Instead of buying new, hit the thrift for secondhand frames to display your art. Here are 30 awesome ways to refinish picture frames.
I love having art on my walls. Buying new frames and having stuff professionally matted would make that pleasure super pricey, so I’m especially stoked that I haven’t purchased a brand-new picture frame in over a decade. Instead, I refinish picture frames that I’ve bought from thrift stores and yard sales.
Everything matches, I can mat my art creatively, and I save big bucks (and divert trash from the waste stream) while still having loads of pretty things hung up to look at.
Since I thrift and refinish picture frames so often, I tend to use a variety of techniques so that I don’t get bored–and my walls don’t look boring. Here are some of my favorites:
1. altered art. If you have an entire painting that you’d like to remake, check out this tute for altering the art itself.
2. baseball-themed. To make this mat, you just need a white T-shirt and red embroidery thread.
3. burlap. Covering a picture mat in burlap makes it really texturally interesting.
4. buttons. Carry this over to the glass front, as well, if you’d like.
5. candy wrappers. These were a cute way to make a mat for photos from my daughter’s candy-themed birthday party.
6. chalk paint. Use this technique to give an ornate frame a shabby chic look.
7. chevrons. This is SO easy to do with masking tape.
8. comic book or dictionary pages. Decoupaged paper makes a cute and lively matboard.
9. distressed. Maybe you just need to take off a little paint?
10. dry erase. You can hang a picture frame up specifically as a dry erase board, or use this technique to add decorative elements to framed pieces.
11. fabric art. If the glass front of a picture frame breaks, don’t despair! You can still use the frame to mount fabric art.
12. glitter. Whether it’s on the mat or the frame, you can ALWAYS use more glitter.
13. grey paint and gesso. It makes your frame look like a statue. Seriously.
14. linen. A photo mat covered in linen shows off the same interesting texture as burlap, but it’s more elegant.
15. magnet board. Replace the mat and frame with a piece of sheet metal, cut to size.
16. magnets. Maybe there’s nothing at all with your picture frame; maybe it just needs to hang on your refrigerator!
17. mosaic. Use this technique on a wide and flat picture frame.
18. moss. Fake moss and grass make an interesting photo mat in this tute.
19. paint and fabric. Here’s my go-to method right here–I pretty much always repaint a thrifted frame, no matter what else I do to it, and I have so much stash fabric lying around that it’s a quick and easy way to cover a mat board for a new look.
20. pinboard. This is the perfect way to refinish an absolutely humongous picture frame.
21. pressed flowers. Bring nature inside with this photo mat.
22. scrapbook paper. Show off your prettiest scrapbook paper in this Anthropologie knock-off.
23. spray paint and stencil. The tute here uses a mirror, but most of the techniques, particularly the spray paint and stencil methods, work equally well with a glass-front picture frame.
24. theme park souvenirs. Maps, brochures, and tickets all make cute mats.
25. tile. Use this method around raw glass or on top of a flat frame.
26. toys. Have your kids grown out of their little toy cars or trains or LEGOs? They’d look great on a picture frame!
27. twine-wrapped. For a completely different look, you can also use embroidery floss.
28. washi tape. It’s amazing how much this paper tape can change the look of a mat board.
29. wood-backed. With the mat and glass replaced with pallet boards or barn wood, you’ve got a great spot for a lovely stencil.
30. wrapping paper. This would be especially cute for a Christmas- or birthday-themed photo.