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Thomas Lowry
Thomas Lowry
Designer Advocate at Figma

Frames

At the most basic level, what you may think of an "artboard" in other design tools is actually what we call a frame in Figma. We see frames as a foundational element for your designs that can act as a top-level container (like a device viewport) and/or represent areas or components within your design. Frames, and the ability to nest them, are an integral part of creating dynamic layouts in Figma.

Before we dive into the behaviors and properties of frames, let's quickly cover the three different ways you can create a frame.

  1. Select the frame tool (F), and choose a preset device size from the properties panel on the right. This will place a new frame on your canvas set to the exact dimensions of whatever device that you picked.

  2. With the frame tool selected, click and drag to make a new frame at whatever size you want.

  3. Similar to grouping, you can select existing elements on the canvas and contain them within a frame by pressing: ⌘ + Opt + G (Mac) or Ctrl + Alt + G (Win).

If you wish to do the opposite, and remove the parent frame container, the keyboard shortcut is the same as un-grouping: ⌘ + Shift + G (Mac) or Ctrl + Shift G (Win). Now let's dig into their unique features and uses.

Frame sizes

Frame sizes are set independently from their child elements. If you reposition or scale child elements inside a frame, its bounds will not auto-adjust. If you want the dimensions of the frame to readjust to the contents, you can click the "Resize to Fit" button in the properties panel on the right.

Resize to fit option
Frame bounds do not auto adjust to their content. If you need to do this, choose the "Resize to Fit" option from the properties panel.

It's also important to note that components in Figma behave in exactly the same way as frames. You can convert a frame into a component to re-use it in other places, and if you detach an existing component instance, you will see that it gets converted into a frame.

Resizing with constraints

Frames and groups differ in their behavior when resized. As mentioned, groups will resize in the way you would expect a group of vectors to scale. A frame's bounds will be resized independently from its child elements; however, you can define constraints which affect the resizing behavior of those child elements relative to their parent frame. By default, these constraints are set to "Top" and "Left."

Setting up custom constraints can be really useful when you want items to maintain the size and position relative to the frame, which is usually the behavior you want when creating responsive components. The example below highlights the differences between groups, frames, and frames with specifically defined constraints.

Frame resizing constraints

Quick tip: If you want to ignore your constraints when resizing a frame, hold (Mac) or Ctrl (Win) when dragging the frame.

Overflow content

Because the bounds of a frame can be adjusted independently of its children, the "Clip Content" feature (accessible in the right-hand properties panel) can be used in conjunction with this in many different ways. Here are some common examples:

  1. Hiding out of bounds content: By enabling "clip content," any part of an element that falls outside the bounds of the frame will be hidden.
Hiding out of bounds content
  1. Showing out of bounds content: By disabling "clip content," you can enable elements that fall outside your frames' bounds to remain visible. For example, if you wanted to create a frame that contained a pull-quote with hanging punctuation, you may resize your frame so that its bounds are aligned to the left edge of the text box, leaving the quotation mark outside of the frame's bounds. In situations like this, it can make it much easier to align objects in your design.
Disable content
  1. Reveal additional content: By setting up proper constraints and enabling "clip content" you can build frames and components that reveal more content when they expand. For example, you have a drop-down menu that gets used in multiple places with varying numbers of options. This gives you an easy way to simply resize a frame to reveal more menu items.
Reveal additional content
  1. Overflow content in prototypes: Elements that overflow beyond the boundaries of a frame can be set to scroll inside of a prototype. For example, you are nesting a frame in your design to house a scrolling carousel. You can configure the overflow behavior so that it is scrollable when viewed in prototype mode.
Frames overflow

Grids

Layout grids are unique to frames and can be applied to any frame or component in your design. This is really useful because sometimes you'll want to have areas of your design that have their own independent grids. Resizing constraints in Figma can work in conjunction with the layout grids as well. In the example below, you can see that there is a 2-column grid on the top level frame, and a nested secondary frame for the tab bar, which has its own 3-column grid. With the constraints setup, as the top level frame changes in size, the resizing behavior of child elements happens relative to the layout grid.

Grids

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