Frame Rehab and Custom Mats

I see old frames being sold nearly everywhere I look. They are one of my favorite finds because the options are infinite – gallery walls, frames with art, empty frames in an arrangement, frames turned into trays on a coffee table. A little love and imagination and they are easily brought back to life. For the gallery wall I completed I decided to spray paint them all gold to make a matching set.

However, most of them were missing wires to hang, glass, and mats for the photographs. Easy fix! Going to a craft store or specialty framing shop to have custom glass/acrylic and mats cut can be expensive, especially when we’re talking about using quite a few to decorate a wall.

How to make custom mats

For the protective layer I prefer using polystyrene, an acrylic material that I can cut myself easily and is lighter than glass and shatter proof. This one is a nice choice because it comes with the backing as well.


You can use an X-Acto blade to cut this. Once I measured out my size and drew my line to follow I used the ruler to lead the blade down.  You will want to do this slowly and try to make the same line each time (the ruler helps ensure this).  Once it’s ready to break it will snap very easily, if you pick it up and gently bend it and it does not snap, get back to using that blade and ruler! If you force it to break it won’t snap easily on the line you made.  Below are two zoomed in comparisons, the one on the top I snapped prematurely and it splintered down the center. The bottom one snapped with no problem.

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Next step, mats! For framing photographs and prints I think mats immediately take your work to the next level and make it look more professional and high end. Similarly to cutting your polystyrene, patience is key.  Using your trusty blade and ruler again, measure out the piece you need to cut and SLOWLY begin cutting.  It is even more crucial with the mats to stay in the same line or it will fray.  See my hasty attempt on the top and on the bottom when I cooled my jets and took my time. Haste is waste in this instance, my friends.


You can really have fun with the custom mats and use all different sizes. One of the styles I love is using a simple frame and a large mat like this one or this one to really showcase the photograph.


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