[Revised July 2019]
Hi there! Are you like me? Do you enjoy buying good quality frames and artwork whenever you find them for good prices? My personal goal is to always have “stash” of frames to shop from when I find beautiful art at a yard sale or thrift store. In this way, huge amounts of money can be saved.
I try very hard to regularly take time to mix and match art with frames in order to keep the frames from completely overwhelming me. I probably have a couple of hundred frames in various sizes right at the moment. Yes, I’m a bit of a frame hoarder, LOL.
Today, I’d love to show you the process I go through to frame art like a professional, and then I’ll share a number of examples with you, too. [Keep in mind that if you have artwork of high quality or photos you want to preserve, then invest in acid free mats and backing, and in protective glass.]
It’s not all that uncommon for me to come across a box filled with old frames at a sale. I guess they are easily accumulated, and then the owners just get plain sick of them. I often find them at yard sales for next to nothing.
I actually bought this box, just as you see it, at an estate sale for just $3.00. I’ll remove the photographs and sell them separately. Then I’ll store the frames until just the right piece of art comes along.
Like this piece, for instance. When we lived in England, I bought it at an antique shop on sale for £1 ($1.60). I’ve always loved it but had never found just the right frame for it. Of course I could have had it framed professionally, but as you know, that would have cost a small fortune–$60-100(!).
Eventually, the right frame came along, and it cost just $2, so this wall art: print + frame will cost just $3.60 since I had all the other necessary supplies (below) on hand.
How to Frame Like a Professional Reusing a Vintage Frame
This post contains affiliate links for products necessary to complete this project. This is both for your convenience as well as to support my blog, as I receive a small compensation whenever you click on such a link and make any sort of purchase, for which I thank you.
- Vintage frame with glass
- Vintage print or artwork
- Glass cleaner
- 1/2″ nails (w/o heads)
- Brown Kraft paper (or paper bag)
- Liquid acid free glue or tacky glue
- Eye screws (appropriately sized for your project–larger screws for heavier projects)
- Hanging wire (to hold the appropriate weight)
Step 1: Prepare the Frame: Sometimes when you buy vintage frames, they contain the original glass, artwork, cardboard, and Kraft paper backing. Your first step is to take everything apart. Use pliers to remove nails or glazier points that are holding everything in place.
Usually the glass is in dire need of a good cleaning, so give it a nice bath with glass cleaner. Hang onto the cardboard for reuse if it’s still in good shape. Clean and/or polish the frame as necessary.
Step 2: Insert New Art: Once the glass is dry, reinsert it into the frame. Then insert the new art, followed by a piece of cardboard to hold it in place. Sometimes a frame comes with metal prongs that can be bent to remove or enclose the glass and art, as you can see in the photo above. Re-close them tightly to secure everything in place.
Step 3: Secure Contents Into Frame: If there are no prongs, you’ll need to secure the glass/art/cardboard into the frame using small finishing nails, like those above. [Note: Use nails with small heads. Sometimes larger heads end up poking through your paper backing, and you don’t want that.]
Lay the nail perpendicularly to the frame and push them [hard] into place with the end of a hammer. You want them in there good and tight and placed about 3-4″ apart. On this 9″ x 12″ frame, I placed three on the long sides and two on each of the short sides.
You can use “glazier points” to hold the artwork in place, but I actually prefer to use nails. I find them easier to push into the wood. When first starting out, look for frames made of softer wood like pine, rather than hard wood like oak.
How to Finish Off the Back of the Frame
Step 4: Add Paper Backing: Next, you want to glue some brown Kraft paper onto the back of your frame to give it a finished look. You can often find the paper at dollar stores, or use brown paper bags. Measure your frame to determine the size to cut your paper. Apply glue to the outer edges.
For years I used tacky glue, but now I prefer liquid glue, like this Staples brand. Here’s a view of the top.
After applying the glue, then turn the paper over and adhere it to your frame. If your frame has pre-drilled holes for eye screws, then mark their location with a pencil so you can reinsert eye screws for hanging.
How to Add a Wire Hanger to Your Frame
Step 5: Use your drill to pre-drill if necessary and screw in two eye screws on opposite sides of the frame. I usually place them about a quarter of the way down the side of the frame.
(1) Run the hanging wire (available at the dollar store) through the eye screw, (2), bring it up and over the eye screw and insert it again, (3), pull tight, and (4), wrap the end tightly around the main hanging wire. Repeat on the other side.
And here’s the nice, finished off back–no, it’s not perfect, LOL. My cutting took a crooked turn and the paper’s a bit bunched up, but all-in-all, not a bad job 🙂
The frame itself cleaned up nicely and I’m pleased with how the color tones all blend together. I’m a bit uncertain of my art choice since it’s rather traditional, but I’ll bring it up to my booth and give it a try. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Examples of Artwork I’ve Framed Like a Professional
I am a huge fan of all folk art, and this painting reminded me so strongly of Grandma Moses. I had a simple beige frame in my stockpile and gave it a coat of matte black paint, which I think compliments the art perfectly. It has sold for $45.00.
I matched the patriotic book plate on the left with a simple black frame and it sold from my antique booth for $15. The Saratoga County Fair poster also looked good in black; it sold for $25.00, also from my antique booth.
The cross stitch on the left came with the frame you see here, but the glass was filthy and both its backing and hanger were missing. After taking care of that, it has sold for $45.00.
This framed bookplate of the human body is one of my favorites and it can be found in my Member Library, which you can gain access to by subscribing to my blog. Print it on matte photographic paper or [cheaper] presentation paper and it will look fantastic.
Final Piece: I snapped this handsome angel, who guards the tomb of President Chester Arthur in the Albany Rural Cemetery, a couple of years ago. I had to wait awhile for just the right frame to turn up. It finally did.
I do hope I’ve inspired you to attempt a little framing of your own. I must say, it’s a very satisfying DIY project.
Framing Vintage Flags
A Frame Transformation
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