Custom Framing on the Cheap

There’s a familiar cycle of discussion in my house where Justin and I decide we’re going “splurge” on some item or improvement, look into buying it or having it done, and then decide there’s probably no way we could sleep at night knowing we’d forked over X amount on Y thing.

And that’s exactly what happened when we wanted to frame this signed, numbered print by mid-century artist Howard Bradford that we bought a few months ago.
Howard Bradford landscape print
At a total size of 26″x40″, we figured it’s a large print–and the nicest art we’ve ever owned–so with framing and matting it could be a great statement piece for somewhere in the house. Not only that, but we had a strategy: a simple, my minimalist frame and basic mat, something that would be budget conscious and put the emphasis on the print itself. AND, we had a COUPON.

So, one Friday night, we took our vision, our coupon, and the mailing tube with our print down to Michael’s to have all our dreams dashed. At the framing counter, a whole series of complications arose that are not worth recounting except to say that we were ultimately quoted a few prices ranging from $350 to over $1000. For that amount, I can feed three hungry chihuahuas for probably something like five years, including puppy ice cream on all of their birthdays, so the answer was pretty obviously a “no.”

The solution we came up with was to find a frame, have a custom mat cut separately, and assemble the thing ourselves. Finding a reasonably priced frame for a 26″x40″ print proved kind of difficult in its own right, though. Most frames large enough were for movie posters–which are 27″x40″–and were plastic and kind of cheap looking. Eventually I started looking not for a frame but for pre-framed art that I could tear apart and take the frame, and soon after I found just what I needed on clearance at Gordman’s for $19. The first thing I did was remove the paper from the back so I could access the print itself:
It was a basic black frame, which didn’t go with our Howard Bradford print at all, so I hauled out the paint to give it a make over. I didn’t want to risk trying to remove a piece of glass that large, so I taped paper over the glass to protect it and applied the primer:
Spray painting a picture frame Prime and spray paint to use pre framed art for custom framing
The paper turned out to be a huge mistake. The primer was too heavy and ended up causing some of the paper to get stuck to the underside of the frame, so I spend another 15 minutes using a razor blade to shave off small strips of paint and paper:
When it came time to spray paint, Justin suggested a different approach. We used a piece of poster board to shield the glass and moved it around the frame as we sprayed. Since spray paint is a much lighter application anyway, it worked great. If I were to do this project again, I would definitely save myself some time and use a spray primer. The gold spray paint was left over from the deer head in the living room:
Gold metallic Krylon spray paint on a large picture frame

We did return to Michael’s to get a mat cut in an off-white color. This took about a day and cost $43. It fit perfectly with the frame and print:
Close up of gold spray painted picture frame
After that, it was just the routine process of assembling and hanging. So for a grand total of $62, we achieved our goal of getting a simple, budget-friendly frame that complements the print.

And I’m sleeping just fine.
Dark green bedroom, neutral curtains, printed pillows, framed art above bed


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