Friday, June 29, 2012

Ask Mike: What Size Border Should I Use On My Mat?

Ask Mike!

This is a common question we receive at American Frame.  Many of our customers are new to DIY picture framing and border sizing is one of the variables in the framing process.

Border sizing has no set rules as to the size the borders should be in relation to the size of the window opening or frame size.  It has more to do with aesthetics and economics.

Aesthetics:  If the borders of the mat are too narrow or too wide, the appearance of the framed art may be adversely affected.

Economics:  The larger the mat borders, the larger the mat and frame will be.  This will add to the overall cost of the project.

The default border is set on our website at 2” on all 4 sides but this can be adjusted in the design process.

Many framers have a “rule of thumb” they use when suggesting border sizes to their clients.  A little math is involved.  Here is how it works:

Add the length and width of the mat window opening together. This number is the United Inches (UI)* of the opening.  Use the following chart as a guide to determine a possible border size:

Window United Inches                   Suggested Mat Border

              8” to 11”                                                        1”

            12” to 17”                                                       1 ½”

            18” to 24”                                                       1 ¾”

            25” to 36”                                                       2”

            37” to 44”                                                       2 ½”

            45” to 56”                                                       3”

            56” to 60”                                                       3 ½”

Remember, these are just suggested border sizes.  As DIY framer, you are free to experiment and determine what is best for your project.

When you are trying to determine your mat border size, remember that the lip of most frames will cover ¼” of your mat on each side of the frame.  You may want to consider adding ¼” to the selected mat border size to account for this.

*United Inches (UI) is a common measurement used in the framing industry for determining cost of frames, mats, glazing, etc.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Ask Mike: Anti-Reflective Properties of Non-Glare Acrylic

Here is a question that we "Asked Mike" about last week. His answers are always enlightening.

I have a question about your different Non-Glare acrylic glazings.  I have ordered UV Non-Glare acrylic from American Frame and found that it still reflects light sources to a higher level than Non-UV Non-Glare acrylic that I have ordered before, which is fine for the pieces I frame.  

But I now have two larger pieces that I am likely going to frame through your site but I was wondering if you find that your Non-UV Non-Glare Acrylic reflects less glare than your UV Non-Glare product.  I say this because the two pieces I am framing will go in a room with a few indoor indirect light sources and it will drive me a little crazy if every light in the room is clearly reflected in the acrylic.  I am fine if they are reflected but in a less sharp way than your UV-Non-Glare.  

So, I guess the short version of my question is which of your Non-Glare products do you think reduces glare the most?  Your UV-Non-Glare Acrylic or your regular Non-Glare Acrylic or are they the same as far as reflection and sharpness of reflection goes? I am not that worried about sharpness of the pieces being reduced under the acrylic.


According to manufacturer specifications, both NG and UV/NG plex have the same non-glare surface.We use Acrylite acrylic sheet.  Other companies may use acrylic from a different source, which may be more/less non-glare.

The usual question – was the non-glare surface facing out? When you receive your non-glare acrylic, the sheet will have a sticker indicating the correct side to face up. 

Notice the label: THIS SIDE OUT.  Using the wrong side will cause you to lose its properties.
The unlabeled side should be the side touching the art to make use of the non-glare properties of the acrylic.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ask Mike! When to Use Spacers with Mats

Ask Mike your framing questions. Call 800-774-7793 or email him at
You have questions? Mike has answers! Every Thursday afternoon, our Plant Manager Mike Cromly is available to answer your questions about custom picture framing. Isn’t it nice to speak with experts directly? Here is your chance to work with the industry’s best expert, not because he has ALL the anwers, but because he loves to dig into the details and will give you the right answers for your particular project. Call or email him, whichever is easiest for you. Questions we receive that are particularly interesting will be shared on our blog. Here is the first of this series.

Subject: Framing Question - When to use spacers with Mats

Dear Mike,
I like the look of using spacers between mats when I double mat some of my landscape photography.
My question is; are you limited to what type of frames you can use spacers?

Also is it up to your preference on how to display if using spacers when matting or should you limit it based on the media you are framing


Love your customer service and products

Mike’s Answer
Re: Your question of the type of frame when using spacers:

The rabbet depth is the only limiting factor.  Some interesting effects result if deep rabbet frames are used and you triple or quadruple mats with spacers between each mat.  Trial and error and imagination are a big part of framing.

