How to Make a DIY Picture Frame with Wood Molding

This tutorial for how to make an easy DIY picture frame with baseboard and decorative wood molding makes a beautiful, ornate frame for canvases. See how to give it a gold/antique look with spray paint.

corner of a custom DIY gold picture frame.

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The Problem

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

canvas painting hanging on a wall.

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 current home!)

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. I ended up throwing away $50 worth of molding in that failed project.

painting in a gold picture frame on a wall.

So the frame project went on the back burner for years. But, a couple of years ago, we tackled this in one day with a ton of success.

Why should I make your own DIY picture frame?

One word - money!

I priced out custom wooden frames for a canvas this big, and it was easily going to cost us $200-300. I just couldn't bring myself to pay that much. All of the supplies for this DIY picture frame cost around $100 (less if your frame is smaller) and, as long as you get your measurements right, this isn't a tough one to complete. It takes just a few hours of actual work!

Let's dive into making our DIY wood picture frame.

How to Make a DIY Picture Frame with Wood Molding

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

This frame DIY can also be completed with a thinner photo or piece of artwork. If your framed item is thinner, I recommend cutting a piece of cardboard or foam board to go behind the photo in the frame, securing the backer with brads.


Supplies


  • 5 ¼" baseboard molding (I chose the ½" 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 1: Measure, measure, and measure again.

measuring a canvas with measuring tape.

Make sure (and double check) that 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.

Alternate Route

From here, you could definitely go on and glue all of your separate wood molding pieces together and cut everything at once. I chose not to do that because...

  1. I didn't want to waste a ton of expensive decorative molding if I made a wrong cut
  2. I wanted to conserve as much of that decorative molding as possible, and
  3. I didn't want to accidentally split the extra molding while cutting.

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

Step 2: Cut the baseboard pieces.

cutting baseboard on a miter saw.
measuring tape, pen, two pieces of molding laying a on a garage floor.

Time to break out the power tools. 🙂

Once you have your canvas measurement, cut the first baseboard piece 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, let's take my measurement for example: 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!

Make sure to check out my tutorials on how to hem curtains and my DIY stove guard posts, too!

Step 3: Add your frame ledge with decorative molding.

two pieces of molding and a measuring tape laying on a garage floor, one on top of the other.

Take the 2-3" thick 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 lip on the inside to hide any gap between the canvas and the width of the frame.

measuring edge of smaller piece of molding.

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.

marking smaller piece of molding to match larger piece.

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

Step 4: Add the smaller decorative molding.

measuring smaller pieces of molding against large piece.

You're going to follow a similar process for the small (1") piece of decorative wood molding.

Cut an inward-facing 45 degree angle on 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 smaller decorative piece 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 all the way across, mark and cut the 45 degree angle on the other side.

Step 5: Glue the decorative pieces in place with wood glue.

The hard part is over! Once those pesky cuts are made, you're just assembling and painting from here on out.

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

one piece of molding with glue, one laying next to it on a garage floor.

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

edge of a side of the frame clamped together.

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 different sizes, 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.

sanding edge of a frame side\'s angle.
holding edge of a frame side at the angle.

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

Step 7: Lay out the frame and glue.

frame laying upside down on garage floor.

Once everything is dry and sanded, lay out the frame upside down. The baseboards have a slight angle on the front, so I used scrap wood under each side to make the back frame corners line up.

filling corner of the back of the frame.

Carefully lift the corners of the pieces of wood 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.

two metal brackets placed in corner of back of frame.

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

constructed frame, before painting, leaning against a garage wall.

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

Step 8: Caulk the corners.

corner of frame where molding pieces meet.

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

caulk in frame corner after wiping.
wiping caulk out of the corner of a frame.

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!

holding a bottle of chalk black spray paint.

I wanted my picture 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.

painting the frame black with spray paint.
frame after being painted black, on a tarp.

This base coat does not have to be perfect by any means. Allow the black paint 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) texture, so don't expect it to go on evenly. I would only use this paint if you want your frame to look a little aged.

gold frame on a tarp after painting with spray paint.

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

Alternate Painting Idea

This frame can also be stained if desired. You can check out more details about adding wood stain in this DIY wooden blanket ladder post.

Step 10: Antique the paint.

frame after painting with gold paint.

Once the 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!

sanding the side of a gold picture frame.

Make sure the paint is completely dry, then 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 aggressive!

side of a gold frame.

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.

Final Result

painting in a gold DIY picture frame on a wall.

This DIY picture 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). It's now one of my favorite pieces of home decor!

corner of a gold DIY picture frame.

FAQs

It is absolutely cheaper to make your own custom picture frame. I paid about $100 for all of these supplies. A custom frame of this size would have cost me at least $200-300. Making it myself was a no-brainer!

This DIY picture frame project took about 24 hours, including wait time for glue and paint to dry. I'd say it took 3-4 hours of actual effort.

Ornate frames typically look much more expensive than a frame made with simple cuts of molding. Pick up a 1-2" piece of decorative molding from a local hardware store to accent your simple frame - it makes a world of difference!

Absolutely! You would need to have the plexiglass (cheaper option) or glass cut to the exact dimensions (without rounding up) of your canvas or photo.

Happy framing, guys!

xo, Leslie; signature for the end of a blog post.

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11 Comments

  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.
    Thanks,
    Sarah

    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,
    Cecilia

    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!

  6. Susie Tronti says:

    This is amazing! Thank you!