5 Ways to Frame Art on a Budget

Framing art on a budget is completely possible and might even be fun, but takes a bit more planning than buying art already framed. Here we will explore 5 easy ways to frame your favorite art for less.

First, let’s discuss why custom framing is so expensive in the first place. When you take a work of art to a professional custom framer, you’re paying for their expertise and know-how. Custom framing itself is an art form, a well-honed craft that takes years to perfect. Depending on the artistic media, original art has various methods of framing requirements, throw in the element of longevity, and then you’re looking at different types of glass or acrylic, archival (or not archival) mats, backing boards, tapes, mounting styles, etc, etc. Moral of the story? If you’re framing your great-grandmother’s pastel or your original Renoir painting, then go ahead and make the investment at your local professional framer. Then you can be sure that your art is preserved properly and ready to hang for a lifetime. You and your descendants won’t be sorry you did.

Used or discarded frames are a great way to frame your art on a budget

1. Go thrifting

I’m sure that if you’ve ever visited a thrift store, second hand store or a flea market (only three of my favorite places on the planet!) then you’ve witnessed the plethora of discarded art. Most of the art is likely not your taste, or gasp, “bad art,” but if you can keep your eyes on the frame selections, you just may find one you love. Unless you’re one of the lucky folks that stumbles upon a long lost Van Gogh at a flea market stall, buy the inexpensive framed art, take it home, remove the art from the frame, measure the indented area behind the frame, also known as the ‘rabbet’, and voila! Now you know the size of the art you’re after. Some online art companies offer custom print sizes- all you need to do is ask! (We are proudly one of these companies.)

Tip: Remember that if you prefer works of art on paper and you plan to use a mat, you will need to subtract the mat width on each side from the total interior measurement of the frame. Then you’ll have the proper image size to go out shopping for art.

2. Make your own

There are tons of tutorials about making your own frames on the cheap. If you’re handy, you can create some pretty beautiful custom frames right in your own workshop out of materials from the hardware store or local lumber yard. However, if power tools are not your forte, there are also plenty of options that do not require safety glasses. With just a hammer, some nails and a handsaw you can create a beautiful, simple frame.

Tip: If you order a giclee canvas print, you do not need to bother with glass. Canvas typically is mounted on an interior wooden stretcher bar and then framed. Glass is not necessary (unless its Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa painting, in which case, she’s behind bullet proof glass. Probably over-kill for your home decor!). If you choose to go this route, classic stretched canvas is a good option to save some more cost over the typical gallery wrapped option, but it’s rare to find online. Again, we offer this option because honestly, why should you be charged more for finished edges when they will just be covered by a frame? Food for thought.

3. Skip it altogether

Skipping the frame altogether is probably the most affordable option to display your collection. First, you could purchase art that doesn’t even need a frame, such as a gallery wrapped giclee canvas print which arrives ready to hang with finished edges. Or, think outside of the box about how to hang the art in a completely different way, such as creating a poster “hanger” by mounting a print between strips of wood at the top and bottom of the sheet with a piece of string to hang the finished piece. Here’s a tutorial to do just that.

Giclee canvas print hanging on a wall in a living room without a frame
“Reflections” by Elmer Wachtel

Tip: There are even more alternative ways of hanging art that’s not on canvas or sturdy board. Try using a hanger or “clip system” to display your art without the frame or the cost.

4. Source supplies separately

What about finding all of the elements necessary to frame your artwork from different sources? There is a plethora of online retailers that sell custom cut mats and many local craft stores offer standard sized mats individually. Backing board and tape can also be purchased in local art supply shops (make sure it’s archival or at least acid free so your art doesn’t suffer over time). You could use the frames you find while thrifting (see above) or reuse frames you have sitting around. And finally, glass or acrylic can be purchased at most hardware stores. You may have some custom sizing to figure out for each element, but the effort will be kinder to your budget in the long run.

Tip: Keep in mind the location of where you plan to hang your framed art print. If it’s a sunny spot in your home, consider upgrading to UV glass or acrylic to protect the art from fading.

5. Turn standard into custom

The most affordable frames on the market always come in standard sizes such as 8×10, 16×20, 20×24, etc. Typically, if you’re seeking a frame and a mat for a work of art on paper, you’ll find that the mat and frame options are a bit limited. If your art print is, say, 8×9, but you can only find frame and mat combinations with an 8×10 opening, you could always remove the included mat and order a custom cut one at a local frame shop or online mat retailer (*be sure to order the same exterior dimensions for your new mat so that it will still fit into your frame). This is one easy way to turn what was once standard into something custom that will work for your needs.

Framed art print with a standard frame but a custom cut mat.
“Kotakoski” by Pekka Halonen

Tip: Float the art between two pieces of glass for an eclectic, modern look. Keep in mind that this method is only appropriate for art prints on paper.

It’s completely possible to frame your art on a budget. If the artwork is not a priceless piece that will be passed from generation to generation and the purse-strings are tight, then these are viable options for getting your art collection up on the wall so you can begin enjoying it’s presence everyday. And, of course, if you would like to avoid the work of sourcing your own frames on a budget, we are here to help. We have a beautiful selection of frames that are kept at fair, affordable prices but that are also completely custom cut, by hand, specifically for you. We like to think of it as the best of both worlds. Happy framing!

5 Ways to Frame Art on a Budget

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.