Standard mat opening sizes?


Cliff Wilson

Ok, silly question, but what size to I cut the openings for "pre-cut" mats?

I had some free time and scraps and thought I'd cut some up for sale. Ok, fit a 4 x 6 in an 5 x 7? In an 8 x 10?

What openings do you cut for 1) 5 x 7; 2) 8 x 10; 3) 11 x 14?

If it were me, I would key the openings for standard photo sizes:

4 x 6 into a 5 x 7,
5 x 7 into an 8 x 10, and
8 x 10 into an 11 x 14.
With all the people who are now printing digital prints at home, I'd suggest cutting some mats to fit 8 1/2 x 11 into an 11 x 14. I can't tell you how many of these I see a week. Having them on hand helps my store a lot.
You can offer something they won't find at the craft stores by cutting pre-cut mats with more generous borders, e.g. 5x7 windows in 11x14 mats and 8x10 windows in 16x20 mats.

If you're also making some ready-mades frames from scrap moulding, you don't have to limit yourself to standard size frames. 8x10 windows in 13x15 frames look good.

Think about hard-to-find sizes, like the 8-1/2x11 mentioned above. Another is a 4x5 window for professional proofs. How 'bout 8x12 windows (full-frame prints from 35mm) in 12x16 mats? 10x13 is a common portrait size, especially from the low-end studios, since they can print them on 10" roll paper, along with the 8x10s.

Don't bottom-weight your pre-cut mats since you'd like them to work as verticals or horizontals.

Finally, don't forget to leave a generous overlap for those rare photos with wide white borders. 4-1/2x6-1/2 windows for 5x7 photos, for example.
And, to follow up on Ron's very good suggestions, you could cut a few 2 or 3 opening mats for standard sized photos and build frames to fit them or offer some sort of special on building the frames for them. That way the customer could have their choice of frame moulding and the finished package would be more "personal" than anything they could possibly find in another store.

I had a large box of pre-cut mats in single and double mat selections made from scraps and fallouts and most were a minimum of 2 1/2" wide with many being between 3" and 4" wide. Many people like that wider mat border, it seems, and they can then pick their own moulding for the frame and walk away feeling that they had some input into their framing even though the mats were already prepared for them.