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Franer's Allowance

Larry Peterson

PFG, Picture Framing God
Over the years, I have had numerous customers ask why the inside dimensions of the frame is larger than the art. I have searched high and low over the ether (excluding the dark web) and haven't found a single cohesive explanation for this. So I decided to write my own. I will be putting it on as page on my site for all to use.

Here it is. Feel free to add, subtract, criticize (gently please; it is theG after all where where we are all polite citizens) or suggestions. additions or corrections. For metric countries, I found one source that put the allowance at 2mm. Please let me know if that is correct.

What is the Framer’s Allowance?

A Framer’s Allowance is the difference between the items being framed and the inside dimensions of the frame. In the US, we use 1/8” as the allowance so the inside dimension of a frame designed to hold 8x10 art is 8 1/8” x 10 1/8”. In metric countries, the allowance is usually 2mm.

Why do we have an allowance?

It is to help your art, glazing and backing to fit in the frame without being too tight. It also allows for contraction and expansion of the mats, glazing and backing. These can contract and expand depending on the temperature and humidity. If we made the frame to the exact dimensions of the art, during times of expansion, the entire package could buckle in the frame. Allowing for the differences in expansion will reduce the problems and damage to the artwork that can be incurred from bowed or broken glazing, restriction of expansion and broken frame joints
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Terry Hart cpf

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
I don't think I've ever had a customer ask that but my answer would be, because it needs to be.

Larry Peterson

PFG, Picture Framing God
Dealing with online customers can be interesting. One of the most common questions I get is from folks who don't understand that they won't be able to see their 8x10 photo edge-to-edge.

This Allowance page will be linked to a page tentatively title "Anatomy of a Frame" that explains the entire geometry of a frame and shows images and calculations of the frame, it's dimensions, and how a photo or art sits in a frame.

Need to find a better title than "Anatomy of a Frame", though.

Here are two of the images that will be used representing an 8x10 photo. The first represent the entire image, the second show the areas that will be covered by the frame lip. I have to add the dimensions to the second image but it will be 1/4" on the bottom, 3/16" on the sides and 1/8" on top for a typical frame with a 1/4" frame lip.

Additional images (working on those) will show the frame back with dimensions and how the photo actually sits in the frame with 1/16" of space on the sides, 1/8" on top and 0" on the bottom. I've answered this enough times that I don't want to repeat myself anymore.

multicolorGrid.jpg multicolorGrid1.jpg

Larry Peterson

PFG, Picture Framing God


SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
I have a book on Picture Framing which states categorically that glass in a frame should fit very
tightly. o_O Which goes to show you should not believe everything you read.

Of course when it comes to canvases the allowance needs to be greater according to the size. I recently did
a frame for a 7' x 5' canvas and actually had to widen the rabbet to around 5/8". Fortunate that I did as the
canvas turned out to be out of square and it only just fitted. On the other side of the coin I once reframed two
(quite expensive) oils that were 7 x 5 inches but the aperture on the original frames was 6 x 4". The result
being about £200 worth of image area was hidden.


Angry Badger
I like to wait until their eyes start to glaze over from the "allowance" explanation, then hand them the estimate.


SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
I thought a framer's allowance was the stipend we get weekly for our labors.

Paul Cascio

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Just tell them it's a trade secret.


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Expansion/contraction aside, another answer is "If we made it the same size, they would bump into each other. A frame has to go around it, and we get it as tight as is practical to get it".


PFG, Picture Framing God
I have never had that question asked. But how else would it fit? You can’t put something in an exact size. Try to fit same size box in same size box and see how you make out.
In 50 years of framing, I have never been asked about frame allowance.
Once in a while if a customer is framing something without a mat and there is writing or printing close to the edge, I will tell them that I will make the frame a little larger than the artwork so that the printing or writing won't be covered by the frame rabbet and the artwork will be positioned on a slightly larger backing so that nothing will be covered.
It's a little more than regular allowance, but not so much that the actual edge of the artwork shows.
As far as regular allowance though, it has never been an issue.

Larry Peterson

PFG, Picture Framing God
I have never had that question asked.
In 50 years of framing, I have never been asked about frame allowance.
I get them a lot. You can't be as visual with online customers. Here is one from today: more to do with the "Anatomy of a Frame" page I mentioned above of which the Framer's Allowance will play a part.

Hi, I am interested in the country white 20x30 frame. Before ordering, I am wondering how much of the edge of a pic will be covered by the frame? The pic I will be using in the frame has an approximate 1/2" white border that I dont want shown when framed.

When I get the pages done, I wll just point them at it rather than writing a tedious answer everytime it is asked.


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
That box analogy is a good one.

David Waldmann

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Been thinking about this regularly. Like, not consistently, taking-every-second-of-my-brain-processing-power, but it keeps coming to mind.

I think that "Framer's Allowance" is too proprietary sounding. It really has nothing to do with the Framer. It's a fact of life.


We sell some newly printed images online. Like to use EPSON Velvet fine art paper. We have in our sales description, that image area will be of dimension stated, and that there will be a white margin around the image area. This margin is usually 1/2 inch or more. We would hope that framers would agree that this margin can be beneficial for matting, framing, handling etc. Lately we have had two negative reviews from buyers with... 'print quality is fine, but fair warning - you will have to go to a frame shop to have print trimmed' and ' Quality ok...be sure to read fine print on actual size they send you. I have to now take to a professional, spend more money to reduce to size of print I purchased.' I think those two buyers of mine might be the type that would ask about the allowance.


CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
I was going to mention a box. Lid and bottom can't be the same size. A door and its opening can't be the same size.
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