In April, we traded in our apartment for a house, which translates to much more wall space. At first, I was intimidated by all the bare walls that I needed to fill up. Then, I discovered how to frame artwork on the cheap! Suddenly, artwork and photographs that I have wanted to frame for years are making their elegant debut. If you’re curious about how to frame artwork yourself, you can find the steps below!
1. Find a Frame
I like to stock up on wooden frames from the 1970’s-80’s at thrift stores! Most frames from decades of yore are sturdy and high-quality, perfect for repainting.
It doesn’t really matter which size(s) of frames you purchase. As long as your artwork is smaller than the frame, that’s the important thing!
2. Paint the Frame(s)
Choose one or two paint colors that correspond with the color scheme in your home. Use the color or colors to paint your frame(s)!
3. Measure the Glass
You can never be completely sure of the size when it comes to thrift store frames. Make sure you measure the frame’s glass so you know how big to make your mat!
4. Make Cuts and Take Measurements
To make the mat, start by cutting a piece of cardstock that is the same size of the glass in the frame. In this case, my paper is 10″ x 12.25″ (254 mm x 311 mm). I usually use a guillotine paper cutter to cut my mats to size, but you can use scissors instead. It doesn’t matter whether the edges of the mat are uneven (due to cutting with scissors) because the edges will be hidden by the edges of the frame!
As a side note, you can find large pieces of card stock or thick paper at art supply and craft stores. I have also used handmade paper to make mats, and I loved the result! The color of your mat is up to you. I usually make white or cream mats for dark frames, and darker-colored mats for white frames.
Once you have cut the mat, use a ruler to measure your artwork.
Now, it’s time to do some math. Take the width of the artwork and subtract that from the width of the mat. Divide that number by two, and you’ll know how wide you need to make the right and left sides of the mat. Then, take the height of the artwork and subtract that from the height of the mat. Divide that by two, and you’ll know how wide you need to make the top and bottom of the mat.
Once you have the measurements for the mat, add about 1/8″ (3 mm) to each number. Use the new measurement numbers to draw pencil guidelines along each side of the mat.
Adding a little bit extra to each of the measurement numbers ensures that all sides of your artwork will be fully covered by the mat.
5. Cut Out the Inside of the Mat
If you want to frame artwork, it’s imperative to have an X-Acto knife and a no-slip metal ruler. A self-healing cutting mat is nice to have as well (and it’s reasonably priced at $5.00), but you can use chipboard or cardboard if you don’t have one. Once you have your supplies, line up the ruler with one of your vertical pencil guidelines. Put your non-dominant hand on the ruler to secure it, then use your other hand to cut the paper along the edge of the ruler.
Once you’ve finished cutting the first edge, turn the paper around to make sure the cut went through. If it didn’t, run the X-Acto knife along the cut again. Then, rotate your paper 180 degrees and cut along the other vertical guideline. Finish up by making cuts along the two horizontal guidelines.
Once you finish cutting, you should be able to push the middle of the paper out, leaving you with a nice, clean mat to frame artwork with.
7. Tape Artwork to the Mat
Once you have made the mat, center your artwork on the back of it. Use small pieces of tape to affix all four corners of the artwork to the mat.
Put the artwork in the frame, and you’re finished!
How to Display Artwork
Once you frame artwork, you might think about how to display it in an elegant, eye-catching way. I love to fill blank spaces on walls (like the corner in my office, shown below) with frame collages!
As long as your frames honor your color scheme, you can group as many frames together as you need to! Frame collages add visual interest and personality to any room.
Of course, there may be pieces that you want to give distinction to. If that’s the case, try purchasing a much larger picture frame, and using that frame to emphasize the framed artwork centered inside of it.
No matter how or where you choose to display your artwork, I hope that this post helps you to frame the pieces that you want to see every day! Before you go, I would like to point out that this is not an archival method of framing. The glass in most retail and thrift store frames will not protect your pieces from aging. Effectively, if you have a very precious piece that you want to last for decades upon decades, it’s best to solicit the services of a professional framer. For general photo and artwork display, however, I love this method!
Thanks very much for reading TPK, and happy framing!