Often, we find ourselves splurging on a beautiful art print, imagining exactly where it will go in our homes—only to leave it sitting around in a closet because we just didn’t find time to frame it. While some prints can easily be popped into a store-bought frame without much effort, sometimes it’s hard to find the perfect frame for every print. And while you could just tack up that print directly on your wall, a frame feels so much more adult and complete. Whether you have a single art print to frame or you’re finally tackling that stack of artsy Etsy-bought prints sitting under your bed, here’s the down-low on everything you need to know. The good news? It’s neither difficult nor expensive to finally display your art the right way.

Materials to Frame a Print

  1. A store-bought frame
  2. Acid-free mat paper
  3. Scissors
  4. Artist’s tape
  5. Ruler
  6. Picture wire
  7. Glass cleaner and a cloth

Find the Right Size Frame

House 9 So you’ve been dreaming about the perfect gallery wall, planning and drafting up exactly where you want each piece of art to live. But before you can start hammering, you have to find the right frame for every print. If you have an unusually-sized print that is hard to find a frame for, you may need to special order one. But for most of your prints, you can probably find a frame that works just fine at most craft or home decor stores (or even your local thrift store). If you want to add a mat to upgrade your print, opt for a frame two to four inches wider and longer than your print. Between wood, plastic, metal, patterned options, and more, there’s an endless amount of variety when it comes to frames. If you’re torn, go for a simple matte frame to let your print really shine.

Disassemble the Frame (And Paint it, if You’d Like!)

Dazey LA/@dazeyden If you purchased a frame from your local craft store, taking it apart is probably pretty self-explanatory. On the other hand, if you’re repurposing a vintage frame, it might require a little light handiwork to take it apart. Many professionally framed prints have a layer of brown craft paper on the back. Carefully cut through this and remove any staples or nails holding the core board together. Pop the printout and set the glass aside for later. This is also a great time to customize that frame with a coat of paint. Use fine or medium-grit sandpaper to strip down any leftover paint before you grab a foam or bristle brush or a can of spray paint. If you are working with a large gallery wall, painting a few frames a bright, bold color can be a great way to add visual interest to your wall.

Cut Your Mat to Size

Alex Nino Interiors If your print is on paper as opposed to canvas, a mat helps elevate the look and give it a more professional feel. Most frames will come with a mat cut to size, but if you want to adjust the white space or your frame is mat-free, you’ll need an X-Acto knife or a box cutter, and a mat board. Measure your print and cut the window mat to allow a width of between 1/2″ and 1.5″ thickness, depending on the size of your overall print. A mat cutter tool is the most precise way to ensure straight, even lines, but a ruler, an X-Acto knife, and a lot of patience can get you there as well.

Clean the Glass

Design: Mindy Gayer Design Co.; Photo: Vanessa Lentine Now that your print is almost ready to reassemble, take a clean cloth and a bottle of glass cleaner, and remove any fingerprints and debris from the glass. Make sure to clean both inside and out, so you don’t have to take the frame apart later. A microfiber cloth is the best way to avoid leaving behind fuzz that can cause damage to your art print.

Line Up the Mat and the Print

House of Harvey Once you have all of your pieces ready to reassemble, it’s time to center your print on the frame backing. Use a weight such as a sock filled with sand and carefully place it in the center of your picture to keep it from moving as you center it on the board. It’s a good idea to center the print horizontally, but try to leave more room at the bottom of the print. Using artists or archival tape, create a hinge to attach the print to the backing. Take two thin pieces of tape and place them on the back of the artwork (so that the sticky side doesn’t touch your mat). Then place two more thin pieces sticky-side down across the vertical edges to attach the print to the back. Doing this keeps your print steady as you lay the mat directly on top.

Attach Picture Wire

Anne Sage Even if your frame has a hook already attached, a picture wire makes adjusting your frame on the wall a little easier. If your frame is missing a wire, use two D-ring hangers on either side of the frame and twist a picture wire through the rings. Leave a bit of slack, so it’s not entirely taut against the back of the frame.

Clean Remaining Smudges

Hannah Tyler Designs Now that your frame is assembled and ready to hang, give a quick spritz and wipe down the glass to remove any lingering smudges. A dirty frame is almost as bad as no frame at all.

