Wednesday, February 15

How To Make Cheap Frames Look Top Notch

You know the drill, you've bought some lovely art prints, but they're all sitting in cupboards in postal tubes because you can't afford to have them framed.

I've written about the importance of framing art before, and I'm a firm believer that if you can afford to, spending money on bespoke frames is absolutely worth it. Framing can make or break a piece of art. But what if you can't afford to? Should you suffer with bare walls? No. Most certainly not. And that's what today's post is all about.

How To Make Cheap Frames Look Top Notch. Monochrome Gallery Wall.


Last year I collected nine limited edition prints by one of my favourite artists, Stella Vine. However, I could not find a spare four hundred plus pounds to have them framed. I had my heart set on a gold coloured moulding for them, and started to look at various places for ready made gold frames, but when I finally found some that were the right size, they were £39 each, and I would still need custom mounts. The cost was edging back up to a bespoke framing price again, so they were also out of the question too.

I really wanted to get the prints framed and up - especially as I'd moved my beloved Juju hat up into my studio, leaving a big blank wall in the dining room, so I decided to go rogue and see just how inexpensively it was possible to frame them.

After much hunting, I found some cheap plastic, but GOLD frames on Amazon that were the perfect size. However, when I ordered them, several arrived smashed or there was damage to the moulding. Thanks to my Amazon Prime membership (no not an ad!) - I just kept returning and re-ordering them until I had a full set of pristine frames. They cost just under £10 each.

How To Make Cheap Frames Look Top Notch. Grid Gallery Wall Gold Frames And Brown Mounts


Then I had some mounts cut to size. This took a LOT of measuring and re-measuring, as each print is a slightly different paper size and image size. Ideally to create a grid like I wanted, your prints would all be exactly the same size, but as they only differed by a couple of centimetres tops, I felt I could get away with it, as they were all going in the same sized outer frame, just with slightly differing mount apertures so it wouldn't ruin the overall effect (even if it did fry my brain).

Perhaps controversially, I decided against white mounts for these prints. In my mind, they would be either orange, red (definitely controversial as I'm not a big fan of either colour, but next to the blush pink walls, and gold frames it's a different story!), pink or brown. I know.

In the end, after much thought, I went for brown, which not only looks lovely with the colours of all the prints, the gold of the frames, and the blush pink walls, but it also ties in with the wallpapered backs of the shelves in in the living room, which are diagonally opposite the prints. Hanging them in the perfect grid (well, as perfect as is possible, with old wonky walls!), was surprisingly painless as the backs of the frames have uniform hanging hooks which really helped. I had to do lots of that maths thing again, so it did hurt my head, but I'm so pleased with the result.

How To Make Cheap Frames Look Top Notch


In the end it cost me less than £140 to frame all nine prints. That's around £15.50 per print. Not bad, and I think they look great and that the frames look much more expensive than they were. If you didn't know the frames were plastic, you wouldn't be able to tell. So don't tell anyone okay?

My other framing challenge that I took on just before Christmas, was to frame a Debbie Harry print, and two tea towels that my husband had bought because he loved the print, but we didn't have the money for the actual print. I unpicked all the hems and ironed them flat and although the fabric and image areas were again different (grrr), I was able to make them work in off the shelf A1 frames, again with custom cut mounts to fit.

How To Make Cheap Frames Look Top Notch - Monochrome Gallery Wall


A custom cut mount to fit an off the shelf frame, is my favourite framing trick. Suddenly that print you thought you couldn't afford to frame, becomes the print you actually can afford to frame, which is actually pretty exciting. Just make sure you have a minimum of 5cms border width (so your print should be at least five centimetres smaller than the inner frame size), otherwise it starts to look a bit off. It doesn't matter if the border width at the top and bottom is a bit different to the border width at the sides. Then figure out what the closest standard frame size available to fit that size is, and have your mount cut accordingly. Don't forget to allow a 5mm overhang so that your artwork sits nicely behind the mount - your mount opening (aperture) should be a little smaller than the print. Use masking tape or framing tape to attach just the top of the print to the top of the back of the mount, and pop it in your ready made frame. It's amazing how a mount elevates the piece no matter how cheap.

I spent around £50 each for the big frames and custom mounts, which is not nothing, but they're big, and that's a fraction of what it would have cost to have them framed on the high street. And I didn't have to wait. I'm nothing if not impatient.

One day I'll upgrade the frames for my Stella Vine prints, because I really treasure them and want them properly preserved, but they're not in direct sunlight, and at least they're up on the wall so I can enjoy them now.
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