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What is the most cost effective way to frame a photograph or an art print

Here is the most cost-effective way to frame a photo at any budget

So how do you frame art at any budget? Well, if any of you have any artwork that you’d like to have framed but aren’t sure if you’ll be able to find a frame that fits or are completely blown away by the cost of the frame? Well, we’re here to help.

Below, you’ll find a few ways to frame a photograph or an art print. Here are the main topics of interest:

  • Purchase a frame that fits the exact dimension of the piece you’ll have: This essentially means that you need to purchase a frame that is the exact size of the piece, and you need to frame it without a “full bleed” or mat. You can toss the mat that came with the frame.

  • Purchase a frame that has a mat that fits the piece: This essentially means that you need to purchase a frame that comes with a mat that has an opening that is the exact size of the piece.

  • Custom frame the piece: This essentially means that you have a frame that is custom made to fit the piece. It’s the most expensive option.

  • Purchase a frame that is the size you want, and custom make a mat that fits both the piece and the frame: This essentially means that you’ll be purchasing a frame that is a bit larger than the piece you want to frame with the idea in mind that you’ll be developing a custom mat that you’ll be using to go with it.

Remember that both your budget and personal preference will be considered when you’re deciding the route that you want to take when framing your piece. If you’re developing a gallery wall you’ll also want to consider if all the pieces you want framed have a similar look to them when they’re framed.

And you also want to remember that there are certain framing alternatives that work well with certain styles of art.

What are a few sizing tips you’ll want to keep in mind?

Before you purchase a frame, you want to check all of the below dimensions. Remember, there are three sizes that should be looked at.

The mat size: This indicates, if the frame comes with a mat, the size of the artwork the mat opening can accommodate.

The frame size: This is the size of the perimeter of the frame. This will be a larger size, if you purchase a wide frame, as you’ll need to consider when hanging it in your home.

The artwork size: This is the total size of the artwork that a frame fits without a mat.

Most of the frame sizes are listed at the size of the art/photo that it is intended to fit - not the actual size of the frame.

If there is a piece of art that is standard sized and you do not want to use a custom sized mat, you can always look for frames that already have a mat or a frame that’s the size of the piece itself so that you can frame it without having to use a mat.

If you have a piece that has a unique size, you may want to look at the frame size rather than the mat size. Usually, you’ll want a frame that has proportions congruent to the piece, so the mat you make has a similar width for both the sides and the top/bottom.

You always want to check the dimensions sections before buying online

Or you’ll want to look at the full dimensions, something that is listed, usually, on the insert in the frame when you buy it in person.

So, how do you find cheap, unique, or free frames?

Buy nothing groups: You’ll be surprised to find that there are quite a few “Buy Nothing” groups on Facebook where people and you are in a community and they share items that they’d like to give away, lend, or donate. This is the perfect option for many things outside of frames, but you’ll certainly find that this is a great thing to look for frames on. You can find some free ones there.

Facebook marketplace: All you have to do is type in “vintage frame” or “frame” into the Facebook marketplace search bar and you’ll be surprised at how many results will pop up. This is the perfect way to find unique, cheap frames if you’d like more of an eclectic look for your wall. You can even find free things on there!

Ebay: This is another great resource if you’re searching for affordable frames. One can even search for “vintage frame lot” if you have a gallery wall or something that you’d like to do. This often results in achieving a better price-per-frame.

Etsy: This is another great place to find unique and random frames. All you have to do is search “vintage frame” and you’ll find that quite a few pop up. To narrow down your results you can even specify a certain finish.

Flea Markets and Thrift Stores: If there are any local flea markets or thrift stores near you, it would be a good idea to stop into them to search for frames. You never know what you’ll be able to find and if you check into them on a regular basis you may be able to come up on a frame that meets your needs perfectly.

How to find affordable frames for large pieces of art?

A great idea for those who have large scale art and would like to find a frame that fits it is to buy a piece of large-scale art that’s already framed and take the art out of the frame to use it.

You’ll find that large scale frames are incredibly expensive and very hard to find, by themselves. You’ll find that you’re much more likely to find an option that is budget-friendly and that comes as a pre-framed art piece and simply swap the art out.

Are Floating Frames a good option?

Are you one of those people who would like to not have to worry about a mat at all? Well, you’ll be surprised that you have quite a few options. First, you may want to consider purchasing a floating frame as they’re usually a great option. A floating frame is one where the art piece “floats” between two separate glass panels.

