How to Upcycle Thrifted Frames

close up view of a thrift store frame with new art in it and a spray painted white mat

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If you’ve been wondering how to take thrifted frames and transform them into beautiful works of art – this post is for you. At first glance, it might seem like these thrift store frames are permanently stuck with the old art and aged old mats in them. How do you revamp them without breaking the glass or the frame? It’s definitely possible and I’ll show you how.

Thrifting for frames is one of my favorite ways to decorate on a budget. And once you know how to make them over – you’ll want to do this on repeat.

Occasionally, the stars align and you find a beautiful thrifted frame with amazing artwork inside, in which case – you can just bring it home and hang it. But most of the time, you will fall in the love with the frame and not so much with the art inside. That’s just the nature of thrifting.

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Things You’ll Need

spray paint for picture mats
  • Thrifted Frames
  • tape measure
  • Spray Paint
  • Glass Cleaner
  • New art sized to your frame dimensions (see tips on finding new art below)
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Framing Tape

I recently found these two frame beauties at Goodwill for $3 each. They are heavy frames, with the perfect aged brass and they have a beautiful detailing to them. Only, I didn’t love the artwork in them and the mats looked so yellow and aged. But none of this worried me because I knew I could completely change the up.

old frames from the thrift store

Expert Tip: If you can find a set of two or three frames in the same style, snatch it up immediately! It’s one of the items I always recommend you get at thrift stores.

How do You find New Art to Fit Odd Sized Frames?

If you happen to thrift a common sized frame, such as a 8×10, you’re in luck because you can find 8×10 prints almost everywhere. But a lot of the times you will end up with frames in a really strange sizes. What do you do then?

One solution is to find digital art and then print it to this custom size. This can easily be done at some online print shops. You can find more information on printing digital art here.

new artwork for old thrifted frames

Another solution is to buy a custom picture frame mat in the size of the frame, and make the opening the size of your art. You can get more information about custom frame mats here.

Thrift Store Frame Makeover – Step by Step

If your frame is particularly dusty and dirty, I recommend you give it a good cleaning with a bit of mild soap and a soft cloth. I don’t like working with dirty stuff! I prefer it to be clean first. 🙂

Audobon Bird Painting in a Thrifted Frame

How to Upcycle Old Thrift Store Frames into Something Beautiful!

Total time: 1 hour

  1. Remove paper and Cardboard backing

    using a screwdriver to revamp thrifted frames

    The first step is to remove the paper and cardboard backing. Flip your frame to the back. You can usually gently push a screwdriver through the back to rip it, and then use your hands to remove the entire paper backing. This will expose the back of the frame. Most frames have little staples or nails (if it’s really old) holding all the frame contents to the glass. Take a screwdriver and lightly bend these staples up and out of place so you can remove the cardboard backing. Be careful not to scratch or break the glass in this step.

  2. Remove Frame Contents

    upcycling thrifted frames

    Most frames have little staples or nails (if it’s really old) holding all the frame contents to the glass. Take a screwdriver and lightly bend these staples up and out of place so you can remove everything from the inside. Be careful not to scratch or break the glass in this step. You can throw away the old art and old mats if you want, but I recommend saving the cardboard backing it came with because we can reuse it (and we can reuse the mat, too).

  3. Spray Paint Mats

    spray painted picture mats

    Did you know you can spray paint mats? I do this all the time! I prefer bright white mats (or a color) and sometimes you end up with an ivory, or aged mat that doesn’t look right. Simple lay your mats on a piece of old cardboard and lightly spray paint them until they are completely covered with the new color. Allow them ample time to dry.

  4. Clean the Inside Glass

    Gently clean the inside of the glass with a mirror or glass cleaner and a soft cloth.

  5. Insert new art and Mats (if using)

    Once your mats are completely dry, tape your new art in place to the mat with painter’s tape and place them in your frame. The painter’s tape keeps the art from moving around while you are putting the frame back together, and it doesn’t rip the paper likes other tapes.

  6. Insert Frame Backing

    close up view of a thrift store frame with new art in it and a spray painted white mat

    Place the cardboard backing back on top of the art. Don’t have a backing? Cut out a piece of sturdy cardboard to the size of your frame and use that. Take your screwdriver again and gently push those staples or nails back in place so it holds the contents of your frame together. If you don’t have these little holders on your frame, you can use painter’s tape or framing tape to hold the contents of the frame to the inside. Now flip your frame over and marvel at your new framed art!

view of a thrift store frame with new art in it and a spray painted white mat
close up view of audobon bird art marsh tern in a gold thrifted frame
Shop this Art here.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I don’t want the glass?

You’ll also have to decide if you want to keep the glass. Sometimes art without glass looks better as there is no glare. If you want to remove the glass but can’t get it out of the frame – you will have to break it. I’ve done this before and I have to say : PLEASE BE CAREFUL HERE! If it’s too risky for you, don’t do it, it’s not worth it. I take it outside and use a mallet or hammer to gently break and then remove the glass in big shards. Please dispose of carefully.

How do I hang these Thrifted Frames on the Wall?

Unless the frame is incredibly heavy, I use a bunch of command picture hanging strips to hang my frames. Works every time as long as you use them as intended. You can also lean your frames instead of hanging them for a stylish look!

Do you have any other Thrifting tips?

Yes! Thrifting is one of my true passions, and the more you go the more you know and learn. Here are all my thrifting tips to help make your next trip a successful one.

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