How to Make a Picture Frame with Trim Molding

This tutorial for how to make a picture frame with baseboard and decorative trim molding makes a great, ornate DIY frame for canvases. Includes ideas on how to give the frame with a gold/antique look with spray paint.

how to diy a custom picture frame.

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If you've read my blog for awhile, you've probably seen this painting hanging in our bedroom.

This canvas is older than both of my children and has now hung in four different homes. We originally bought it when we lived in Tuscaloosa at a charity auction – it reminded us of our bedroom and we knew it would be the perfect focal piece hanging in between a window and a door on an empty wall. (Coincidentally, it now hangs between the door and the window in the master bedroom in our new home.)

It has been in desperate need of a frame for years. I've priced out custom frames for a canvas this big…it was easily going to cost us $200-300. I just couldn't bring myself to pay that much. We bought raw picture frame molding when we lived in Tuscaloosa to frame it, with the best intentions of making a frame…we attempted to cut it and it was an absolute disaster. We ended up throwing away $50 worth of molding in that failed project.

So the frame went on the back burner for years. But, I'm currently on a mission to check off all of those “one day” projects in our home, and this one was up next! So, a few weeks ago, we tackled this one with a ton of success. All of these supplies cost under $100 (less if your frame is smaller) and, as long as you get your measurements right, this isn't a tough one to complete.

Step 1: Gather the supplies to build your DIY picture frame.

Just for reference, I'll be referring to the measurements of my particular canvas to tell you how to construct the frame. My canvas is a square and measured 30 3/16″ on both sides.

For this project, you'll need…

  • 5 1/4″ baseboard molding (I chose the 1/2″ wide option because it was a good bit cheaper.) You'll need to measure your picture/canvas, add 16″ (to account for the angles in the cuts), and multiply that number times 4 to figure out how much you need. So, my canvas was 30 3/16″ – I rounded up to the nearest quarter inch and added an additional quarter inch (30.5″), added 16 (46.5″), and multiplied times four (186″) to figure out how much was needed. So, two 8′ pieces worked for me…needs will vary though!
  • 2-3″ decorative trim molding – You'll need roughly the same amount of this as baseboard molding.
  • 1″ (ish) decorative trim molding – Again, about the same as the baseboard molding. (Note: all of my molding was bought locally at Lowe's…check your store for availablity.)
  • Miter saw
  • Measuring tape
  • Wood glue
  • Inexpensive sponge brush
  • Finer grit (180) sandpaper (or sander)
  • Wood clamps
  • 8 corner braces and screws to attach
  • Caulk
  • Black matte spray paint
  • Gold patina-finish spray paint
  • Picture hanging kit

Step 2: Measure, measure, and measure again.

Make sure (and double check) you have the measurement correct on the item you're framing. Once you have that measurement, round up to the nearest quarter inch and add a quarter inch – you'll want a tiny bit of wiggle room, especially when everything is attached together.

Now, from here, you could definitely go on and glue all of your molding in place and cut everything at once. I chose not to do that because…

a) I didn't want to waste a ton of expensive decorative molding if I made a wrong cut

b) I wanted to conserve as much of that decorative molding as possible, and

c) I didn't want to accidentally split the extra molding while cutting.

You can really do it either way, but I chose to cut everything separately and glue afterward.

Step 3: Cut your baseboard pieces.

Once you have your measurement, cut your first baseboard on a miter saw with an inward-facing 45 degree angle on each side. The inside of your baseboard should equal the rounded up measurement of your canvas – so the inside (top) of the baseboard pictured above is 30.5″, with the outside being a good bit longer.

You can do these two at a time, but I'd strongly recommend only doing the top/bottom at once or the sides at once. It's super important that the top and bottom match perfectly and the sides match perfectly!

Step 4: Add your frame ledge decorative molding.

Take a 2-3″ piece of decorative molding and cut an inward-facing 45 degree angle in one end to match the baseboard. Line this up on one side of your cut piece of baseboard (as pictured above), making the decorative piece overhang the top of the baseboard by .25-.5″. This will give your frame a ledge to hide any gap between the canvas and the width of the frame.

It's very important that this overhang is even all the way across. Use a measuring tape to go back and forth a few times before marking off your cut on the other side.

Once you've ensured that the top overhang is even all the way across, mark off where you need to cut your other 45 degree angle (on both the top and bottom of the decorative piece). Make your cut at that line and temporarily put back in place on your baseboard to ensure that it fits correctly.

Step 5: Add your smaller decorative molding.

You're going to follow a similar process for the small (1″) piece of molding. Cut an inward-facing 45 degree angle in one side to match the baseboard, line it up on one side of your cut baseboard, and make sure it's straight all across by measuring in several places. It doesn't necessarily matter where you choose to put this on the baseboard; I made an inch gap between the two decorative pieces, but you can do what you think looks best. The most important thing is that it's straight. Once you've ensured that it's straight, mark and cut the 45 degree angle on the other side.

Step 6: Glue the decorative pieces in place with wood glue.

