Custom Framing - Standard Approach

A typical custom framer will most likely adopt the following procedure to framing your image:

  1. measure the image
  2. add a standard border width all the way around
  3. cut mat board(s) and glass to suit
  4. cut mouldings to length to suit and join these into a frame
  5. complete the framing.

The costs will be based on the amount of materials used and the amount of labour involved. Plus other costs of packaging, posting etc.

The cost of materials will depend on the sizes of mat board and glass used and whether it will be easy to use the remainder of the sheets cut for your job. If, for example, your job uses more than half a sheet of mat board, most likely you will be charged for a full sheet - same with glass. Any offcuts if kept need extra storage space and it takes time to look for small sizes from previous jobs.

Labour costs might be charged at an hourly rate and it would be likely that at least an hour is needed for your single job. So, how much is a plumber per hour? an electrician? a good mechanic?

Some thoughts on Standard Sizes

These notes are a result of purchasing stocks of several standard mouldings, a limited range of mat board as well as standard glass sheets in order to frame my own pictures.

Mat boards, backing foam boards and framing glass sheets come in imperial sheet sizes - 32x40 inches (or 40x60 inch) for mat board and foam board and 36x48 inches for glass.

For my own images, I have tended to concentrate on a finished size of 24x18 inches which gives four pictures per single sheet of glass. Another finished size is 20x16 inches which gives four pictures per sheet of mat board.

For the smaller finished sizes (20x16), the width of the border should be about 2 inches which gives a visible image size of 16x12 inches. With a 2 1/2 inch border this gives 15x11 inches. If you then make the actual image a little larger - say 16.5 x 12.5 inches (or 15.5x11.5 inches) then this gives some tolerance to making sure the mat board covers the entire image. In effect there will be some cropping.

Now a little problem arises for photographs directly out of a modern digital camera - such as a Nikon. The aspect ratio is typically 3:2 (or 1.5 ratio) so a common commercial print size would be 18x12 inches. If you are printing on metric sized paper such as A4 or A3 then the ratio of side lengths is the square root of 2 or 1.4142 

You may wish therefore to allow for some degree of cropping in the framing process when the original picture is composed.

For my work, I have very limited working space and it is always better if I combine some 5-10 pictures to be framed all the same way. The time to do one is perhaps twice as long as doing one as part of a batch of 10 of the same size. At least 1 to 1.5 hours are involved per picture (excluding packaging).