Re:  Preference on how to display:
Generally, spacers are used to help keep the artwork from touching the glazing.  Mats usually work as a spacer on smaller works,  but larger items with a single mat may "buckle" over time and allow the art to touch the glazing.  Spacers of multiple mats or other materials (EconoSpace) might be needed
Re: Preferences - let the artist in you design the combinations.  If you went to a frame shop, the framer would be doing the suggesting.  Part of DIY framing is the freedom to experiment and design yourself.

Re: Type of media:

Type of media is a consideration.  The more 3 dimensional an item is, the further back from the glazing it will need to be mounted.

Thank you for your inquiry.  If you have an image of your spacing between mats, I would be interested in seeing it.
- Mike
John’s response:

Dear Mike,

Thanks for your input and advice.

My grandmother framed a few of my prints using the technique I mentioned (I have attached one as an example). 

I like the effect of the added depth, the visual pop adds a dimension to the print.  It might sound odd, but with the picture slightly set back it helps me visual the location of where the picture was taken easier and quicker.
I might have to experiment with color mats in the future.
Greatly appreciate the ability to put your artwork into the website as you build the frame around it.  I ended up picking a totally different frame than I originally wanted on my last order and am happy with the choice.  Played around with different mat options until I got exactly what I wanted.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

2012 Summer Celebration of the Metal Frame

A few years ago, we ran a series of metal frame sales over the course of the summer which we dubbed the Summer Celebration.  At the time we paid homage the frame and those who created it. It’s a promotion we implemented once, and then moved on to other ideas, but ever since, you’ve been asking “are you doing another Summer Celebration”? Well, this year, our answer is YES!
 All of us at American Frame have a special love for the metal frame. It’s the product that inspired my dad to start our company. We love its style, versatility, simplicity, sturdiness, and ease of use. It’s also the most archival of all framing materials as well as the most recyclable – a powerhouse product at a reasonable cost.
So, bring on Summer 2012! Look for new collections on sale every 2 weeks through Labor Day. Stock up on old favorites or try some thing new! Sign up for e-tips to receive coupons for extra savings.
Have a great summer!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Featured Artist Renee Smith

Relying on the old masters for inspiration and instruction, featured artist Renee Smith still manages to put her own twist on nature’s beauty.  Working in oil, acrylic and watercolor, she strives to blend the most precisely realistic of foregrounds with the emotive brushstroke of an impressionist background.  “There are so many beautiful things to paint, and Renaissance masters like Michaelangelo and DaVinici perfected realism, so I study them and find inspiration in them every day.”
"Red Rose" by Renne C. Smith
Printed on Canson Arches Aquarelle Watercolor Paper
Framed in Reflections Modern Pewter RF469
with double acid free mat board

Based in Mill Valley, California, Smith began her education as a fashion designer but switched quickly to fine art and has been a painter ever since.  Previously represented by a gallery in Madison, Florida where she lived, Smith brings her art to others through education as well.  For two years she taught art at the college level in Cambodia, where living conditions were brutally simple but the people and culture were a source of great joy and inspiration.  These days Smith is teaching the younger generation of artists at Golden Gate Academy preschool near her home. 

The featured piece, “Red Rose” is an acrylic on canvas in the original.  Smith selected it because she was thinking of the mothers in her life, as many of us do around this time of year.  “Mothers have depth, beauty and complexity like this rose.

Smith came to American Frame in search of an online gallery and was thrilled to see her work become available at an affordable price to people across the country.  When she frames her work, she considers the context as well as the piece itself.  “I use more substantial, traditional frames in offices and more personal choices for homes.”

We’ve framed “Red Rose” to emphasize the blend of realism and impressionism characteristic of Smith’s style.  The aluminum frame is from our newest collection, Reflections.  Rendered in a traditional beveled profile made modern with crisp edges and a pewter finish as a twist on the more classic silver, the frame bridges the gap between modern and traditional, realistic and impressionistic.  The bottom accent mat in lichen takes its cue from the flower’s gray-greens leaves while the dominant top mat in antique white provides a neutral break between frame and image without distracting from the shock of color that is a rose in full bloom. 

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