DIY Thrift Store Picture Frame Makeover

Picture Frame Makeover

My living room walls have been blank for months since I painted, while frameless artwork stood stacked against the window in my bedroom. As useful as this arrangement seemed, I finally decided to get off my butt (and up a ladder) to frame and hang this artwork.

I didn’t want to buy cheap plastic frames from Michaels, so I went thrift store shopping to collect  and up-cycle shabby vintage frames into a cohesive frame collection. Materials and instructions after the jump:

diy thrift store frames

Materials Needed:

  • Frame and Matting to fit
  • Exacto Knife (for older frames)
  • Needle Nose Pliers (for older frames)
  • Fine-grain sandpaper (optional)
  • Wood filler (optional)
  • Mask
  • Spray Primer
  • Gloss Spray Paint in the color of your choice
  • Windex
  • Cloth towel

Step 1: Pick up some frames at your thrift store that will fit your art and matting. Skip to Step 3 if you have a newer frame without paper backing.

Step 2: Older frames will have paper backing that needs to be cut through or torn off. Turn the frame back side up. Cut through the paper along the edge of the frame with exacto knife.

spray paint picture frames

Step 3: Many older frames have matting and glass held in place by staples or small nails. Pull these out carefully with pliers.

painting frames diy

Step 3: Once the backing, matting, and glass have been removed, sand lightly with fine-grain sandpaper and fill in any holes with wood filler.

thrift store picture frames


Step 4: cover your work area and spray two coats of spray primer onto the frame, letting the frame dry at least 10 minutes between coats.

spray paint frames

Step 5: Finish by spraying the frame with at least 2 coats of paint, waiting at least 15 minutes between coats. Let dry for several hours.

Step 6: Clean glass with Windex on both sides with a cloth towel. Replace glass, matting backing and staples if necessary.  Done!

painting picture frames

Picture Credits: Ingrid Michaelson Fillmore Concert Poster. “Sew or Die” from Floral Still Life by Gustl French (my grandmother).  “Dia de Los Muertos” Poster from Renegade Craft Fair SF. 

spray paint frames

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