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DIY custom frames!

Have a piece of art that needs something special that only you can be trusted to make? This blog is for you. I'm going to share step by step how to make both simple and complex frames!

Recommendations before getting started:

Your first framing project might not go as well as you expect it to - I still mess up from time to time. So get some wood that is nice, but isn't crazy expensive, so you're not cursing me if it doesn't work out on the first try!

Know your wood, and by that I mean give it some research first! Oak, what I use here, is super soft and cracks easily when screwing nails into it. For oak, if you're screwing the edges together, you'll need to drill a hole first so it doesn't crack.

Don't forget the stain. A little stain goes a long way and if you're looking for a stained look, you're going to want to grab that while you're getting your wood!

I use power tools here, but you can easily use a screw driver and hammer for simple screws and nails in place of all the areas I use power tools.

Oh! And don't forget the sand paper! You're going to need that for the best finished product!

Read through this entire blog and then check out the two drawings I have for each set of instructions to see my word instructions through picture instructions.

Let's get started!


Simple frames:

1. Measure out your project, you need the exterior dimensions, and need to account for overlap of two sides which I'll explain in further detail. But get enough wood to cover the entire length of your edges and some extra!

2. You're going to need to get your preferred wood of choice. My favorite wood to work with is oak, and this example is made in red oak from Home Depot. I like the quality of wood at Home Depot, and you can purchase by the foot so you're not ending up spending too much money or having excess! This wood I'm using is .75in x 2.5in.

3. I like building my frames around my canvases, I can ensure they're super accurate that way - so I recommend having your wood and canvas together with building or just make sure your measurements are precise!

4. 90 degree cuts - straight cuts - are going to be made for the simple frames (photo below on left). These edges will line up side by side but two sides will be overlapping on both ends. The internal length of the frame will be the exact size around your canvas. Two edges will be longer than the actual canvas length to make up the difference of the frame (photo below on right). After cutting, gently sand your edges so you can smooth any rough areas that may cause a gap between your boards.

Tip: When you're cutting the wood, cut on the outside of your measurements because of accounting for the width of the blade. So mark your length with a pencil and cut on the outside of the line, not the side of the wood that is part of your measurement for the frame.

5. Attaching the sides will be made with two nails or screws of your choice on the side that overlaps your shorter edges (shown in photo to the left). You want these to go in the middle of the board you are attaching into. That way you will reduce chances of cracking the wood or splitting. Two screws or nails are used so that the boards don't spin once they're all put together. I put one nail in all four corners and then flip the entire frame and put another nail in on the opposite side of the first one. See the photo below to see what I mean.

Tip: before applying any attachments place the frames around the canvas so you know it will fit perfectly! Make any adjustments now - whether that is sanding down some more spots or trimming or maybe cutting an entire new length of a side because once your nails are attached, it's very hard to fix afterwards.

After you have all your final touches made, you can attach your boards like I explained in step 5 and the photo shows above! Once you have two screws of nails in each corner, you're all done! Just to be clear, that is 8 screws or nails total. You want a nail in each corner of each corner. Super trippy, but I think you can understand what I mean!

This is what your final project should look like! Now it's time to add your stain or any other final touches you'd like! I enjoy the look of raw red oak, so I leave my wood just the way it is and add a thin layer of Polyurethane to add a slight shine and protect the wood.


Complex frame:

Before making a complex frame, I highly recommend making a simple frame or understanding the process entirely. Mistakes can be made on both the simple and the complex building process of frames, but understanding the simple will help you work through any barriers of a complex. I find them both to have their own easy areas but I still mess up from time to time! So take it slow and give yourself some grace through the process!

1. I always draw out my complex frames just to make sure I have a visual representation to I can go to when I get stumped. Measure your project. You're going to need twice the amount of wood as the simple frame. This process is about framing the frame so when you're measuring, get enough wood to go around your canvas twice plus room for excess. Depending on the project could determine the width of the wood you're getting. For example, the frame I made for this example is going around a 9x12in canvas so it's much thinner than the width of the frame for the 3x4ft canvas I framed the week before. I'll include both of those throughout this example.

2. My wood here is red oak at the size of .75x1in. I use this size on most frames of standard depth. This is the wood I usually make simple frames with, too, but the frame above is for a deep canvas so I needed a wider piece of wood. So, you'll use the same size here or you could a wider interior board like the photo below, where I framed my large sunset painting. You're going to make the interior frame first, laying flat next to the canvas essentially. These cuts are on a 45 degree angle to add a more finished look. You want the angle to begin at the corner of your canvas. So for this frame, all your boards will be the same and exact length of your canvas that you're framing.