Hang It

House of Chais The hard part is almost over. You’ve finally given that art print the beautiful frame it deserves, but now it’s time to show it off. If curating the perfect gallery wall stresses you out, you can always opt for a simple picture ledge. Layering framed art on a ledge is a great way to add visual interest to your space and give it a laid-back, approachable feel. If a gallery wall is more your style, there are a few services that can help you create a perfectly arranged wall. SaveComments We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing. Post Image (Image credit: Andrea Sparacio) I never quite felt like a real adult until I framed my first piece of art. All through college, I pinned giant collages of unframed art to my walls like a life-size scrapbook. Post-grad, I’ve slowly started framing my favorite pieces. Custom framing is expensive, so I scour thrift stores for well-made frames with glass and hit up my local art supply store for the rest of what I need to do my own custom framing. For more content like this follow Here’s one of the thrift-store frames I found. Although the print looks nice in this picture, up close it’s actually quite grainy and not worth saving. (Image credit: Emil Evans)

Budget Art Framing Ideas

Ready to get started? Here are the simple steps I use to custom frame my art on the cheap.

Materials

  • Pre-made frame (including glass)
  • Artwork
  • Acid-free mat paper cut to the same size as frame glass (found at art supply stores)
  • Mat cutter (optional)
  • Acid-free artist’s tape (found at art supply stores)
  • Thumb tacks or small nails (if nails, a hammer)
  • Paint or stain for your frame (optional)
  • Picture wire and 2 D-ring hangers (optional)
  • Kraft paper to cover the back of the frame (optional)

Tools

  • Pliers
  • X-act knife
  • Screwdriver to attach D-ring hangers (optional)

