Why is it better to use standard canvas sizes for Artwork?

Updated - 04/21/2010 - If you are buying art or if you are an artist it is better to purchase or create artwork on standard canvas sizes. The reason why is quite simple on both sides of the transactions. Here is why -

If you are a buyer -
When you purchase art and if you are planning to purchase more than one artwork for you home decor, it is better to purchase standard canvas sizes. There are few reasons why:

There are frames available at retail stores that can be a lot cheaper than custom frames. Not all of them will work well with every artwork, and some artwork will have completely different and better look and feel with a custom frame, but never the less, some artwork looks great with just a standard frame from the retail store.

If you do decide to go with a custom frame, there is a chance that the frame you chose is not working to well with your home decor or maybe you just ready to renovate and update your interior. What can work well for redesign is swapping frames between artworks. You will be amazed how you can get a different look and feel from that same 'old and boring' painting - that is if you got an 'old and boring' paintings to begin with.

Also standard size art will make your decor look more organized and classic, when you have all different sizes all over it will look like an art gallery, and not cozy house. Also with standard sizes it is easier to create different wall art compositions - like arranging paintings or drawings in groups of two, three, etc...

If you are an Artist -
Most of the artist do not have their own frame shop, so if you are selling your artwork framed you will be in a better position to get a discount from a frame shop when you are purchasing larger quantity of frames that are the same sizes.

Same as with buyer you can give your artwork a new life by exchanging frames between artworks. And you can offer the same art with different types of frames since they are all the same sizes. People have different taste, so having different framing options available always helps.

With standard canvas sizes shipping and handling can be 'a walk in a park'. Once you packaged one painting, you can use the same materials and approach to package and ship another. Plus you don't have to figure out new shipping charges every time since same sizes will most likely have the same shipping cost.

Added on 04/21/2010 -

In general the most common sizes for paintings are the ones that follow 3/4 formula; where the canvases width is 3/4th of the height. However, photography of art took a path on its own and uses slightly different formats. Also I do not like to use square canvas, so I cannot comment on the popularity of square canvas, and there might be a good reason for it, since I haven't seen many (if at all) premade frames for square artwork.

So, from the smallest to the larges using the formula and noting the popularity and availability of premade supporting materials (such as frames) on the scale from one to five:

Anything up to 4x6 inches is probably not going to be practical for most of the artwork. Also, some sizes can be available but I do not list the ones that get no stars at all on my scale.

  • 4x6 inches - * (very popular - for personal photos, but not really common in art)
  • 5x7 inches - * (popular - for personal photos, but not really common in art)
  • 8x10 inches - ** (popular - for personal, art prints and photography print, but not really common in art)
  • 11x14 inches - **** (extremely popular - this is where we are getting into the Art sizes and there are a lot of stretched canvases available in this size, however this size is mostly used for prints, posters, photography, scathing, drawings etc.. and not commonly used for oil or acrylic paintings, thus 4 stars. There is large selection of frames available in every shape, color, material, etc... for this size.)
  • 16x20 inches - **** (extremely popular - almost the same as 11x14, and the frames availability is really good, however this size is used less for drawing, scathing, etc... but I seen it used for paintings, so still 4 stars.)
  • 18 x 24 inches - *** (used - not sure why it became popular with art paintings, but there is large supplies of canvas available but it can take a little research to find a good frame for it. Not used much besides for the paintings - I'm thinking this is the smallest size that has right proportions for an artist to start painting, and that is why it is mostly used for that. However, considering this is the first paintings only (or primarily) used size I'll give it 3 stars.)
    Keep in mind that small painting will not look good in a large room, and the monster frame added to it to make it appear larger can only go so far. So, now we are getting in to the sizes that are not used frequently for prints, posters, art photography, drawings, scathes etc..., but primarily used for paintings - mostly oil and acrylic. And the logic here is that painting with frame (or even without it) should be large enough so it will not get 'lost' in the room. Also, keep in mind that, were other artwork can be displayed in smaller rooms the paintings usually go into the largest room in the house. The rating for large sizes is different. Obviously it will be harder to find premade canvases and frames for these sizes, but they are given a higher rating if at least some are available.
  • 20 by 24 inches - ** (used - not very common but both canvas and frames are available, occasionally still used for posters, prints.)
  • 22 by 34 inches - * (used - not very common but both canvas and frames are available, occasionally still used for posters, prints.)
  • 24 by 26 inches - * (used - not very common but both canvas and frames are available, occasionally still used for posters, prints.)
  • 30 by 40 inches - ***** (very popular - this is were paintings are getting large enough that it makes sense to use oil and create 'professional' artwork. Frames can be found for this size with a little research and luck.)
  • 36 by 48 inches - ***** (very popular - this size is used a lot for the paintings, probably more so than the 30 by 40 inches, however premade frames are more difficult to find.)

Anything above this size is probably a thousands of dollars special orders, and do not expect to find any premade frames for these. One size worth noting is the 4 by 6 feet, 48 by 72 inches. I seen a good number of paintings in this size, but again something like this requires a lot of special handling - framing, shipping, even simply having enough room and paint to create it to begin with. The canvas will probably have to be custom stretched as well.

So, there you have it. Don't forget to check the tips below, and do send your feedback and comment.


1. When looking for a frame keep in mind that it is not the frame size that you are looking for but how large of an artwork can fit inside.

2. Always check how deep the frame is. Some frames cannot handle stretched canvas because they are not deep enough, some cannot handle canvas board because they are too deep. (I, personally, stopped using canvas board as soon as stretched canvas became affordable.)

3. The smaller is the artwork the better it will look with wide border frame (within reason - 10 inch wide border on 11 by 14 inches print will probably not look so good.)

4. There are always exceptions, but I suggest keeping the frame border width to be 1/5th or less of the artwork's width.

Mikhail Onanov