The complex frame above was an interior piece of wood at .75x4in. The exterior piece of wood is the same as above, .75x1in. I did this because large paintings need large frames in my mind. I didn't want to skimp out on a simple frame or too small of a complex frame, so I added the width to maximize the drama of the frame.

3. Cut all four sides of your frame on a 45 degree angle. I use a Compound Miter Saw to make all my cuts and just spin the entire blade on the house of the saw to the 45 degree mark. Depending on the tools you have available might determine if you can continue making this frame or not. The simple frame can easily be cut to the exact size you need at Home Depot or another hardware store of purchasing wood, but most of them do not have the ability to cut angles for wood being purchased.

Tip: don't forget to cut on the outside of your measurement to account for the width of the blade that will mess up your overall length if it is included in your cut. See photos below.

Remember that your cuts are going to both be pointing inwards to the painting. I've made the mistake before of forgetting to flip my wood or swing the blade and ended up with a piece of wood that had two angles pointing in the same direction, you want them pointing in the opposite directions and the shorter end be the interior side. But when you're done cutting: you should have a product that looks like the photo below.

Don't forget to sand your edges and put it together without any attachments to ensure that your frame all matches up and you won't have any complications when finally attaching with nails or screws.

4. Move onto cutting your outer edges the same way that you cut these boards with the measurements of the exterior of this frame. Same as in step 2, your cuts will begin at the corner of this frame so you will not have to measure for excess like the simple frame. You just need the measurement of the outer edges of this frame. Your wood here will stand on its side rather than lay flat like the first board.

Here are some photos of what your frame should be looking like at this step:

All of my sides are not shown in this photo below, but you should lay all 8 pieces of your frame side by side to make sure that they all fit together before attaching. Make any changes now or adjustments that you'll need to do and once you're satisfied, move onto the next step.

5. Once you have all the adjustments you need and your frame sits perfectly together, you're going to attach a little differently than the simple frame. You can see which way works best for you, but from my experience, attaching the outer edges to the inner edges first works the best. You're going to take one side of the frame and attach from the outside into the board that is laying flat. Look at the photos below.

I attach these first so I can sand down the edges together when they are one complete edge. This way I have found it to be easy to make sure there are no gaps between the cuts. It also provides more security when attaching at the corners and less movement so there are less mistakes.

6. Once you have the edges attached, you're going to attach at the corners very similar to the simple frame. I place eight nails total in the corners, one on each side of each corner. Shown below is my complex frame upside down and with two nails in the corner of one of my corners. I tried to show the different angles to make sure the point got across! These attachments are easiest going into the outer boards as if it was a simple frame. Just hold on tight to them so you don't have much movement & sand your edges! Sometimes I need to just hammer some sides a little bit to put them back in the right places and I'm done!

So now, your frame should look like this:


Now you have two completed ways to make frames the way I do! I've gone through a lot of wood making these the wrong way and these two forms of instructions are the simplest ways I make frames now. I'm all about affordability and quality work, which is why I make my own frames! As for framing photos, those I leave to the professionals and buy frames from Michael's. But if you have a unique canvas or piece of art that just needs something more to match your style, I recommend adding just a little drama to the edges with a nice wood frame! I hope this helped, I'm going to be available for all your framing needs if you need me. I can FaceTime or guide you through with an email, whatever you need!

To reward you for reading through how to build frames, I'm going to give you a little easy project you can make with some left over wood: Floating Shelves!

I literally just placed my extra wood in a way that I would make my floating shelves for those of you also asking on how I do that. You want to screw the bottom board into the back board and nail the front board onto the bottom board. The reason you screw the bottom boards into the back boards is for the extra support because that's going to be what holds the weight of all your shelves together when you have frames sitting on it. I do a screw about every six inches on my floating shelves and just nail two or three places of the front board onto the bottom board!

To hand the shelves: your best bet is to find the stud in the wall and screw the back of the shelf straight into the wall where the stud is. This way you can avoid the shelf ripping out of the wall without an anchor and you won't have to go through the trouble of using an anchor because it's secure in the stud. Your frames will be on the shelves so the screw heads won't be seen on the back of the shelf where it is screwed into the wall.

Here's the PDF instructions for all 3 builds explained above!

Download PDF • 8.14MB

If you need more help with that, there's plenty of DIY floating shelves blogs on Pinterest, but here's a simple way to practice it yourself with all the materials you have already!

Here's an example of my shelves in my studio made the same way!

Good luck! Make mistakes and learn from them! I'm always around for moral support.

With love,


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