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How much of my photo or print will the picture frame rabbet ‘cut off’ or cover?

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A picture frame rabbet ( or rebate ) does not cover or hide from view a great deal of the art being framed. Typically it would  be around 3 to 5mm, depending on the moulding (picture frame) manufacturer. The red strip in the accompanying picture-frames-rabbet-covering-artworkillustration shows a typical rebate (rabbet) width and ensuing artwork coverage. If none of the artwork may be covered and absolutely everything, image and margins, must be visible, then rather than a picture frame, perhaps a clip frame would suit better than a picture frame. If the incidental coverage of the artwork is something a customer wants minimized then a skilled ....  picture framer can make photo frames and picture frames with a "wide" fit meaning that the amount covered or hidden by the picture frame (rabbet) can be as little as 1mm.

The moulding ( frame ) rebates which cover a little bit of the edges of all artwork are a necessary feature of all picture frames. These serve as holders and holding device to hold into place the backing, artwork, mat work and glass sandwich. Without a rebate, the sandwich with everything, would fall out of the picture frame. The rebate will also cover a few millimetres of the mat ( or mount, as it's called in the U.K. )

With limited edition prints, signed, or numbered artwork or any art bearing signatures, which will be picture framed, it is important that the artist or author not sign or write anything too close to the edge of paper. If words, numbers or any character is written too close to the edges, these may fully or partially hidden by the frames' rebate. These may also appear too close to the edge, giving the framed artwork an unprofessional or unbalanced look and feel.

Picture frame mouldings vary shape, width and height, but the rebate size is fairly uniform. On most picture framing mouldings it will something like 5mm wide by 10 mm deep. Whilst this doesn't seem particularly big, it doesn't need to be. We can add up a frame's individual components, an MDF or foam board backing of between 3 and 5mm, the artwork of maybe .25mm, a window mat or double mat being maybe 1.5 or 3 mm and the glass, generally under 2 mm.

All these items stacked on top of one another, will add up to less than a 10mmm depth. This is sufficient for all picture framing component to go and be flush and flat with the back of the frame. An interesting, if incidental, aspect of a picture frame's rebate is that it behaves somewhat like a time capsule. Many years ago an artist brought to us a new oil painting and an old framed oil painting. She wanted the old painting, deemed worthless, thrown out and the new painting put in the old frame.

When we de-framed the old painting out we saw a title, inscription and name hand-written on the side of the old stretcher. This information had been hidden from view since the art was framed, decades ago. We Googled what we saw and found that the work was that of a fairly well know American artist, and far from being worthless, it had a definite market value. Needless to say, our Customer was very grateful! One last point about picture frames rebates.

Most picture frames aren't for conservation jobs nor require museum standard quality. However if this is required, the entire rebate surface, that is, the width and height surfaces, should be lined or covered with special barrier liners or spacers. These liners or spacer are constructed so as to prevent and lignin stains or acid migration form the raw wood of the moulding and into the valuable artwork. For related information on mounting and custom picture framing see our Picture Framing and Mounting page.

2 thoughts on “How much of my photo or print will the picture frame rabbet ‘cut off’ or cover?

  1. Great to see some information about this stuff on picture frames and photo frames. So I now know that the nothing on my picture will be cut off, but rather, covered up by the edge of the frame. Then the picture will look smaller, right? I once blamed a picture framer for chopping off the edges of my photo but he said he didn’t but I didn’t believe him. So why could he not have not explained about this rebate or rabbet? I wish picture framers would explain better or talk more about these things and picture frames!!

  2. I’m a graphic artist and I design certificates, awards, recognitions, affiliations and other documents for clients. Often they want me to add borders, bullets or thin lines around my artwork and on the 4 sides of the document. Just as often they want these as close as possible and or as close to the frame as possible. So if the document’s edges are covered up to 5mm from the rebates of the picture frame, this can interfere with my design. So my rule is, never design a line, bullet or border too close to the edges of the paper. I now find that 2 cms is the closest I want to go to the edges of picture frames. So that works for me now

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