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Decorating Plain, Recycled, or Repurposed Picture Frames: Tutorials and Ideas

Rose is a full-time freelance writer who frequently writes about education, special education, DIY projects, food, Milwaukee, and more.


If you've ever browsed in dollar stores, the dollar sections of big box stores, or thrift stores, you know that there is an abundance of cheap picture frames out there. Craft stores often sell inexpensive frames as well. Look for a used frame that you can repurpose or recycle or look for a plain frame that you can decorate any way that you like. Not only are homemade frames generally cheaper than purchased frames, they can be customized for just about any occasion.

Keep in mind that if you are making a frame for a specific photo, consider the orientation of the photo when you create your design.

Please respect artist copyrights. Unless it is indicated otherwise, all ideas and tutorials are for personal use only. If you're interested in selling your creations, contact the artists directly to work out agreements. Thank you and happy creating!


Scrapbook Paper/Scrapbooking Embellishments

There are endless possibilities for decorating plain frames with scrapbook paper and/or scrapbooking embellishments. If you keep these materials on hand, this is a great way to use up smaller scraps and little odds and ends (i.e. one pink flower embellishment that you didn't include on a scrapbook page). Consider incorporating messages and/or creating frames for specific occasions (i.e. baby showers, graduations, etc.).


Recycled Magazines

Most of the tutorials and for sale frames out there with recycled magazines are made by rolling and then gluing little magazine strips in any number of different patterns. You can alter this concept with different designs, color combinations, shapes, etc. just about any way that you like. Additionally, consider using magazine pages for more of a decoupage type of frame.



Jessica had the opportunity to test drive Inkodye, and the frame is one of the projects she created with it. I love many things rain and cloud-related so this theme appeals to me, but you can customize your frame any way that you like. This is the only tutorial out there for an Inkodye frame, but I have included a couple other Inkodye tutorials in the links so you can get a few ideas for other options for it.

Check out more craft ideas from Kristine at



Create a special frame for any tropical or beach side vacation with a seashell frame by collecting your own seashells. This can also make a great honeymoon gift for a soon to be wed couple who will be taking a tropical honeymoon and would appreciate a unique frame for one of their trip pictures. If you don't have your own seashells to work with for a gift and don't live near a place that you can collect them yourself, consider purchasing shells.

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Retro Theme

I don't have a tutorial for this idea, but you can get basic instructions for decorating a frame in many of the other tutorial posts here. This is a great gift option for a graduation, wedding, or milestone birthday. If you still have old toys or memorabilia in the basement from when your kids were little, sort through some of your trinkets. If you don't, it shouldn't be too time-consuming or expensive to find some new options online or in a thrift store. Have fun with it.


Spools of Thread

The blog author applied this concept to a bulletin board, but it would work perfectly well for a picture frame, too. The spools will work filled with thread or empty, especially if you find wooden spools or unique vintage plastic spools. If you can't find any vintage spools of thread, new ones will work just fine, too.


Chalkboard Paint

For the first photo, the blog author created this frame as part of a set of teacher gifts. The chalkboard theme does work nicely for teachers, but as you can customize the chalk messages any way you want, there are numerous possibilities for this. A chunky frame like the ones pictured will work well with chalkboard paint, as there is more room for writing. If you're giving this frame as a gift, consider including some chalk with it.


Adding a Ribbow and Bow

Keep it simple with a ribbon and a bow. This is a great option for a recycled or repurposed frame that is in good shape and doesn't need a lot of other work. It is also a good option if you're making a lot of frames at once (i.e. party favors) and don't want anything too complicated or time consuming.

Old neckties are an excellent option for decorating a frame.



You know that I had to include buttons as an option. If you don't have a stash of buttons at home, check thrift stores or sale sections of craft stores. You may be able to find a post-holiday deal on a seasonal set. You can use a few buttons as detail or you can fill every inch of your frame with buttons. If you will be filling your whole frame, consider painting the frame with the color of your buttons (or one color of your multicolored set) in case any of the frame shows through the buttons.


Fabric Covered/Embellished

Similar to scrapbook paper, there are endless possibilities for fabric covered or embellished frames. I have provided just a couple examples here. You can cover an entire frame in fabric or simply add a little embellishment such as a patterned strip of fabric or a fabric flower. This is a great way to use up scraps and any oddly shaped pieces of fabric that don't work well for the type of projects that you usually make.

More DIY home decor articles from the author.