Instructions

1. Find a frame that fits your art. I have two odd-size lithographs of spines by Metana Press on Etsy that I’ve been toting around for years in their original acid-free plastic because I couldn’t find the right size frames — custom framing is too expensive, and finding two identical odd-size frames at a thrift store is a shot in the dark. Happily, last month I finally found frames! Tucked away in the back of a thrift store, I found two matching fake veneer frames that were slightly beat up, but both had intact glass and were framing art that is the same odd size as the spines I want to frame. At $14 for the pair, it was meant to be. Since my frame is mass-produced, it’s backed with craft paper and foamcore (the white) held in with staples. I left the picture-wire attached since I’d only have to put it back on at the end. (Image credit: Emil Evans) 2. To disassemble your frame, flip it over and inspect how it’s assembled. Usually, the last layer on the back is brown kraft paper (just like most upholstered furniture has that black dust cloth to cover up the inner workings). Remove this by either running an X-acto knife along the inside edge of the frame or just tearing it out. 3. The next layer is usually a piece of foam core board, cardboard, or wood (if the frame is super old) held in place with staples (newer) or tiny nails (older). Use your pliers to gently pull all these out. If they’re staples or bent nails, discard them. If they’re old tiny nails that remain usable, feel free to reuse them at the end, especially since old frames with their original nails are super cool. 4. Finally, you can tip or pull out the foam or wood, then whatever art is in the frame, then the glass. Set the glass and foam/wood aside, and recycle the art. I painted my frames an ashy grey which picks up on colors found in the lithographs. (Image credit: Emil Evans) 5. If you want to paint or restain your frame, now’s the time to do it. I primed and painted the fake veneer a mellow, ashy grey. 6. Clean that glass, and clean it really really well, with whatever method you like best. I usually go for dish soap and water to remove sticker gunk and dust, then a clean dishtowel followed by clean, crumpled newspaper to remove any remaining lint. Wear gloves if you’re nervous about cutting yourself on the sharp edges. 7. At this point, it’s only important to keep fingerprints off one side — whichever side will touch your art — so feel free to support the glass from the bottom like a stereotypical butler does a serving tray. 8. Let your glass dry very thoroughly before assembling your framed art. 9. To mat your art, first wash and dry your hands, then make sure you aren’t bleeding from step 6 (which will ensure pure panic when you drip blood on the corner of your lithograph). 10. There are two ways to mat art: lay the art on top of the mat, or cut a hole in the mat and place the art behind it. Since I think the latter is too stuffy for my taste, and especially since mat cutters are hard to use without damaging the mat, I opted for attaching my art to the top of the mat. (If you choose the second option and you aren’t keen on cutting the mat yourself, you can take your mat to a custom framing shop and have it custom cut. Most shops will do this for a few dollars.) (Image credit: Emil Evans) 11. Center your art on the mat paper. A general rule of thumb is to center the image horizontally but leave more room at the bottom of the art than at the top. I decided to leave about the same amount of room since I’m going to hang these higher up on the wall. Since the artist’s tape is white and therefore hard to see, I traced over it in red. (Image credit: Emil Evans) 12. Once your art is centered perfectly, use artist’s tape (represented in red because it’s white in real life) to secure the top edge. This tape will hold your art in place while you attach it on the back. (Image credit: Emil Evans) 13. Flip your art up away from you — the tape on the front acts as a hinge — and add two long pieces to the back as shown. I don’t put tape horizontally because it’s too bulky and shows when you fold the art back down. (Image credit: Emil Evans) 14. Fold your art back down and remove the artist’s tape from the front. The long pieces of tape should hold your art without showing at the top. 15. Put it all together! Place the glass back in the frame — careful not to leave fingerprints — then lay it in the art. Lay in the foam or wood and gently tack pushpins or small nails into the frame to hold it in place. Use more than you think is necessary— at least one every six inches. Optional: If you want, cover the back again with paper. Use a thin line of glue to attach kraft paper over the backside of the frame. 17. If your frame is missing its picture wire, screw in two D-ring hangers on either side of the frame, equal distance from the top. (See image of the back of the original frame for an example). Twist picture-wire through both rings. 18. Clean any stray fingerprints off the front of your now-framed art, and you’re ready to hang! (Image credit: Emil Evans) Have a really great DIY project or tutorial that you want to share with others? Let us know! We love checking out what you’re making these days, and learning from our readers. When you’re ready, click here to submit your project and photos. Jennifer Allevato art Tips for Framing Prints (or Any Art on Paper) Whenever I sell my prints at shows, I always get asked «How would you frame this?» So I thought I’d share a few tips on framing prints (or any works on paper). art print by Jennifer Allevato Almost all of my art prints are sold with a white border on the edges. This does 3 things: 1. It gives the look of having a «built-in» mat around the print, making it look more like fine art and less like a poster. 2. It gives space around the edges so when framed, none of the image is covered by the front frame lip. (If you’ve ever noticed when framing a photo, the front edge of a frame can cover up an image by anywhere from 1/16″ on every side to even 1/4″ on every side, depending on the frame. That means up to an entire half inch of your image could be covered up!) art print framing tips by Jennifer Allevato 3. It allows the bottom signature, title, and (if applicable) number of the print to show. Signed prints are worth more than unsigned prints, and numbered limited edition prints are worth more than open edition prints, so it stands that most people want to show off the signature! (and on an «original print» — aka a hand-pulled printmaker’s work, like a lino cut, woodcut, lithograph, etc., the number in the edition is very important, too. To own a print out of an edition of only 20 makes the piece worth more than an edition of 200, which is worth more than an edition of 1000, etc.) Every artist will sign their pieces differently, but in general, signed on the front in pencil at the bottom of the piece is standard. So if your piece has that, proudly show it off! art print by Jennifer Allevato If you take your piece to a framer’s to be professionally framed, you may notice that more white space is left on the bottom of the piece than the top (or the mat may even be cut a little thicker on the bottom). This visually balances the piece. If too little white space is left on the bottom, it can feel cramped or top heavy. In terms of art preservation, it is better for a work on paper to be framed with a mat. The mat not only gives the piece more visual presence, but it keeps the artwork itself from touching the glass on the frame, which better protects the art. However, while it is safer for art on paper to be framed with a mat, it isn’t a requirement! framed prints by Jennifer Allevato These prints shown here are framed without a mat in standard off-the-shelf frames from a big box store, and I think they look great! I always personally lean toward simpler frame styles and colors, but your frame style should go with your decorating style. An ornate frame can really elevate a simpler piece of art. etching by Jennifer Allevato Here is a simple, small, black and white etching I did several years framed with a nice thick black mat and ornate gold frame. Note how the edition number, title, and signature are all visible at the bottom, and how much deeper the mat is cut on the bottom than the sides and top. The piece hangs in a formal dining room, so the elevated frame style works really well with the decor, despite the art itself being rather clean and traditional.
Regardless of how you frame your art, always make sure you are using archival-quality materials; that means looking for acid-free backings, papers, and mats, which will keep the delicate paper from aging too quickly. Art on paper, whether a print, photograph, drawing, pastel, etc. should always be hung out of direct sunlight (which can break down the paper and bleach the pigments) and away from moisture (which can cause mildew or mold or even make the art stick to the frame or glass itself, causing irreparable damage). And if you don’t have a local framer that you like, there are amazing online custom framing shops like Simply Framed and Framebridge that can frame your piece for you. Happy framing! p.s. All art shown here is mine, and you can shop my available art prints here! Image Restoration Center Blog Logo

