Framing Processes and Glossary

What is Custom Picture Framing?

Custom picture framing is a traditional hand-crafted service, to protect and enhance artwork or graphics for display purposes. This is not easily done by hobbyists efficiently done without experience and proper tools. Understand design is also critical to success and in the case of larger pieces, engineering the right solution is essential to prevent future failure.

The work is "hands-on", creative and precise, essentially custom fabrication that is executed to meet exact requirements. That is also why it often perceived as being "expensive", as the nature of the work is time consuming and can be material intensive. It is advisable to undertake this work understanding the process and what is involved. and avoid comparing pricing to the artwork and certainly with imported finished goods from big-box stores, that make products in large quantities in factory environments, often times overseas and with questionable environmental practices.

Design Process

Design work is usually done in the framers place of business. However, taking samples on location, and designing on site, enhances how the final result is matched to the residence or business. While more costly, this approach is how perfection is achieved - the perfect interface between the artwork and the interior design finishes and style.



Frame Moulding or Profile

Frame moulding normally comes in lengths, which are chopped and joined to the size appropriate for the size of the matting or glazing, which is also called the "frame size". Moulding is milled with a rabbet, providing a lip to secure the glazing, matting, and backing to protect the artwork.

Moulding Depth
The overall outside dimension of the moulding from front to back

Moulding Width
The overall outside dimension of the moulding from inside edge to outside edge.

The part of the frame that holds the art and other framing contents in place.

Rabbet Depth
The interior height of the frame where the contents will be placed

Rabbet Width
The amount of the frame lip that will overlap onto the contents placed in the frame



Matt board is used to provide spacing around the artwork, creating an transitional tone from the image to the frame moulding. Matting customarily is either 100% cotton ("Rag") or acid free materials, and recently, new lines have been developed with FSC certification. Mats have openings cut, usually beveled, creating a "window" in which the artwork is displayed. Matt board is available in hundreds of colors and textures, as well several thickness, 6ply, 8ply and 12ply materials.

Rag Mat
The mat looks like paper but it was made from cotton fibers. Rag mats are recommended when you want to preserve art.

Reverse Bevel
When a mat is cut so the beveled edge does not show

100% Rag - Mat boards that are made from cotton fiber, 100%, neutral PH and are superior to all other matting products; standard for museum or conservation framing, although

Depending on your requirements, the artwork is either hinged (conservations) or mounted to a backing. Standard materials for backing including foam core, acid free foam core, rag faced foamcore, as well as hinging to museum 4 ply when doing conservation work. The matting is taped in position to prevent it from slipping after it is framed.

Protective glass or Plexiglas are used in the front of the rabbet to protect the artwork from airborne materials or unwanted contact to the elements. Glazing comes in UV screen (shields ultra Violet radiation), and Non-glare options in both materials


Frame Space:
Spacer products are available to keep glass off the surface of art when a mat is not used, which normally serves to prevent the glazing separated from the artwork. Without minimal separation, moisture could penetrate, and there is the possibility that the artwork sticking to the glass and becoming ruined.

Matt board strips to match colors can be placed inside the rabbet to conceal the unfinished inside of the frame and for design reasons, especially important with deeper spacers.

A small moulding without a rabbet, usually inserted under the lip of the matting or inside the frame rabbet, used as accents, normally matched or coordinated with the frame profile.

Liners are sometimes inserted into a frame to add an extra design element to the PROFILE. Liners can be two mouldings that happen to fit together, or, they can be raw profiles that are design to be wrapped with fabric or hand-painted. They can be inside or outside the glazing.

Stretcher Bars - Wood moulding that is used for stretching canvases, with a special that provide 1/8" of taught rise at the outer edge of the frame

Hanging Hardware:
We use shielded wire, z-bar, and D-rings. Floreats are our hanger of choice for personal projects as they have a better design than conventional hooks.

Z bar offers the best solution, rendering the artwork 100% stable after installation , with no possibility of rocking as it is held on its secure cleat. This is also a good choice for larger mirrors. However, installation is normally done only be professionals, and will leave significant holes in your walls as the cleats are installed with screws or to sinkers if installing on drywall or plaster.

Framers terms

“Frame Size” — The measurement across the back of the frame rabbet.

“Outside Size”— The overall outside frame size. This is also called the "OD" and is used for planning exhibit layouts for installation

Stretcher Bars - Wood moulding that is used for stretching canvases, with a special that provide 1/8" of taught rise at the outer edge of the frame

Inner Frame and/or Liner —A secondary frame, joined inside another to form one larger frame, similar to liner frames.

Allowance—The difference between the size of the objects being framed and the inside dimension of the frame.

Fitting - the labor and materials charge for final assembly of the frame, normally including the hanging hardware

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