5 Ways to Update a Thrifted Photo Frame

5 Ways to Update an Old Photo Frame (via abeautifulmess.com) 5 Ways to Update a Thrifted Frame (via abeautifulmess.com)Let’s start off with a confession: yes, I am changing around my home office area AGAIN. What can I say? I’m one of those types that just loves rearranging furniture or painting things over and over again. My mom and my sister are basically the same way. If you live alone and have an unlimited budget, then this habit is no problem, but for the rest of us, this can sometimes be annoying to the people we live with. And of course, you can’t redo the whole house if you’ve already depleted your decorating budget for the year. Ha! And if you hate to redo things, well, I don’t know what you tell you. 🙂

So, I’m changing around my home office area again. I’ve been working on it for a few months already. If you want to see what it looked like before, check here. I’m not 100% done with the new look, but I promise I’ll share (whether you want me to or not) when it’s done. But today I want to talk photo frames. So get ready! I moved my desk area around, so there’s a LOT more room for bulletin boards, to-do lists, photos, and artwork.

I partnered with our friends from Canon USA on this project. I used my PIXMA TS9020 to print all of the photos in the frames I’m about to share. Most of the photos are black and white, and I love how sharp the blacks print, but a couple are colored and the bright colors truly POP as you can see from the golden creme brûlée photo (a recipe in our upcoming cookbook). But not only is it a great at-home printer for photos and documents—it also matches my new office color scheme (black and white!). So it gets bonus points for that too. 🙂

Canon printer 5 Ways to Update a Thrifted Frame (via abeautifulmess.com) 5 Ways to Update an Old Photo Frame (via abeautifulmess.com) As you can see, I created a kind of mini gallery wall above my desk area. I love it! It’s bold, stimulating, but also super functional as I check the calendar and to-do lists I hang on the bulletin board daily to keep myself on track. I am a hardcore list-maker and goal-setter, so having places where I can SEE it all at once is something I always like to have in my work spaces.

All of the photo frames in my mini gallery wall I thrifted. I knew I was OK with a few random sizes (and in fact I knew I didn’t want it to look exactly uniform), so I thrifted and used the following few techniques to update the frames. The techniques are SIMPLE. Anyone out there who is all, “I’m not crafty,” this project is still for you. It’s easy and fun.

Ideas for updating a thrifted frameHere are the frames before. They are pretty mismatched and were mostly one or two dollars each. The main thing I look for when thrifting picture frames is that the glass and frame are in good shape (dirt is no problem, but if anything looks cracked or broken, avoid that) and that the back looks easy to open for swapping out the photo/art. Some frames will have hanging hardware or even the entire back papered over. If it’s a great frame and you think you can handle it, go for it, but I tend to stick to frames that look super easy to swap the art out. Just my two cents.

After taking the frames apart and cleaning them, here are five techniques for updating their look.

Add wallpaper1. Add wallpaper.

I like to buy wallpaper samples sometimes just to use for projects, as wrapping for small gifts, or even to hang as artwork itself (see the eye design in my gallery wall, that’s another wallpaper sample). Just use an X-Acto knife to cut the wallpaper to fit the frame and glue in place. Some wallpapers are removable (they are like giant stickers), so those may not need glue at all.

This wallpaper sample and the eye design are both from Kate Zaremba Company.

How to marble How to marble a picture frame2. Marble the frame.

This one was probably my favorite if I had to pick one. I just love the process, and it’s so fun to pull your frame away and see the results because each time looks a little different. Just follow the directions here for your photo frame. One thing to keep in mind is the colors. If you plan to marble with black and dark colored nail polishes (like I did), then you may want to prime your frame with a coat of white paint first. Otherwise it may not be visible.

Tips for painting a picture frame3. Speaking of priming the frame with paint—the third technique I used was painting the frames.

I know, super simple. But I love that this can give the frames a whole new feeling! Since I was sticking to a mostly black and white theme, I painted my frames part white and part black by using painter’s tape to mask off areas. This gave them a more modern feel. And when you use a little spray paint on an already inexpensive frame (that you thrifted), you end up with a super cute AND super affordable piece.

Add tile4. Add tile.

You can buy just one sheet (one square foot) of tile and get quite a few frames out of it! I bought a sheet of these small, rectangle marble tiles and simply glued them to my primed frame (use a glue that says it works with ceramic and wood). You could use other tile shapes or colors to give this a fun mosaic feel. Easy!