This is a great option for odd-sized, smaller pieces and for things such as photo strips (that is, if you want to frame serval of them together).

Would a Shadow Box work?

If you have a 3D piece of artwork and you’d like to frame it, you may want to consider a shadowbox. These shadowboxes are essentially deep frames that provide space for 3D items and are equipped with a plush backing that one can pin items to.

What about Poster Hanging?

A great alternative to framing is poster hanging. These are essentially magnetized pieces that one would place along the bottom and top of the art piece and hang on the wall with a hook, ribbon, or string.

A few of the benefits of poster hanging are:

  • It gives one flexibility with the sizing as you don’t have to have poster hangers that perfectly align with the piece for it to look okay.

  • It’s a very cost-effective way for one to display large art pieces.

  • It allows one to easily switch out the art that’s framed inside of it

What about Custom Mats?

Yes, custom mats are more expensive than finding a frame that already has a mat and cutting it down to the size that you want it at, but that’s okay.

This allows you to frame any piece in any frame that is large enough because you can customize both the inner opening and the outer size so that it fits perfectly.

Below, you will find two perfect options for doing so

Independent framing shops: It’s always a good idea to support local and you’ll usually find a better price there than you would at a store like Michaels. You could always give us a call as we do custom framing.

Visit Michaels: Michaels has a framing department that does custom framing for you.

Should I buy a Mat Cutter?

If you are a person who frames a lot of art, you should probably consider purchasing a mat cutter. You should consider it an investment, and depending on how much art you frame, it may be worth it.

When you have a mat cutter, you can buy sheets of mat board and cut it yourself as you fit it to your frames and pieces.

So, how big should a mat be?

When you’re choosing a frame that you plan on using with a custom mat, it’s recommended that there are at least 2 inches for the mat on each side. You could go wider that this for the mat, and possibly smaller if you have a small piece and a narrow frame.But it’s recommended that you leave at least two inches for good measure.

Assembling art, frames, and mats

Once you have each necessary piece, you can finally assemble the final product, the framed art piece.

You can pretape your art so that it lies on the mat on top, face up, and straighten/align it accordingly.

How to cut down art prints?

This is very controversial, and it’s not suggested that you cut down original art. However, there are certain instances where an individual should frame art without a mat, and it doesn’t have a perfect fit with the frame. It is in these instances where the border of the art or, white space, should be trimmed down to fit.

If you do decide to do this, it’s important to make sure you cut equal amounts of the border on each side so that the art is still centered or laid correctly within the frame.

It’s recommended to use an x-acto knife or paper cutter and ruler when you do this. Do not try to freehand this!

What are the pros and cons of custom framing?

Custom framing can be seen as quite the investment, but it does yield a few benefits.


  • Many custom frames come with acrylics rather than glass, something that offers more uv protection and is shatter resistant. One could also opt for upgraded acrylic that is museum quality, which offers more protection for art.

  • Custom frames are finished with paper backing, which keeps particles out and helps preserve the piece

  • One can get a completely custom fit for both the frame and mat, so the art fits perfectly without any sacrifices on style or size.


  • Custom framing is usually permanent which means that if you want to use a different piece it can be difficult to remove so that you can re-use the frame.

  • If you’re doing an online version of custom framing, you’ll probably have to mail in the work, something that can be nerve wracking.

  • It can be pretty expensive (over $60). If you’ve already spent quite a bit on the piece then this can be hard to deal with. But, if you’ve spent quite a bit on the piece then you likely want to protect it as much as you can.

How would I know which framing option is best for me?

There are a few things you’ll want to consider as you think about which method is best for you. Those considerations are listed below.

Budget: If you aren’t able to spend a whole lot of money you may want to get a thrifted or store-bought frame - custom mats aren’t necessary.

Size: If the frame has an odd size, you probably want to look at getting a custom mat or trim the frame down to fit something that has a standard size.

Importance of the piece: If this piece has sentimental value, you may want to get it custom framed - don’t forget to check local shops before sending it via mail.

Future considerations: Consider using a store-bought frame if you don’t think it will be keeping the place it’s in currently for very long.

Is it going to be a part of a gallery wall: If it is going to be a part of one consider the other pieces that it’s going to be framed with, you may want them to have a uniform design.

And there you have it, a piece entirely on framing within a budget. Remember, we do framing so be sure to give us a ring so that we can help.


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