I came across two kinds of frames:

  1. First type has frame width around 1 cm to 1.5 cm max. But it is thick frame. I mean if you view it from side, it will look thick.
  1. Second type has width around 0.75" to 1". So it's wide, but if you view it from side, it is doesn't have much height.

I can't find exact images and their side views, but I've shared relevant images and few rough illustrated examples above.

So both have similar mat mounts but the borders have different widths and weights. Both are meant to be hanged on wall.

I was about to get my artworks framed, but I just paid attention to this detail.

Personally, I like the narrow border as shown in 1st case. But I want to understand the reasons. The shop I visited for framing had most of the frames with wide borders. I couldn't find a narrow border. Except a few but I didn't buy them because they were small in overall size.

So is there any specific purpose of each of them? Does a narrow or wide border matter depend on the type of artwork?

1 Answer 1


There is a purpose, but it is almost exclusively aesthetical.

Just like the material and colour of a frame, the width of the frame and that of the passepartout (or mat) have a huge visual impact on the way an artwork is perceived.
A mild example:

enter image description here Artist: Lynne Roebuck. Source: adapted from Pinterest

Where proper framing can accentuate an artwork's composition and colour scheme, improper framing can make the same artwork look drab. Professional framing is an art of nuance.

Now the depth of a frame, while not having as much visual impact under most circumstances, depends mostly (and practically) on the type of artwork: a photograph doesn't need a lot of frame depth, whereas a painting, being deeper by nature, preferably needs additional space on the front side as well as the backside for conservational reasons (protection from dust and to facilitate acclimatization, respectively).
Objects that have an even more significant third dimension, like tapestries or sculptures, need more volume.

Some other, practical, considerations for the thickness of a frame are material costs (a beech frame is cheaper than one of rosewood) and structural strength (larger and heavier artworks demand a stronger structure).

When it comes to passepartouts, their function is more to obscure distracting aspects of an artwork, like hiding the edges of the canvas or paper, or to isolate a subject or a more well-balanced composition.
Getting the right colour, width, format, aspect ratio, thickness, grain, &c., is naturally again a matter of aesthetics.

To compare different options, you have ...well, different options:

  • In smaller local shops you can usually ask for a comparison between various alternatives, especially if they specialize in framing.
  • If you're slightly experienced with any image editor, you can even get a (crude) comparison by trying out things digitally.
  • Or physically cut out rectangular shapes in differently coloured paper and of different sizes and widths and determine what works best by shuffling those around.
  • "deeper" you mean painting is not completely "2D" like a photo print? Painting has some thick brush strokes so the surface is a bit uneven?
    – Vikas
    Commented Dec 5, 2021 at 11:11
  • Also, is it common to use mats in wide frames too? Or if you want mat/mounts, thin borders are preferred (like 1st example)?
    – Vikas
    Commented Dec 5, 2021 at 11:12
  • 1
    Yes, "deeper", since we talk about height and width as parallel to the artwork. And, yes, mats are common in frames with wide borders as well.
    – Joachim
    Commented Dec 5, 2021 at 11:33
  • 1
    Typo corrected :)
    – Joachim
    Commented Dec 5, 2021 at 12:14
  • 1
    Mats are less common for paintings, exactly because they have a texture that should not be abraded. In older frames especially, they often kind of encapsulate part of the painting (that is, the edges of the canvas with a few centimeters that are often not as polished as the rest of the painting). This is also how sometimes you can tell by a painting whether it it still in the original frame (e.g. seeing an oval shape around a portrait in a rectangular frame can indicate it used to presented in an oval frame).
    – Joachim
    Commented Dec 5, 2021 at 12:17

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