I thought we were going to have to nail the decorative molding onto the baseboard, but simple wood glue ended up being enough hold!

Brush on a decent amount of wood glue with a sponge brush and place both pieces of molding in place. If you've cut your angles correctly, your frame ledge should still be even and your 1″ piece should still be straight when you line up the angles on the baseboard, but it doesn't hurt to recheck it while you're gluing.

Once everything is in place and you're sure your measurements are correct, clamp down the decorative pieces and allow the glue to dry overnight.

Repeat this three more times for the other sides of the frame.  If your picture length and width are not exactly the same, mark the back of your pieces with either “top/bottom” or “sides” so you can tell them apart when attaching.

Step 6: Sand down and even out the ends.

At this point, you'll probably have very minor differences in the baseboard and decorative molding. Just sand down the ends to make sure everything is even. (Careful not to take any length off, though!)

Step 7: Lay out your frame and glue.

Once everything is dry and sanded, lay out your frame upside down. The baseboards have a slight angle to them, so I used scrap pieces of molding under each side to make the frame corners line up.

Carefully lift the corners and glue each angle together with wood glue. Make sure the edges line up as much as possible when you're gluing. I also went back with wood glue and painted a little into any gaps in the corners when the frame was laying upside down.

Once this glue dries for a couple of hours, attach 2 corner braces in each corner. We put them on the raised part of the back of each baseboard to give us a little thicker wood to screw through.

At this point, you have a frame! Now we just need to put the finishing touches on it.

Step 8: Caulk the corners.

Unless you are 100% perfect in all of your measurements, the corners are going to be a little off. That's ok – easily fixable!

Use your finger to smear a little bit of caulk over any gaps, then wipe excess away with a wet paper towel. You might need to do this two times to really fill in the gaps.

Step 9: Paint!

This is probably the easiest (and the most fun) part of the whole thing!

I wanted my frame to have an antiqued look to it, so I gave the frame a base coat of black matte paint. This is one I've used on other projects that goes on very well and doesn't need a base coat.

This base coat does not have to be perfect by any means. Allow it to dry for about an hour before moving on.

For my gold layer, I used this paint in the color Champagne Mist. It is a gorgeous paint and I love the color. This bottle's spray gives it kind of a patina, aged look. It comes out in kind of a funky (almost splattered) way, so don't expect it to go on evenly – this is really only if you want your frame to look a little aged.

My frame required two coats of gold. One bottle was the perfect amount for this size frame.

Step 10: Age the paint.

Once your paint is dry, you're already going to notice a little bit of the aging. I purposefully didn't get the gold paint in every little bit of the gaps…I wanted it to look a little old and antiqued, and having a little bit of black showing through in those gaps did just that!

Make sure your paint is completely dry and go over the raised edges (very lightly) with a finer grit sandpaper. You'll notice the black come through very easily – don't be too rough!

Going over very lightly with the sandpaper gave it just a little bit more wear and really brought out the black undertones.

Step 11: Attach hanging materials.

I used a wire picture hanging kit to hang this frame. This allowed the frame to sit off of the wall a little bit, which was needed since our canvas is just a little bit thicker than the finished frame. Double check your kit to make sure it supports the weight of the frame.

This frame makes me smile every time I walk in our bedroom now. We all have those “one day” projects for our home – this was one of mine. I am so incredibly pleased with how it turned out (and how I saved literally hundreds over having a frame made for this canvas).

Happy framing, guys! If you want to check out more of my DIY project, click here.

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  1. I wanted to find out what the depth of your canvas painting is, in order to compare to what I am dealing with. Want to make sure mine is not to thick for this type of frame.

    1. This one is a .75″ thickness, but the frame would really work for something a little thicker too. It might sit off the wall a little, but I used hanging wire on the back – so the wire would just reach a little bit further back to the wall (if that makes any sense at all).

  2. Will this kind of overlap between 2 mouldings support the weight of the acrylic glass? I have a 53′ x 24′ 1/2” cross-stitch work that I want to frame but I do want to protect it from dust.

    1. I’m not sure – we didn’t put any kind of glass on ours.

  3. Cecilia Pacanins says:

    Hi, could you please tell me how did you attach the canvas to the frame? Maybe with some photos?
    Thank You,

    1. Mine was kind of a snug fit, so it’s just placed in there (nothing else attaching it). It sits close to the wall once hung, so that holds the fairly light canvas in as well. If you have something heavier than a canvas, you might need some kind of bracket on the back of the frame.

    2. Hi… my sister is an artist and she makes her own frames and she always screws her canvases to the frames. She does this in the corners and at an angle so the screws DO NOT go through the front of the canvas. Hope this helps???

  4. Roch Fortin says:

    Great DIY guide. Thank you very much,

  5. Curious how the first attempt was a disaster – mistakes to avoid?

    1. Leslie Lambert says:

      I tried using actual frame moulding and it was incredibly difficult to line up and make the right angle cuts. I’d leave that to the professionals!