upcycled picture frames

i have been on a mission to find old wooden picture frames to restore. i hoped to frame some super cool art i found on etsy: amazingly cool animal artwork printed on dictionary pages from the 1800s. it’s well known that i’m a sucker for animal art. and when you combine type with animals—well, i can’t hold back.

fabfunky art

i picked up a bunch of wood frames at flea markets and antiques shops. they cost about $2 each unless the dealer thinks the art inside is worth something (which it usually isn’t but it’s pointless to argue).

i took the frames home and dismantled them. most of the hardware was brittle and rusty; i removed all but the most pristine screws for hanging.

next, i cleaned the frames with murphy’s oil soap and lightly sanded the wood with 220 grit sandpaper to remove any stuck-on goo or shiny finish. i’m told old paint has some bad stuff in it that i prefer not to inhale, so i wore a mask while sanding.

dismantled picture frames

for the frames with more detail in the wood, i applied 2-3 coats of black acrylic paint. i really liked the gold trim on the inside edge of this frame:


i wanted to keep the gold while adding a pop of color and cleaning up the wood. so i only painted the outer part of the frame, leaving the gold inner edges alone.

for the simpler frames, i prepped an area outside with kraft paper and painted them with gold spray paint. the thing to remember when using spray paint is more coats of less paint is better than fewer coats of heavier paint!


i spray painted 4-5 layers of gold on these frames, careful not to hold the can too close (lest the paint drip). the paint came out much better when the can was upside down.

here is my work area (good thing it doesn’t have to be big):

spray painting environment

i used a spray sealer on the gold spray painted frames as well as the frames painted with acrylic paint to protect from fingerprints and scratches.

frames with spray sealer

after 24 hours, i reassembled the frames with the fabulous new art with mattes,

three upcycled framed art with mattes

and without.

fox in an evening suit-framed


  1. Kim June 13

    For God’s sake girl, do you ever sleep? Love the frames. and prints.

    1. erin June 13

      not as well as i used to! thanks, i think they’re pretty rad, too.

  2. Dimonds Gallery November 1

    Lovely idea! Text and picture or text and inside image? What a great piece! Captivating frames as well.

    1. erin vito March 23

      Thanks! As a graphic designer, I’m a sucker for art that has type in in.

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