A Complete DIY Guide On How To Frame A Print

  • Last Updated: Sep 18, 2022

Framing art prints, paintings, and pictures instantly breathes new life into a room. It allows you to personalize a wall and design a creative theme to improve the ambiance of any space. In this comprehensive guide, we go over the process of mounting and framing a print step-by-step. We also provide some money-saving tips and fun ideas on how you can creatively display art pieces after you frame them. Read on to learn everything you need to know for this DIY project.

Why You Should Frame Your Prints

Framing is a lovely way to display photo prints that are meaningful to you. A wall or a small space dedicated to your art prints not only enhances your living space but helps you preserve the art. When you keep your favorite poster or painting in storage, there’s a risk of dust accumulating on them or moisture damaging the print. Having them framed and displayed is safer since you can clean photos regularly to maintain their condition. framing

How To Choose The Perfect Frame

Choosing the perfect frame might seem challenging, but there are some simple guidelines you can use to help you pick the best one. Here are some tips on what to consider before settling on a frame!

  • Think about the print. Each art print is unique, so the frame you choose should complement its colors, style, and texture.
  • Thin frames work best for small types of artwork, while thick frames suit large pieces of artwork. In addition, the frame width and length will depend on whether you want to add mats around the center of the prints or not.
  • Think about the space or wall where you’ll be placing the framed artwork. The style of the room, surrounding furniture, and existing art on the wall should be cohesive. Consider starting with a theme to guide your vision for the finished wall.
  • You can get a frame in wood, metal, ceramic, plastic, or crystal, so experiment with different types of material. For example, if you’re going for a minimalistic style, a white wood frame would help a black-and-white photo blend in nicely with a white wall.

how to frame a print

What You’ll Need: Materials To Frame Your Print

Before you start your DIY project, it’s important to have everything you need first. Create a checklist of the right supplies to get things rolling. This includes:

  • Custom or store-bought frame
  • Mat board
  • Frame glazing (glass or acrylic)
  • Picture wire
  • Two D-ring hangers
  • Measuring tape or ruler
  • X-acto knife or box cutter
  • Adhesive (mounting tape, double-sided tape, or picture corners)
  • Staple gun
  • Microfiber cloth & glass cleaner
  • Lint brush
  • Mat (optional)

If you’ll be using mounting adhesive tape, you’ll also need a rubber roller to get rid of any air bubbles as you mount your art print onto the mat board.

Why You Should Use Acid-Free Materials

The acid that is naturally present in framing and mounting equipment causes prints to develop yellowing over time. Why? Because non-acid-free materials contain lignin – a naturally occurring chemical from plant-based products. Lignin secretes acid gradually, leaving you with a faded or yellowed image. So if you want to make sure your art print lasts, it’s crucial to use an acid-free board, mat, frame, and adhesive. Once you have all your materials ready, it’s time to get to work! Follow these steps to mount and frame your art print like a pro.

Step 1: Measure The Width & Length Of The Print

Prints come in many different sizes, so a standard size frame won’t cut it for every print. Take your tape measure or ruler to measure its length and width. The dimensions should fit the board and frame perfectly. However, if you plan on including matting, leave about two to four inches of allowance for the frame width and length. measure your frame

Step 2: Mount The Print Onto The Mat Board

If you’re using photo corners, place your art print on the board and attach these to its corners. For double-sided tape, stick this onto the board and place the print over it. If you’re using mounting adhesive tape, it would be helpful to have an extra set of hands. First, stick the adhesive tape onto the mat board. Next, gently peel a corner of the adhesive to expose the sticky side – you can use a ruler to tear off about one inch of the tape more easily. Then, carefully align the print to the exposed sticky part of the board. Firmly press down to stick it in place, and then begin to peel off around 2 inches of the tape at a time while using your rubber roller to release any trapped air bubbles. Once the print is mounted, check the edge of each side for overhang. Trim the parts that may be sticking out with your knife or cutter. Tip: If you’re mounting a particularly significant artwork, spray three coats of desert varnish on the photo and let it dry before sticking it onto the board. Desert varnish protects artwork from UV rays and acts as a protective layer.

