Custom-Looking Artwork for a Penny in a Pinch

This project began because we are putting our home on the market in about a month. I’ve been working hard at de-cluttering and de-personalizing. There is one open wall in my dining room that has been fantastic for party decorations and homeschool posters, but clearly neither of those will be appropriate for trying to sell the home.

I needed a simple, inexpensive project to fill the space. To be honest, my favorite artwork is almost always photography. God is an amazing artist, and pictures of those I love make me happiest. Seriously, look at these faces! (And since it took 3 photo sessions to capture all three of them smiling, I’d better get these photos framed!) However, family photos are supposed to be the first to go when you list your home, so I needed to find another source of art.


 I am really pleased with the results of this project, and I would be happy to have this artwork in my home, not just while it’s for sale. That’s why I wanted to share it—that and the fact that I’ve always been discouraged by framing an item that wasn’t a standard size.

My mom loves calendars, so I asked her if I could have my favorite old calendar of hers. Thankfully, she gladly obliged. I was happily on my way to the inexpensive standard of the project. Free artwork is always a plus! Next I went shopping for some basic frames. I wanted to make sure they would work with family photos in our future home. The tricky part is that the artwork on the calendar was an abnormal size, and I was not paying for custom framing.

 Trip #1--I forgot the calendar when I went to a certain gigantic trap-of-a-store 30 minutes from my house. It has the best deals, but it is a hassle to get into and leave. Having packed up and lugged along all three of my boys, there was no way I was leaving empty-handed. I tried my best to remember the size and bought six frames. (I completely forgot about them not letting you take shopping carts out of the store until I had the six heavy frames and my little boys to get to my car--which of course was parked 50 rows back. No exaggeration.) When I arrived home I realized they were the wrong size.

Trip #2--I returned the frames, and went back up to the frame section. This time I had the calendar with me! Turns out that none of this retailer’s picture frames would fit my photos correctly. I went from frame to frame, dejected. I honestly had 80 items on my house to-do list, so I was not throwing in the towel. Picking what I believed to be the closest fit, I headed out of the store, wondering how I was going to reconcile the fact that the prints would be cut-off by the matting.

 When I got home, I began cutting the prints down as much as possible. To my dismay, they simply were not going to fit inside the matting. I then came up with the idea of gluing the calendar prints onto large sheets of scrapbook paper, and then taping them to the front of the matting. I knew it wouldn’t look as custom or crisp as I’d prefer, but I was okay with forgoing perfection to preserve some cash. I went to a craft store and bought six sheets of 12 X 12 paper in the same coordinating color.

 I trimmed the pictures to be as similar as possible (this artist didn’t make the pictures on each sheet identical in size, so that was a bit trying). I used a paper cutter I had on hand from my old scrap-booking days.

Once that was completed, I cut the scrapbook paper. I measured each sheet so there was exactly ¼ inch border, basically I added ½ inch to the length and to the width. I wanted the paper to be very thin, so it tied the photos together, and didn’t cover up too much of the existing white matte. (Also, since scrapbook paper isn’t as heavy and expensive-looking as custom matting, I didn’t want to highlight it too much.) I glued the prints onto the scrapbook paper.

Next, I disassembled the frames and began taping the print onto the matting. I began by putting the print in the corner.

Then I measured the difference between the print and the matting in length and height.

I then centered the art by dividing those numbers in half. (For example, if there are 4 inches between the top of the mat and the top of the print, 4 / 2 = 2 inches. So there will be two inches on top and two inches on bottom when the print is centered.

Once I was certain it was straight (this took some trial and error), I taped the back of the print onto the matboard with tape loops in each corner. I also taped the prints on the back side to the matting to ensure they didn't slide if the tape loops gave way.

Finally, I sealed up the frames, and we hung them on the wall. It doesn’t look as perfect as custom framing, but I really prefer the price tag!

Materials Used:

Paper cutter

Scissors (in case your paper cutter doesn’t cut the art as cleanly as you’d like)

Glue stick



Calendar or other form of artwork

Frames the closest size you can get to the actual artwork size

Scrapbook paper

Scotch Tape

Time Required:

About one hour (excluding shopping time!)

My Cost:

Scrapbook paper ($0.59 x 6 = $3.54)

Frames ($9.99 x 6 = $59.94)

Artwork (Free! Thanks, Mom!)

Total= $63.48

Not bad for an impactful wall of art! It’s more than I like to spend, but I plan on using these frames for various photography for years to come, so it is a good investment. If you already have frames, or you need a smaller arrangement, the price would be much lower.

 I hope I’ve helped you to be able to frame some awkward sizes of art!


Posted on March 9, 2016 and filed under Building Your Home.