Picture Frame Anatomy
- 101 -

I never knew how important the picture frame anatomy was.

Over the last few years I've taught several basic picture frame making classes at Rockler's and for local woodworking clubs.

One of the most interesting things I learned was that the average person is unaware of how picture frames are measured and what you would need to know before trying to make one yourself.

I quickly added picture frame anatomy to the classes.

Of course, I was unaware of these things when I started, too. A little embarrassment helped speed up my learning curve...

Needless to say, the class on picture frame anatomy would've been helpful to me, before I started!

Picture Frame Anatomy

Knowing how a frame is measured and what to consider before you begin to actually make one, makes it much easier when you're in the shop staring at a piece of wood!

Picture frame anatomy

So, before you begin to make your own frame, spend a few minutes getting familiar with this info.

Now, down to business!


A basic picture frame consists of four individual parts:

  •  The frame itself (made up of 4 wood, metal or plastic rails
  •  glass; referred to as glazing in the industry
  • a mat (double mat if you'd like). Of course you don't have to use a mat if you prefer not to.
  •  the backboard
  • Don't forget the un-mentioned 5th part - the artwork or document to be framed!

The glass, mat board, and backboard are all the same size. Their size is determined by the size of the frame. The confusing part for most people who don't make frames is - what measurement to use?? 

Three ways to measure a picture frame

A frame can be measured three different ways. Each measurement serves its own purpose but the one that everyone generally refers to when talking about frame sizes is the inside edge to inside edge on the back of the frame.

  •  From outside edge to outside edge as shown above (good to know if you have limited space to hang a frame).

 This is good to know if you have limited space   to work with where you're hanging the frame.

  •  From inside edge to inside edge on the back of the frame (shown below)

When people refer to a frame as 12" x 14" that's what they are actually talking about.

That's the most important measurement for you to know before you begin making your frame.



The 3rd way to measure a frame, which is not really too important is:

  • from inside edge to inside edge on the front of the frame

We'll talk more about the inside edge (also called a rabbet) a little bit later on the Cutting Rabbets page, and how to create one, but basically it's the "shelf" in the back of the frame that holds the glass, mat, document and backboard in place. Sort of like a frame sandwich.

That's the basic anatomy of a frame.

Thinking about all these pieces; how they relate to each other, before you make your frame, will pay off in the end.

You've just graduated from Anatomy 101.

> > >

New! Comments

Have a question or a comment? This space is for you! Leave it in the box below.

© Copyright  2012 -2017 by Al Pilato, picture-frame-it-yourself.com

Privacy Policy       Disclaimers

Updated September 28, 2017