Framing 101: How to Frame Art Cheap and Easy
If you're looking to frame artwork without having to spend hundreds of dollars in the process, you've come to the right place! I've compiled a million ideas for framing art so you can get artwork up on your walls today.
This how-to guide offers everything you'll need to take the mystery out of framing artwork. You'll discover helpful answers to all your questions about customizing frames for non-standard size artwork like the 15x5 mountain ranges, where to find frames, and tips on how to quickly get art up on the wall. For framing basics for beginners check out my blog Framing 101: Art Framing Basics.
Discover how to:
How to frame standard sizes
Most of my work is standard size and easy to put in a frame. Use this Proportion Size Chart to help you choose the right size frame and mat for your artwork:
As a rule of thumb, frames cover about .25” of the art all the way around. Pre-cut mats typically cover about .25” more of the artwork than the advertised size, so trust what the description says! For example, an “11x14 mat with an 8x10 opening” will fit your 8x10 inch artwork beautifully, including enough overlap to cover the edges.
How to frame non-standard sizes
The panoramic mountain ranges are among the most popular items in my shop. Whether you purchased the Washington Cascades or Oregon Cascades, the Olympic range or a different range from my collection, your new artwork may come in a unique size that requires a non-standard size frame. If you have original artwork or other pieces that are just sitting around and waiting to be framed because you can't seem to find a proper fit, there are plenty of non-standard size framing solutions that are sure to work for your artwork.
There are several options for framing non-standard size artwork, like this 15x5 of print of the Washington Cascade Range.
- Small Mountain Ranges: If you need help framing my 15x5" mountain ranges, check out these amazing wood 15x5 frames by the company Signed and Numbered that come in a variety of colors. If you like the matted style, look for a proportional 10x20" standard size frame. Using a frame that's a bit larger than the image gives you the option to either have the print on a mat cut or mounted on a piece of archival paper. Note: Some panoramic frames are sold in a "collage" frame section with pre-cut mats that you can remove and/or replace.
- Board Mounting: To preserve your print for longer, mount it to a board. Companies like Colorplak and Queen Anne Frame can do this for you by permanently mounting an archival print on a piece of wood and sealing it with a UV-protected coating to prevent it from fading. With board mounting, there's no need to traditionally frame a print because the board mounted print is ready to hang. I offer a board mounted option on of all my most popular pieces.
Board mounting provides a UV-protected coating to prevent artwork from fading, and it looks great!
- DIY Custom Framing: For those who like a good do-it-yourself project, you can order custom mats and frames online and assemble them yourself through sites like arttoframe.com and matboardplus.com. Take a look at this piece I framed myself. Using custom size materials I ordered online made it easy to frame this unusual size piece.
I frame most of my original artwork myself. It allows me to have fun creating my own frame and mat combinations.
- Make it Standard Size: Even the most non-standard size artwork can be transformed into a standard size that's easy to frame. My favorite technique is buying a custom mat with outer dimensions that are cut to standard size so it can be framed with something off the shelf - matboardplus.com is my go to for custom cut mats at affordable prices. Another technique is mounting the art on top of contrasting archival paper that's larger (archival paper costs about $3 per sheet at a craft store), so that it fits into both a standard mat and frame. I've even "matted" an illustration by mounting it to a piece of fabric that's tightly wrapped around the backer board of the frame. Here's some of my handiwork with matting pieces that are non-standard size or backed to fit standard size frames.
Mount your artwork on a piece of contrasting archival paper for a perfect fit within a standard frame and mat.
- Floating Frames: To give your artwork the "floating" look, this frame style uses two pieces of glass instead of a backer board. The art sits snugly between the glass, creating a transparent mat around it. You can always find a wide selection of floating frames at crafts stores like Michaels.
Floating frames use two pieces of glass to create a transparent mat around your artwork. Visit your local craft store to see what's available!
- Poster Holders: If you're going for a minimalist frame look or you've ordered one my large prints, you might enjoy the style of a poster holder like IKEA's VISBÄCK poster hanger, which comes in multiple sizes, or this magnetic poster hanger from World Market. It doesn't protect the print itself, like a typical frame, so avoid using poster holders in kitchens and bathrooms.
Poster holders create a minimalist look that's great for framing pieces of all sizes, like this 12x16 Washington State Ferries print.
- Dowel Mounted: To create a dowel-mounted frame, you'll simply need to staple thin pieces of wood (like half dowels or standard wood trim) to the top and bottom of a piece (front side), staple string to the top piece of wood and viola! You'll have a piece that's instantly ready to hang.
Creating a dowel-mounted frame only requires two pieces of thin wood, a piece of string and a stapler.
How to frame art cheaply
Whether you're searching for new frames or like the look of a vintage frame, there are several ways to frame on a budget. To frame art cheaply, all it takes is a willingness to think outside the box and explore the nooks and crannies of your home, neighborhood resale apps and community antique/thrift stores. In this section, you'll discover a few creative ideas to help you begin your hunt for cheap frames.
- Second-Hand Stores: Your local thrift stores and antique stores might offer one-of-a-kind treasures that are great for framing art cheaply. A coat of paint or stain can freshen up and even transform a frame.
Thrift, antique and department stores are hidden gems for finding interesting frames at low prices. Just replace the pre-framed art with your own and you're ready to hang it on your wall!
