Framing's confusing terminology: How big is the framed picture?

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Framing a picture seems simple until you try to describe the framing that you want.

Let's start the confusion with the size of the frame. You expect the framed picture to fill a particular space. So you start by searching for frames with outside dimensions that are that size. Good luck. 

Frames are not organized in shops by their outside dimensions. Instead, they are organized by the size of the photo or art that they hold. So you'll find lots of frames in standard sizes like 5x7", 8x10", 11x14", 16x20", etc. 

Within these standard sizes, the outside dimensions vary depending on the frame's face. What! Do frames have faces? Yes, the frame's face is the part you see when you stand in front of a framed picture. Barring specialized frames, a frame's face has the same width all the way around whether the frame is rectangular, square, octangular, oval, or circular.

Quickly jumping ahead, you might think that all you need to do is add twice the face width to the frame width and height to get its outside dimension. Not so fast.

Recall that frames are sized by what they hold. In practice, that means the frame overlaps the art or photo that it holds. This overlap can vary by frame, but it is usually about 0.25". Yes, this means that if you place art that is exactly 8x10" into an 8x10" frame with 0.25" overlap, it will fit but only 7.5x9.5" will be visible. By the way, the visible area enclosed by the frame is called the opening. In the 8x10" frame example, the opening is 7.5x9.5".

Once you've determined the frame's overlap, you estimate the outside dimension (OD) by adding twice the frame face width minus twice the overlap to the frame's width and height.

The app Wall Gallery Designer includes these calculations when adding a frame and laying out a gallery. It also lists the outside dimension of each frame in a pdf report.

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