Step 3: Prepare & Center The Mat Over The Mounted Print (Optional)

While some people skip this step, matting can add a sophisticated look to an art piece. We recommend using a pre-cut mat that is 1 to 1.5 inches all around (a pre-cut mat comes in standard size dimensions). We advise buying mats that aren’t too thin so that they don’t bend around the edges when placed over a print. Once you have the mat ready, put double-sided tape on the frame backing and center the mat over the picture or print. Alternatively, you can use your x-acto knife to make a mat yourself – just make sure to measure the dimensions evenly with a ruler.

Step 4: Lay The Glazing On The Frame

Thoroughly clean the glazing with a glass cleaner and microfiber towel to remove any dust. Check the edges for smudges, and avoid touching the glass with your fingers. We recommend using gloves to make this process easier. After, gently dust your mounted print with a lint brush and place it onto the frame.

Step 5: Attach Staples, Hooks, & Picture Wire

Staple the back of the frame to secure the picture. Next, attach two D-ring hangers on the sides of your frame about six inches below the upper part of your frame. Insert the picture wire into the holes of your rings and tie a knot on each side. The wire should have some slack so that you can easily hang it later on. staple your frame

Step 6: Put Your Framed Art Pieces On Display

And just like that, you’ve successfully framed your print, and you can finally hang it! Express your creativity and display your frames in an attention-grabbing spot like a personal gallery wall. You could also hang them over your desk or repurpose a bookshelf into a frame gallery.

More Creative Ideas & Tips To Frame Your Print

To help you create the best display for your prints, we put together a few tips and ideas that may come in handy for your DIY frame project.

Create A Mock Frame Layout

Can’t figure out the best layout for your frames? Cut out some scratch paper with the same frame length and width for each piece, then tape them onto the wall to help you envision the final layout.

Paint Old Frames

Here’s a quick money-saving hack: paint old frames to make them look good as new! Remove the old paint with fine sandpaper, and use a spray can or paintbrush to add a new beautiful rich color. paint your frame

Add A Border To The Print Before Mounting

Nobody wants fingerprint marks on their prints. Add a 2-inch white border to every art print, so that you can freely touch the edge of these when you mount it.

Mix Different Frame Sizes

While some people prefer to use the exact size frame for all their prints, mixing frame sizes can make a wall look more playful and inviting.

Choose A Unique Mat Color

Typically, an off-white mat is the standard color used for any print. But while the classic look is timeless, a bold color can embellish an art piece to make it stand out. For example, you can pair a black frame with a turquoise mat to add a pop of color to a black-and-white print.

Use Glazing With UV Protection

Make your prints last a lifetime by using glass or acrylic glazing with UV protection. Light can damage the colors of an art print over time, so a UV frame glass is your best bet in preventing this from happening.

Try A Floating Frame

A floating frame is a chic style for modern prints – it gives off a 3D look since the art print doesn’t touch the edges of the frame. You’ll still need picture wire, rings, and a board to create this, but you won’t need any glazing.

Visit Your Local Distributor

There’s no need to break the bank to get your hands on the best frames! Instead of visiting your local framer or bookstore, find out who the local frame distributor in your area is. When you buy directly from the distributor, you get the best price for the same quality – ideal for people on a budget who plan on buying a lot of frames.

Start Framing Your Prints Today

After learning about the ins and outs of framing, there’s no reason to leave your walls plain and boring anymore. Start hanging your favorite pieces of art up, and experience how vibrant the room will feel after! And if you’re looking to add the nostalgic warmth of old photos, have them restored at Image Restoration Center. Displaying restored photos is one of the easiest ways to personalize your home and remind you of your most treasured memories every day.

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