double mats. Any frame with a 3/8 inch rabbet can handle a double mat.

Even though framing math can seem fuzzy, we hope you can see a bit of method in the madness. And if not, no worries, because Frame Destination is here to help you figure out even the trickiest framing so you can show off your work in the best way possible.

Last Updated November 2, 2020

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