How to Frame Big Art on a Small Budget (no building involved!)

01.24.2018 2 Comments

“I LOVE paying hundreds of dollars for large custom framing!!!!!” ….. Said no one ever 😒.  This unpleasant expense has always been a thorn in my side because, as a designer, I love how an oversized photograph or piece of art can really make a big impact and bring personality to a room.  And I’m tired of seeing so many homes with skimpy, undersized art on a massive wall. That and having art hung too high/low – but that’s another blog post!

Just have a look see at how big art can transform a space! We even have an example of this in our own dining space, but if I’m being honest – the framing cost more than the print itself, and neither were cheap. Ooof.

I opted to have this particular print professionally framed because a. It’s MAS-SIVE and I don’t think I’d ever find a hackable/pre-made frame to suit the size.  and b. It’s a professionally photographed, limited addition print, and I wanted to ensure it would be protected for generations to come (please let our kids love this lady as much as we do!).

But if you want to get this large-art look without breaking the bank, one of my go-to’s is the wonderful world of Etsy digital print shops where you can purchase digital art files for just a few dollars and have a large print made at your local print shop. But that still leaves the framing which can get exponentially more expensive the larger you go. The Ikea Ribba frames or Michael’s poster frames might do the job but with limited (good looking) color options (basically black and white) sometimes those just don’t cut it.

Via Etsy

In my case, I found a large painting I did years and years and years ago (7th grade?) that I desperately wanted to frame but didn’t want to drop a lot of cash on. (Since it’s a keepsake, it’s likely I will eventually have it re-framed professionally, but for now I just wanted to get this baby on display). Given the vivid colors of the painting, I knew I wanted a modern teak/ish wood frame. And it’s acrylic paint on flat poster board, so I needed something that resembled a shadow box as to not sandwich the piece against the glass and damage the paint.

That’s when I realized Target sold inexpensive art in the prettiest, simple wood frames – the teak shade was exactly what I imagined! So I headed to my nearest Target, purchased this poster sized piece from the Project 62 collection and got to work.

**Just to reiterate** This project is best suited for inexpensive prints or perhaps personal photos/art you don’t have a huge attachment to. If you have a valuable piece of art and/or something that needs full protection from moisture/UV rays/dust, I highly recommend having your piece framed by an art framing professional so it will last a lifetime.

So what you’ll need is:

  • The Cheap Framed Art of course (Target, Homegoods, etc)
  • Needle Nose Pliers
  • Staple Remover
  • Art Mounting Tape
  • Measuring Tape
  • Pencil/Eraser

I began by carefully peeling back the backing paper from the bottom up (this was held in place with double sided tape).  If you get a few nicks or tears, no need to worry (the back won’t be seen). I started from the bottom because I planned to slide the mat downwards and out to avoid scraping it along the saw tooth mounts at the top. I chose to keep the top adhesive intact and opened the backing paper like a book for easy re-assemble.

Once opened, I found the mat and poster were all one piece and completely wedged in place with heavy duty staples (I guess Target reeeeeally didn’t want us taking this thing apart!). So I used my staple remover to remove the staples at the corner plates and removed cardboard plates. Then I used the needle nose pliers to bend back each staple holding the mat in place.  If at any point you break a staple and have a pointy shard of metal exposed just use the pliers to remove it altogether.  Don’t want to draw blood or scratch up your walls later!

Then I GENTLY pulled the mat up and slide downwards. The frame is slightly pliable so it may help to softly flex the wood edges as you pull. *IMPORTANT*: You should never have to forcefully yank the mat out.  If it feels stuck, it’s likely there is a rogue staple puncturing the mat.  Carefully remove the staple and continue sliding. If you get aggressive, you will probably damage the mat – booooo!

Once the mat was out, I measured the piece and marked the corners lightly with a pencil for even spacing. Then using art mounting tape (I cheated and used 3M painters tape because I eventually plan to re-frame) I taped crosses at the four corners (one piece of tape up and one down).  I laid the art on the mat with tape and gently pressed with a paper towel so the tape adhered (and to not damage the paint), and erased the pencil markings.  Be sure to wipe the inside of the glass with a microfiber cloth to clean any debris or dust left from the de-construction.  Ensure you art/mat are clean and gently slide back into the frame.

And I almost forgot! I had a slight snag and chipped the white paint inside the frame.  A little touch up with some white out did the trick and voila! Good as new.

Using pliers, I bent the staples back in place to wedge the mat in.  I folded the backing paper flap back in place (the tape was still sticky enough to re-use). And that’s it!! A 22″x28″ stylish teak frame for $37.

So, are you going give this framing hack a try? If you do, be sure to let me know – I’d love to hear about it!

Thanks for reading! 💙

– Kelsey –


  1. Reply



    This is such a great post and so happy you posted on how you did it — I’m always recommending to my clients frames from Target and Michael’s. I’ve totally checked out this frame before too, scheming on how to use it!

    • Reply



      Thanks, Kristen! So happy to help! Ikea and Michael’s are my usual stops when I’m helping clients frame big art, but this teak wood has been such a nice alternative when black/white don’t do the trick. Good luck! 🙂