Celeste Wilson on August 21, 2018:

I love this idea. I wanted to choose a favorite but I couldn't. These could all make incredible gifts for a teacher or family member. Thank you for the inspiration.

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on September 11, 2012:

You're very welcome! That's perfect.

worddsplaytoday from NC on September 11, 2012:

I love this hub I was just thinking about what I could do with my frames I have. Thank you for the ideals!

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 30, 2012:

Thanks, Magic! That's great. Have fun with your frames. :)

MAGICFIVE from New York on August 30, 2012:

This is such an inspiring hub! I have had this urge lately to decorate a picture frame, and now I have some great ideas! Thanks!

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on March 28, 2012:

Thanks Tonipet! I'm glad that idea appeals to you. It would be perfect for an old-fashioned and/or country style home. Good luck with it!

Tonette Fornillos from The City of Generals on March 28, 2012:

Hi Rose. I love the patchwork frame idea, sounds and feels country. I've been thinking of what frame styles and colors to get a touch of the old-fashioned for my small living room and kitchen. I've thought of patching up different colors for a larger frame. So glad I've read these tips. I'd love to share to you (through my hub) a picture of it the moment I'm through with my dream frame. Thank you again Rose. Looking forward to more ideas from you.

Awesome, interesting and voted up!

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on March 26, 2012:

Thanks Om! Congrats on your wedding. Good luck with your framing!

Om Paramapoonya on March 26, 2012:

These are all super cute. I just got married a couple months ago and have been thinking about framing some of my wedding photos. This hub is very inspiring; I think I'm going to start a picture-frame project soon!

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on March 26, 2012:

Thanks shabbygirls!

Collette Hemmes Rock from Australia on March 26, 2012:

What a collection of really great ideas, thank you

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on March 24, 2012:

Yes, for sure! Thanks Deb!

storybeader on March 24, 2012:

golly! So many different options, everyone will have something to recycle! Great ideas! {:-D

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on March 23, 2012:

Thanks imaudra! I appreciate the sharing. :)

iamaudraleigh on March 23, 2012:

So many cool ideas here that sparked my interest!!! I really liked Spools of Thread and the frames with chalkboard paint! I have to share this!!!

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on March 23, 2012:

Thanks Edi!

Edi on March 23, 2012:

Of course I love the ones decorated with scrapbook paper :)

But I love the ones with 3-D embellishments too!

Great list of resources!

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on March 23, 2012:

Thanks Angelo, Journey, and Nancy! I'm glad that you enjoyed this hub!

Nancy on March 23, 2012:

These are really great ideas! I LOVE that rainbow magazine one:)

Nyesha Pagnou MPH from USA on March 23, 2012:

In this hub, you were so thorough and have provided so many nice pictures. I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks for the information. Voted interesting.

Angelo52 on March 23, 2012:

Great Hub! Lots of really good ideas for decorating those bland and recycled picture frames. Voted up and thanks for sharing.

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on March 22, 2012:

I'm glad that I was able to come through for you! I agree with you about decorated frames. Have fun. :)

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on March 22, 2012:

Wonderful, random! I thought of you when I asked this question. I figured you'd come through for me! Great ideas. I have lots of buttons and some fabric. I think decorated frames are great for gifts with a special picture. Inexpensive, creative, and meaningful. Thanks for writing this hub. Voted up and just about everything else! :-) Sharing!

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on March 22, 2012:

Comfort, that's awesome that you've used a couple of these ideas before.

Cyndi, yep, another scrapbook paper craft! I can't believe how many I've found since I wrote that hub. This will be perfect for your new frames.

RTalloni, this works out well then! Have fun with your frames.

Thundermama, awesome! I hope that goes well.

Catherine Taylor from Canada on March 22, 2012:

Super hub, loved the frames using rolled up magazine paper. So funky! Will definitely be giving this one a try.

RTalloni on March 22, 2012:

I was just deciding whether to get rid of some extra frames…now I know what to do with them! Will be checking back on this! Thanks for putting these great ideas together for us. I'm loving the mini frames at the end!

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on March 22, 2012:

More great uses for scrapbooking paper! YES! I love this. I have some frames that I purchased from the craft store and needed ideas. Your hubs are beautiful and timely. Thank you!

Comfort Babatola from Bonaire, GA, USA on March 22, 2012:

These are all really neat ideas in this hubs on frames decorating. I've done the shell ones before and some frames repainting.

Great hub. Thanks for sharing.

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