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Hate the art, love the frame? You can retrofit a new piece of art (or your favorite photo) into a professional frame without making a big mess of it all. Check out this step-by-step photo gallery for some creative inspiration!

picture frameDon't break the bank trying to frame your new piece of art. Just retrofit it into an existing frame. Photo: Joe Provey, Home & Garden Editorial Services

To frame a print, photo, or work of art is an expensive proposition if you have it done professionally. A custom-framing job, even if you select one of the lower-priced moldings, can easily top $150. Let's say you have a piece of art that's been professionally framed; you're no longer interested in the art, but you love the frame. And you -- or someone else -- paid a pretty penny to have it professionally finished. Turn it around and you'll notice that professional framing jobs do not allow you to easily swap out the photo inside, like store-bought frames do. They're neatly finished with backing paper and staples.

So you wonder: Is that framing job now worthless, or is there a way to swap out a photo from its framework without making a big mess of it all? The answer is no, it's not worthless. And yes, you can reuse the frame. Just follow these steps for picture-perfect results.

Tools and Materials:

A roll of plain brown kraft paper
Framer's tape, which is acid-free and won't degrade your art
Glue tape or white glue
Utility knife or hobby knife,feedConfig,localizationConfig,entry&id=928877&pid=928876&uts=1283522062

Swap Out a Professionally Framed Picture

Lay the frame face-down, and use a utility knife to carefully cut away the paper backing with a sharp utility knife. (The frame you see here is actually a cheap piece of art I scored at a local housewares store, but it's framed exactly the same way as a more expensive piece of art.)

Swap Out a Professionally Framed Picture

Use a flathead screwdriver to pry back the staples. Do not remove the staples. You'll reuse them, along with he cardboard backing, after you've inserted your print.

Swap Out a Professionally Framed Picture

Remove the print, photo, or painting inside the frame by removing the tape. Then take off the mat. If the cutout is suitable for your print, great. If not, enlarge the cutout to suit. Mark the cut lines on the back of the mat, and use a metal straightedge and sharp utility knife to make the cuts.

Swap Out a Professionally Framed Picture

A good trick for ensuring a properly positioned print: Apply glue tape to the back of the mat along the top edge of the cutout. Glue tape comes in a dispenser that allows you to apply a thin layer of adhesive. Two dispensers with "tape" are available at office supply stores for about $5.

Swap Out a Professionally Framed Picture

Put the new print on a flat surface and carefully align the mat over it. Once it's properly positioned, press along the top edge of the mat cutout as shown.

Swap Out a Professionally Framed Picture

Flip the matted artwork over and tape the art to the mat with acid-free framer's tape. You can buy a roll of framer's tape at an art supply store for about $12; one roll will be enough for a half dozen framing jobs. Look for one that can be removed with heat should you ever want to reframe the art.

Swap Out a Professionally Framed Picture

Glue on a new kraft paper backing. Apply glue tape as shown above or white glue to the back of the frame. Then press the kraft paper in place. When dry, trim away excess. Bend the staples back into place. Or, for a cleaner finish, do what the professionals would do -- use a staple gun. The best part is that the framing hardware is still intact, so you can hang that baby right up on the wall!

Swap Out a Professionally Framed Picture

Getting the Hang of It: Creative Picture Frame Arrangement (Networx)
How to Frame Pictures - with Celeb Designer Kristan Cunningham (ShelterPop)

  • Ryan G.

    This is such a good idea and I never would have thought of doing it. Next time I go to a yard sale I'm going to look at the pile of framed prints with a fresh eye.

  • JP

    If you have a decent piece of art or a valuable (monetery or sentimental) piece pay the bucks and have a professional do it. Taking a tired, old mat and using it again usually doesn't work-wrong size, wrong color etc. Most framers are perfectly willing to reuse your frame and will tell you if the other components are usuable and they will also help you with preserving your art. Remember the old saying-"Penny wise and pound foolish" .

  • Amber

    I have been buying framed art at Goodwill and Salvation Army stores for a long time. I really only care about the detailed frame and glass. Salvation Army has unfortunately begun to price things in the direction of thinking they are a antique store.
    Repaint the frame and I have an inexpensive solution for my young adult daughters apartments.
    Add plain art paper instead of a matte and double stick tape blown up photocopied photographs.
    Remove the glass and hang empty frames.
    Take a poster, cut to fit a few frames and rehang.
    Wrap the cardboard backing with beautiful fabric and tape to hold.
    Cut art paper to fit, use a stencil and gilded paint to create a custom matte.
    Take out the glass and replace with a mirror.
    The possibilities are enormous.

  • Johnny

    Great ideas, For another inexpensive way to display art try collector plates. You can get beautiful collector plate frames from

  • Pro Framer for over 40 years

    While it's a great idea to reuse an old frame, there is so much wrong with the author's techniques and advice it's not even funny! Do yourself and your art a favor and go to an independant professional frame shop. We'd charge about 20 bucks to do this right for the size frame used as an example. Utilizing the right materials, techniques and with the design experience of a professional you can make a silk purse from a sow's ear!
    The most glaring mistake is the way the author advises to attach the art to the mat. NEVER attach it with glue or double faced tape to the back of the mat as this ruins the front of the print. Only the chain stores or the mass marketers use techniques such as this.
    Although not all picture framers will work with you to retro fit an existing frame with new art, most will. We routinely do this for several reasons. 1) good customer relations 2) It adds to our cash flow 3) less waste in the landfill and therefore good for the envioriment and 4) it keeps our staff busy in slow times.
    I urge you to use this link to find a Professional Framer near you.

  • Beverly

    I find the cutest idea of what to do with old frames. This particular article used old scuffed up white frames and left the glass in them. She put together alot of frames and made a little hot house to grow plants. It was so cute.

  • 6 Comments / 1 Pages

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