I love the look of nice, clean, framed prints on my walls but I hate paying lots of money for something I could probably do myself. Framing art is one of those things. Of course if I had a really nice, expensive piece I would probably go to a professional framer. But everything else? DIY all the way. Here’s a step-by-step guide for how I frame art inexpensively, usually for under $20 per piece.
Let’s say you’ve found a print that is a normal size and an inexpensive frame to fit it. Great! This is an easy one. A lot of prints from Society6 (where I ordered everything featured in this post) can be weird sizes, but sometimes things will fit standard frame sizes. As you can see in the photo above, this One Line Nude on White print actually lines up well with the frame and mat. It helps that there is a lot of white space to make sizing less of an issue.
Put a small piece of painter’s tape on the back of your piece, facing up. This will help you align the print to the photo mat without it slipping around as you flip the pieces over to check placement. Once you have lined up the mat on top of the print, you can flip it over and add another small piece of painter’s tape to make sure the print stays in place.
Slide the print and mat into the frame, and you have a nice-looking piece of art!
This same, easy process can also work if you have a print that doesn’t align perfectly with the mat opening but you’re okay with losing some of the print anyway. I did this with my Embroidered Mt. Rushmore print in a smaller frame.
Note how the mat opening is too small for the print and the print and mat opening are not aligned nicely when I decided on placement. If you’re doing this, you just have to decide which parts of the print you’re okay with having slightly hidden.
Tools of the trade: a pencil and an X-Acto knife
Framing More Difficult Sizes
Of course, not everything is this easy. I loved this Pink Eruption Print but knew it was going to be a tricky size to frame. Luckily, I found a shortcut to frame art inexpensively about two years ago when decorating my last apartment. It’s a little time-consuming, but totally worth it to frame a big piece for less. I have framed every 18″x24″ piece I have using $20 IKEA Ribba frames.
First, align your print on the back of the mat just like you’re framing something more basic. Then secure the print to the mat using painter’s tape again so you can easily remove the print later. Use a pencil to trace lightly around the border of the print that you have secured to the back of the mat. Take care to make sure you’re drawing on the back side and not the front (a mistake I’ve made before) so there are no visible pencil marks when you’re done.
Once you have your outline, carefully remove the print from the mat and prepare to draw the line you’ll cut on. Find a straightedge – a shoebox works extremely well – and draw a line about 1/4 inch inside the outline of the print. You want the line on the inside so that the mat opening is slightly smaller than the print itself. Don’t draw the line on the outside (another mistake I have made in the past) or the opening will be too large for the print.
Once you have your lines, it’s time to cut! I use a small X-Acto knife to get the job done. Cut along the inside line, trying to keep your lines as clean and straight as possible, until you have traced the area you want to cut. You probably have to cut along the same line three or four times, applying a good amount of pressure, before it will break all the way though the mat. Be careful to avoid doing this on a surface you don’t want to scratch. I usually just do it against the inside backing of the photo frame.
The photo above shows my mat with one of four sides cut out. You can use the X-Acto knife to clean up the sides where your cut may have been uneven.
And there you have it! A mat sized perfectly for the print! The extra time spent making everything fit is totally worth it to be able to save dozens to hundreds of dollars on a more custom frame or professional framing services.
P.S. Eyeing some Society6 pieces of your own? Use this link and get $10 off your first purchase of $40 or more!