Picture Frame Terminology

Fine Art Care and Treatment Standards (FACTS) has published a document detailing how to order chops and frames. Here are the highlights.

When purchasing custom frames, it helps to familiarize yourself with some picture frame terminology. Here are a few common picture frame terms with diagrams to get you started.

Summary of Practice

  • The chop or frame supplier shall measure to the inside of the rabbet unless otherwise designated.
  • Mouldings with double rabbets shall be measured to the inside of the front rabbet
  • A standard allowance of 1/8″ shall be added to all ordered sizes. Any other instructions shall use a designated term (see “How to Order” section below).

How to Order

  • Frame Size Orders shall be cut to the innermost rabbet with the standard 1/8″ allowance added. If the back rabbet size is most important the order shall state “Frame Size to Back Rabbet.” The cut shall have standard 1/8″ allowance. (see diagram 1)
  • Exact Size No allowance shall be added
  • Sight Size Cut to the inside moulding lip; no allowance shall be added (see diagram 1 and diagram 2)
  • Fit Outside Fit around liners or inner frames, which should be ordered the size of the artwork/glazing package (see diagram 4 and diagram 5)
  • Outside Size Cut to the outermost dimension; no allowance shall be added (see diagram 1 and diagram 2)

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Common Picture Frame Terminology

*Diagrams below for your reference.

ShallA provision is mandatory

ShouldA provision is not mandatory, but recommended as good practice

MayA provision is optional

Allowance – Difference between the size of the objects being framed and the inside dimension of the frame

Designations – Terms that shall be used when orders for chops or frames differ from the 1/8″ standard allowance

Frame SizeMeasurement across the back of the frame rabbet (see diagram 1)

Rabbet – Cut-out portion of the back of a frame that supports the art package (see diagram 2)

Back Rabbet – Rearmost rabbet in a moulding with a double rabbet (see diagram 3)

Double Rabbet – Moulding with a typical rabbet near the front and an additional rabbet near the back that supports the art or decorative backing

Inner Frame / LinerSecondary frame inside of another frame

Stacked Frame – Frame assembly made of more than one frame

Exact Size – Ordered size − no allowance

Outside Size – Overall outside frame size (see diagram 1 or diagram 2)

Sight Size – Measurement (exact, with no allowance) across the innermost opening of a frame (see diagram 1 or diagram 2)

Fit Outside – Fit around a liner or frame (see diagram 4 or diagram 5)

Helpful Diagrams

Diagram 1:

Picture Frame Terminology - Diagram 1

Diagram 2:

Diagram 2

Diagram 3:

Diagram 3

Diagram 4:

Diagram 4

Diagram 5:

Diagram 5

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