I’m finally sharing Part 2 of my series: The Art of the Gallery Wall – Building a Frame for Artwork. In this second installment, I’m teaching you how to build a frame in order to get an open, glass-free look. I like a variety of different looks in a gallery wall, so this is an affordable way to mix it up and keep things interesting.
In Part 1 we discussed the importance of selecting art you love and that holds meaning, choosing the correct sizes of artwork, and mapping out the placement with tape on the wall. I also shared a wide variety of my favorite art with you here. If you need a refresher or are just now preparing to execute a gallery wall, make sure you read Part 1 and complete all the necessary steps to ensure you love your collection.
Now let’s build a frame!
Instructions for Building a Frame for Artwork
1. Gather your supplies:
- Artwork (please refer back to part 1 if you are stuck on your selections)
- Spray adhesive – Scotch Super 77
- Maple plywood
- Poplar 1×2’s
- Hanging hardware – D Rings Ook
- Stain cloths – Minwax Natural Oak
- Nail gun/nails
- Miter saw
2. Rip down your plywood or have it done for you:
I have this table saw, but it’s really tricky working with large sheets of plywood, so I used Lowe’s complimentary cutting service to rip down my plywood to the exact dimensions I needed. I cannot overstate how important it is that you have your wood cut down a bit smaller than your artwork so you can trim the art to be completely flush with the edge of the plywood.
I use these large sheets of plywood for my larger art prints, but there is a section near the trim that has 24″x 48″ pieces of maple plywood for around $20 in case you need a smaller sheet for smaller artwork. These larger sheets are not very manageable for one person, so either ask for help or bring help with you. Also, I usually get 2-3 projects out of one sheet, so when you break down the cost of building a frame for your artwork this way, it’s really affordable.
*Do NOT try to use the cheaper, rough plywood. Your artwork needs a very smooth and even surface to adhere to, so go with the high quality stuff!
3. Attach your artwork to the plywood:
This step is not difficult but can be tricky. Fortunately, the spray adhesive allows you a little time to move the print around so you can position and re-position as needed. Things can still go wrong if you take too long or spray too much, so be quick and precise.
Spray a small strip of adhesive onto the back of your artwork at the top and line it up to your plywood.
Then, spray the remainder of the plywood, smooth down your art to adhere, and then wipe off any over spray that might have gotten on your print. Don’t wait to wipe off any over spray…do it right away and it’ll come off easily.
Check for bubbles and smooth them out and also add more adhesive to corners or edges that may have lifted.
4. Trim your artwork:
You should have a little bit of artwork hanging over the edge of the plywood as shown in the photo below.
You’ll want to trim this down with a razor blade so that the print is completely flush with the edge of the plywood.
Check for lifting edges and corners again after this step. Reapply adhesive if needed.
5. Stain your frame pieces:
These are the trim pieces I use to create the frame.
My favorite stain is Natural Oak by Minwax and my favorite product is the staining cloths they sell. They are SO convenient and even come with a pair of plastic gloves so you don’t ruin your hands in the process of staining.
I have used this stain product on numerous projects, but I decided to leave the poplar frame raw on this piece because of how it popped against my black artwork. I suggest testing your wood to see if you prefer a stained or an unstained look. If you do end up using the stain, make sure you remove any excess and then let them dry (they dry very quickly) before attaching.
6. Cut your frame pieces down:
You can cut your frame pieces down before or after you stain them…it’s just a matter of preference. I stain the trim pieces BEFORE cutting them down to size. In order to have them fit exactly, measure each long side and add 3/4″, then measure each short side and add 3/4″. Basically, each length should be flush with one end of the plywood and hanging over 3/4″ on the other end. Let the photos guide you here.
Your end goal is for each corner to meet like this:
If you prefer a more finished, traditional look, you can miter the corners. I like the primitive, chunky look of this type of joinery for this particular project, so for me, it’s intentional.
7. Attach your frame pieces with a nail gun:
Use a nail gun to attach the frame pieces to the plywood base.
Here are a few things to note during this step:
- If you want to use wood glue for extra adhesion, go for it. I don’t care for using wood glue because there’s the potential for some glue to get on the print.
- Take this one piece at a time. Don’t try to cut all 4 sides at the same time (like I did initially) or else you will most likely end up with uneven joints and pieces that are too long or too short. Cut the top piece, then work your way around, using your nail gun to attach each frame piece securely.
- Make sure you line the frame pieces up to the back in such a way that they are flush with the back but overhang the front.
- Use extra nails to get the corner joints as tight as possible.
- When you’re done joining your corners and attaching your frame pieces, make sure to go back over each raw end with a little bit of stain so it all matches.
8. Add hanging hardware to the back of your artwork:
I use D-ring hangers for all of the art I frame this way. I love the ease of being able to just screw them into the back of the wood board, measure the distance between them, and hang the art on the wall. Alternatively though, you can use sawtooth hangers or picture wire, but I would NOT use 3M Command Strips because this artwork is fairly heavy due to the base being solid plywood.
- Printable art from Etsy – $12.11
- Printing artwork at Office Depot 48×35 – $20 w/coupon (normally $40)
- Spray adhesive – $10.99
- D-Rings – $10.99
- Staining Cloths – $9.95
- Maple Plywood (portion I used from large $55 sheet) – $27.50
- Poplar 1×2’s (I used three 6-foot pieces) – $24
Large-scale artwork can cost anywhere from several hundred dollars to over $1,000 without a frame, so this is a cost-effective option if you need to cover a lot of wall space on a budget. Also, if you’re like me and don’t like to purchase art at your local retail store or have art that everyone else has, this is the most affordable way I’ve found to achieve a unique look. If you don’t need artwork this large, then building a frame for your artwork will work out to be even more cost effective for you.
You’ve waited long enough…or scrolled down far enough. Time to show you the three different looks I achieved with the same framing technique.
- Largest piece – “Night Plant” by Dan Hobday (raw wood frame)
- Large square piece – canvas piece I painted (Minwax Natural Oak stain on frame)
- Small square piece – “Minimalist Collage” by Wonder and Chaos Design (Minimalist Collage) (Classic Black stain on frame)
I was planning to use a set of large-scale pieces, but the printing didn’t match when the second one arrived from Office Depot, so I had to pivot and go with plan B. It came together so much better than I expected though, and in the eleventh hour (honestly, everything comes together in the eleventh hour for me)!
I love how all three pieces have different frames and yet, they’re all cohesive.
So, what do you think? Do you like the look of this simple wood frame? Would you attempt building a frame for artwork? Let me know in the comments below!
*This post contains affiliate links to products that do not cost you any more but allow me to receive a small commission for my time and effort to source them. Thank you for any purchase, big or small, you make through these links as it helps this part-time designer and stay-at-home-mom earn a little something for my family.