Add moulding5. Add embellishments.

This could be any number of things, like adding hardware, or (in my case) adding a bit of moulding. This was a moulding accent I bought at the hardware store, but you could easily add moulding trim to a frame as well. You could leave it raw or paint it to match other frames you might already have and plan to display in the same area. Lots of possibilities depending on the look you want.

Funny couple portraits 5 Ways to Update an Old Photo Frame (via abeautifulmess.com) Here’s one of my favorite prints and frames from the bunch. Reminds me to keep taking myself very seriously.


5 Ways to Update a Thrifted Frame (via abeautifulmess.com) That’s it for my little wall, but if you want even more ideas for updating a frame, try these: wood burned photo frames, add a belt to a circle frame, and why not add paint and patina.

Sources: Most printed photos are my own but other photographers include Katie Day, Sarah Rhodes, and Elise Abigail. Bra and bloom prints/Happy Mail, Oh Darling print/Etsy, Calendars/Goal Tracker Printables/Etsy.

Happy picture printing, friends! xo. Emma

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. 

  • I’m one of those sorts that simply adore revamping furniture or painting things again and again. My mother and my sister are fundamentally a similar way. In the event that you live alone and have a boundless spending plan, at that point this propensity is no issue, however for whatever is left of us, this can now and again pester to the general population we live with. What’s more, obviously, you can’t re-try the entire house in the event that you’ve officially exhausted your enlivening spending plan for the year.

  • There are such specific styles and designs, with a quick coat of paint it brings the entire appearance collectively! Loving the added hardware, too. So cute and purposeful!

  • Remarkable work !! you have just solved my massive problem, one of my closed friend has just asked my a question on thrift photo frame and as usual I didn’t know the answer so I google it and I found your blog and now I can answer her question and she’ll definitely impress with it…

  • I love these ideas! Do you have spray painting techniques or best brand recommendations? I tried spray painting frames, but they did not turn out well. The paint was poorly layered, and it was hard to get the edges layered like the face of the frame. The paint ended up looking peely and gross.

  • It sincerely depends upon your own requirement. However, If you need to border and dangle it on a wall, I could propose 18 inch by way of 12 inch size. The photos produced with the aid of most current DLSR and factor & shoots or even cell phones may be effortlessly revealed in this length with out any distortion or pix elation.

  • Is there way to just buy the Bra Print from ABM?
    I think it’s so cute!

  • I have loads of old frames kicking about, I can’t wait to revamp them now! Thanks for the great idea x

  • What a good idea! I think I will buy some frames at the next garage sale. 🙂
    I love redecorate, move things and furniture and I’m looking forward to having my next apartment.

  • I love it. I should try this project. Thank you very much for your idea

  • Very lovely! I redecorate all the time. For the creative types, I believe it’s essential.

  • This is what I plan to do to make a gallery wall in my new house. Buying them at a thrift store (or charity shop – uk speak) is going to be even cheaper than buying them in bulk from Ikea. I was just going to spray paint them all black, but maybe I’ll use some of these ideas to make them more interesting. I especially love the marbled one, so pretty.
    ~ Lisa

  • I loved this diy project. I immediately looked at my biting photo frames in my room and thought on changing them asap. Thanks for sharing!
    Carolina MJ | http://www.dearbabymj.com

  • They look so beautiful, I love the marbled ones!

  • Thank you so much for sharing this blog with us. It provides a collection of useful information. You obviously put a lot of effort into it.

  • So cute, I love the updates they are just super sweet!!


  • Picture frames are one of my favorite things to get from goodwill. There are such unique patterns and designs, with a quick coat of paint it brings the whole look together! Loving the added hardware, too. So cute and functional!

  • What a transformation – great ideas for bring new life to old frames. My fav is the marbled frame but my fav print is hands down your cheesy grin couples pic. Happy rearranging! xoxo

  • LOOOOVE these ideas!! Saw them on instagram and I swiped up! Omg, totally gonna make this DIY on my YouTube channel! Thank you for inspiration. Xoxo ❤❤❤.

  • I like it!!! I like the vibe…the last one was very pretty and bold but this just feels very cozy/focused maybe? If that makes sense? I am completely the same way with changing around spaces too and it’s a skill to be thrifty and work with what you have/can get for super cheap because I agree if I bought new items every single time I redid a space my husband would be like uhhh seriously? So job well done!!

  • Your wall looks great – that justifies your changing around of your room! I love the tiling DIY.

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

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