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How to design your passepartout - Expert tips

The framing with passepartout opens up many design possibilities to skilfully stage a picture and underline its effect. In the following, you'll learn - from the author Karin Havlicek -  how to choose the optimal passepartout for your work and picture frame.

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Here you will get many tips


Picture frame with passe-partout  Picture frame without passe-partout

Different effect: HALBE-frame with and without a passepartout

Should you frame your picture with passepartout?

When a paper work is framed with a passepartout it looks more valuable overall. A high quality passepartout conveys a certain depth through the bevel cut and gives the picture space thanks to the distance to the frame. The whole framing becomes larger as a result, too. A thick passepartout reinforces this effect. For wavy strong paper works, always choose a strong passepartout.
In addition, framing with passepartout means that the picture does not come into direct contact with the glass. The certified mounts used by HALBE- Framing from Klug - Conservation, are resistant to aging and offer your artwork an active protection. The picture can be presented covered or exposed.


mit 1,5mm starkem Passepartout bedecktpassepartout made of 1,5mm thick KLUG museum cardboard

When the picture is covered, only a certain section of the picture is visible. This type of presentation is chosen, for example, when framing prints or photographs, or for works on paper whose edge is distracting, for example, because it is damaged, odd or frayed. Covered with passepartout means that the cutout area of the passepartout is at least 1 cm smaller than the paper work to be framed. 

 mit 3mm starkem Passepartout bedecktpassepartout made of 3mm thick KLUG museum cardboard for strong accents

Thus 0.5 cm of the paper work is covered on all sides. On the one hand, as much of the image as possible should be shown, but on the other hand, the edge of the image must not be visible or bulge out, as would be the case if, for example, the calculated cutout was too wide. When measuring the paperwork and determining the cutout, it should be noted that the paperwork still needs to be fixed at the top edge.


Papierarbeit mit Unterschrift abgedeckt mit zugeschnittenem PassepartoutPaperwork with signature, covered with a cut passepartout (1.5mm thick) in a picture frame wood 10, alder dark

If a signature is present, it should be shown in full if possible. The paperwork can be fixed directly behind the passepartout or on the so-called picture carrier.


Paperwork - exposed with passepartout

Acrylic painting exposed with white passe-partoutAcrylic painting exposed with white passepartout (3mm thick) in a Classic magnetic frame Alu 18, Chrome glossy

Exposed with passepartout means that the paper work is shown in its full size. The cutout of the passepartout is a few millimetres larger than the paper work on all sides. How many millimetres the distance from the edge of the image to the front edge of the bias cut should be depends on the paperwork. A distance of at least 0.5 to 1.0 cm from the edge of the image to passepartout on all sides looks good. Unless the paperwork is not evenly rectangular, calculate a larger distance, as the sheet can then be averaged out. The paperwork has to be fixed on the image carrier. Since the image carrier is visible through this type of presentation, the image carrier and passepartout should have the same colour and quality.


How wide a passepartout should be is ultimately a matter of taste.
From my experience, it looks harmonious if the width of the passepartout border is about 10-12% of the measurement of the longer side.
For a paper work with a size of 70 cm x 50 cm, the width of the passepartout is then 8.5 cm. Note that the front edge of the frame covers a few millimetres of this, thus reducing the visible passe-partout width.

Passepartout mit schmalem RandWhite passepartout with narrow border (external format 300x400, cut-out: 238 x 338 mm, corresponds to 8% border width)

Passepartout mit mittlerem RandWhite passepartout with medium border width (external format 300x400, cut-out: 178 x 288 mm, corresponds to 14% border width)

Passepartout mit breitem RandWhite passepartout with wide border (external format 300x400, cut-out: 138 x 238 mm, corresponds to 20% border width)


The passepartout can be the same on all sides. However, it looks more attractive if the bottom margin is about 5 mm wider than the other 3 sides on the right, top and left.

Passepartout mit breitem unteren RandWhite passepartout with wider lower border

Passepartout mit quadratischem AusschnittWhite passepartout the square cutout is placed off-center

However, other forms of presentation are also conceivable with regard to the border or the placement of the cut-out. If, for example, an artist has deliberately printed or embossed a motif off-centre on the sheet, this idea should be taken into account in the framing. If the sheet is to be framed with passepartout one can orient oneself proportionally to the motive and select the cutout accordingly like e.g. on the left and on the right a narrow edge, above a broad edge and the lower edge clearly more broadly. To determine the dimensions of the passe-partout, it is helpful to try out several variations using a metre rule and to align the sheet using a clean paper backing.


Find the right colour

Passepartout Farben in schwarz weiss und grau

Different passepartout colors (white, antique white, natural white, black). Behind it different papers. The passe-partout color is based on the colour of the paper work.

As far as the choice of passe-partout colour is concerned, anything is conceivable here too and depends not least on personal ideas.
For handmade prints on light paper, often handmade paper, I recommend to choose the colour of the passepartout approximately in the colour of the sheet. Here, the passepartout in natural white is the best choice.

For black and white photographs, a white passepartout looks very good if the presentation is to be classic and also bright. Whether white or antique white depends on the shade of white of the paper work. If the walls of the room are freshly painted in bright white, choosing a white mount is also ideal. Alternatively, the off-white tone in antique white is a good choice. A black passepartout looks very good with dark picture motifs, as the motif then appears lighter overall.


You can find more information, tips and recommendations on passe-partout design in the knowledge section for passe-partouts.