- Borrow a Frame: Pre-framed stock art sold in department stores may not be your jam, but these pieces can be de-assembled and swapped out for something you'll enjoy, like a State Map. Stores like HomeGoods, IKEA, TJ Maxx and Target usually have a decent selection of pre-framed art on clearance! Find the right size, and reframe the piece you actually want on your wall.
- Poster Hangers: Give your art a non-traditional and classy look with poster hangers. Some of my favorites include:
- Hangers and Clipboards: Old fashioned wooden hangers or pants-style hangers are great for displaying art. Old fashioned wooden clipboards also work well for holding small artwork securely.
Got some old wooden hangers lying around? They make great makeshift frames for small prints, like the Night Sky.
- DIY Frame: Non-traditional materials such as yardsticks, twigs or scrap wood are great from making your own frames. You can even staple thin pieces of wood (like half dowels or standard wood trim) to the top and bottom of a piece, attach a string and viola!
If you're a DIY'er with some old yardsticks, twigs or wood scraps, you can make your own frames in no time.
- Buy in Bulk: If you have multiple pieces of artwork you'd like to frame, like pieces from my Space & Celestial collection, you can purchase a multipack of frames for a per-frame discounted price. IKEA and online craft and art stores have great deals on multipacks. Many sets include multiple sizes of your chosen frame style.
Framing art doesn't have to take hours. In fact, there are several ways to frame your art in just minutes!
How to frame art quicklyYou don't have to spend lots to time framing art to make it look high quality. There are several ways to frame artwork quickly so you can get it on your wall in just minutes.
- Purchase a floating frame that's larger than the artwork to create a visual "matting" around the art without the hassle of actually matting the artwork.
- Buy a standard size frame and pre-cut mat off the shelf and assemble them yourself. Standard size frames and mats are also easy to find at craft or frame shops online (see my list of frame store suggestions below).
- Poster hangers provide a fantastic, inexpensive options for quickly hanging artwork of all sizes. Check out the Visbäck poster hanger from IKEA or this Magnetic frame from Uncommon Goods.
How to frame art for preservation
Note: Custom framing highly recommended when framing art for preservation. I also suggest getting UV protective glass when you're framing something special. It's also important to avoid hanging special pieces on walls that receive lots of direct sunlight. Board mounting is great for posters or any precious artwork that's not on high quality paper such as children's artwork and handwritten notes. Check out the gorgeous custom frame Wolf & Bear Woodcraft made for a 60x20" print of the Olympic Range!
Wolf & Bear Woodcraft customized a 60x20 frame for an Olympic Range print. Check out the detail work on this beautiful frame!
How to frame very large artworkFraming large artwork may seem daunting, but there are many options. There are several ways to frame large art pieces that are both inexpensive and take just minutes.
- Do-It-Yourself: Make your own frame by adhering your artwork to a foam core backing with spray adhesive and using wood pieces to create a simple frame.
- Dowel Mounting: Staple or screw thin pieces of wood (like half dowels or standard wood trim) to the top and bottom of an oversize piece. Attach hanging hardware like two D-rings and viola! All you'll need is a couple of nails for ready-to-hang art.
- Online Custom Frames: Order custom mats and frames online for self assembly. Sites like arttoframe.com and matboardplus.com have many custom framing options.
- Borrow a Frame: Purchase pre-framed art using an app-based site like OfferUp, or buy pre-framed oversize art at a local craft store - there's often oversize pieces on clearance. Replace the pre-framed art with your desired piece, like a 24x36 Puget Sound Map. It's an economical way to get a large conversation piece on your wall.
Dowel mounting offers a simple and elegant way to frame large art, like the North Snohomish County Foothills (left) and the Pacific Northwest Jumbo Vinyl Map (right).
Where to find frames
Whether you prioritize cost, quality, buying local or purchasing online from the convenience of your home, there are several ways to find frames that fit your art and style.
Buy Frames Online:
Online shopping is convenient and easy. Here are some of my favorites:
Buy Frames in Brick & Mortar Stores:
Some of my favorite local frame supply stores in the Greater Seattle Area are:
HomeGoods and department stores like IKEA, TJ Maxx, Walmart, World Market usually carry a good selection of common standard size frames. Craft stores like Michaels, Hobby Lobby and Ben Franklin usually have the best frame selection, including less common sizes and oversize frames.
Custom Framing in the Greater Seattle Area:
Here are some of my favorite galleries for custom framing in the Greater Seattle Area:
- Anabel's Framing and Gallery - Everett
- Artisan Custom Framing - Mill Creek
- Christopher Framing & Fine Art - Edmonds
- TSUGA Fine Art & Framing - Bothell
- Lake City Picture Framing - Lake City/Seattle
- Queen Anne Frame & Gift - Queen Anne/Seattle
- Annie’s Art & Frame - Ballard/Seattle
- Tacoma Museum Quality Framing - Tacoma
More Ideas for Finding Frames and Framing:
You can find frames at thrift stores, antique stores, estate sales and online or app based sites like OfferUp and Facebook Marketplace. You can also get creative and make your own frame using wood or non-traditional materials like old wooden yardsticks or clothing hangers. Below are gorgeous frames crafted by one of my customers. Check out his woodworking on Instagram.
Custom frames crafted by 6_8woodworks for art he put up in his classroom!
Framing art doesn't have to be difficult. No matter how big or small your artwork is, there are several standard size and non-standard size frame options to fit your style and budget so you can hang art on your walls in no time. For more info check out my Framing 101: Art Framing Basics blog.
Inspired and in need of some art to frame? Check out my latest work here.