A step-by-step tutorial showing how to build frames for canvas prints, at a fraction of the cost of custom framing, plus the best paint to make them durable.
Wall décor can really transform a space and tie a room together by giving it a more elevated look. Unfortunately it’s also one of those things that feels extremely expensive for what you’re getting. Save as much as you can by building your own frames with this step-by-step guide. I promise it’s way easier than you think!
I avoided decorating the walls of my living room for over a year because I was afraid of how expensive it would be. I love the look of an antique painting, but I was struggling to thrift something big enough for my space. I needed a huge piece of artwork to go over my couch that looked high end and matched my style. After months of searching I realized it was time to make it myself.
While I wish I was talented enough to paint something myself, I barely passed my art elective in college. So I ordered a print of a painting that I loved and designed a frame for it. The frame I made is designed so that you don’t have to attach it to the canvas permanently and can swap it out if you change your mind down the line.
- 1.5” x .75” pine boards (the amount and length of boards you will need depends on the size of your canvas)
- Drop Cloth
- DAP Rapidfuse glue
- Flat corner Brace
- Plastic Wood
- Paper towels
- Wise Owl One Hour Enamel Paint
- D-ring picture hangers
- Steel wire (make sure it will hold the weight of your frame)
- Measuring Tape
- Miter Saw (or you can have someone cut them at the hardware store for you if you don't have a saw–you could also use a hand saw and miter box)
- Power Drill
- Automatic Screw Driver
- Staple Gun
- Brad Nailer
- Paint Brush
- Wire Cutters
Step 1: Calculate Dimensions
First, you need to calculate the dimensions for your frame. You will need to build a base frame to attach the canvas to and then a decorative one that will actually frame the canvas.
Feel free to use the formulas below:
Vertical boards: Length = canvas height - 4"
Horizontal boards: Height = canvas length - 1"
Vertical boards: Interior Length = canvas height - 1"
Horizontal boards: Interior Height = canvas length - 1"
Step 2: Cut Wood
Each frame requires 4 pieces cut from your pine boards: 2 horizontal pieces and 2 vertical pieces.
The base frame will require straight cuts, while the decorative frame will require cuts at a 45 degree angle.
Base Frame: Cut your wooden boards horizontally for your canvas frame. The horizontal pieces will overhang the vertical pieces to form the corners (see the diagram above).
Decorative Frame: Cut your wooden boards at a 45 degree angle so that they’ll come together to form a miter joint in the corners (see the diagram above).
Lightly sand any rough edges that your saw may have created.
Step 3: Glue the Corners
Lay down your drop cloth on a flat surface.
Base Frame: Assemble all four boards so that the long horizontal pieces overhang the vertical boards. Line them up in place of how they’ll fit together on your flat surface and apply the glue to where the boards will meet and stick together.
Decorative Frame: Assemble all four boards again so that the long pieces are laying horizontally and the shorter are vertical. Apply the glue to your miter cuts and work the corners to gether so that they fit perfectly. You’ll have about two minutes to get them all in place before the glue starts to dry.
Step 4: Reinforce the Corners
Once the glue is completely dry, you’re ready to reinforce the corners.
Grab the flat corner braces and use one of them to mark the drill holes on each corner. First you’ll want to drill pilot holes to reduce the chances of the wood splitting. Then attach the braces by using the automatic screwdriver to screw the screws in place. Both of the frames will need braces.
The decorative frame will need additional reinforcement with the brad nailer. To do stand the frame up on the floor so that you’re nailing downward into the wood. You may need to ask someone for help holding the frame depending on how large it is. Place 2 - 3 nails in each corner as shown below. This will strengthen the corners and keep the miter joints tightly together.
Step 5: Wood Fill
You may have some little divots from the nails or other blemishes in the wood that you want to fill. Grab that Plastic Wood and fill them in along with any cracks in the seams of our miter joints. Sometimes they don’t come together as perfectly as you’d like, but that’s what the nails are for. They hold them together securely and then you can fill it in for a seamless finish.
Skip this step if you’re planning to stain the wood.
Step 6: Attaching the Canvas
Attaching the canvas to the base frame is pretty simple. Just lay your canvas down on a flat surface, place your frame on top of it, pull it tight and start stapling. Now of course you want to make sure that it’s evenly distributed around the frame, so that your art doesn’t turn out crooked. But if you used my formulas to calculate your dimensions, you should be good to go!
Step 7: Sanding
Now that your wood filler is dry you can sand it down flush with the rest of the wood. You’ll also want to scuff sand the entire frame so that your paint adheres nicely to it.
If you plan to stain the wood, you can skip this step.
Step 8: Paint
Plan to do a minimum of two coats of paint on your frame (I had to do three). I love using One Hour enamel because it dries so quickly and the finish is incredibly durable, so you don’t have to worry about your paint chipping or getting scratched.
Step 9: Pop in the Canvas
Now you're ready to pop your canvas into the decorative frame. It should fit nice and snug so that you don’t have to add any back, but not so tight that you harm the sides of the canvas.
Step 10: Attach the Hangers and Wire
Once the canvas is fitted, you can attach the D-ring hangers and steel wire. Again, you’ll want to mark the screw holes and drill pilot holes for the hardware. I like to attach them a third of the way down from the top of the frame. Each hanger should be attached to the vertical boards of the frame. Then cut your steel wire to size. I like it to reach up to the inside of the top board (see image). That way it’s easier to hang. To fasten the steel wire, just pull it through the hangers and twist it tightly around itself about 3 - 4 times.
From there you’re ready to hang it!
My living room looks so much better now. The space feels more cozy and everything looks pulled together. That poor wall was screaming to be decorated. I’m in love with how it turned out and now you know how to build your own frames, too!