While frames aren’t all that expensive in and of themselves (usually), I have found that I never have the right size or can’t find a certain look I have in mind, so buying frames is often a hassle. Plus, I love framing things, which means I need a lot of frames. This adds up and gets expensive very quickly. But you know what’s not expensive? Cardboard.

So here’s the how-to on making frames from extra cardboard you may have laying around.



  • Cardboard (thickness is up to you, it really depends on what you want to frame)
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Glue
  • Brown paper bag (thin)
  • Paint and paintbrush/decorative material
  • “Glass”/shielding element (see below)
  • Suggested supplies: ruler- I’m not big into measuring, but you do what works for you


The film: You’ll need something to act as the “glass” for your frame. If you have a chunk of glass laying around, you’re in luck. If not, you’ll need to find something else. I used the plastic sleeve from a picture I ordered online, which worked wonderfully. You can also use sheet protectors, clear bags, photo album pockets. Really anything that’s see-through.


Here’s the plus-side to using a plastic sleeve: you can just slide the picture in and build the frame around it. Easy.
Once you figure out your shielding element, the rest is pretty simple.









1. Cut strips of cardboard into the width you want your frame to be. Don’t worry if your strips aren’t quite long enough; there’s a fix for that.


2. Position your strips for how big you want your frame to be. Make sure you have enough cardboard to go all the way around in some shape or form (each side does not have to be one continuous piece).


3. Place two strips on top of each other so they form a corner. On the top strip, draw a line from the top corner to the inside edge where the two strips meet. Cut here. 


4. Glue the diagonally-cut top strip to the square-edged bottom strip to create a corner. Alternatively, you can cut both strips diagonally to make a flat corner (to do this, follow the instructions for making a joint below). The choice is yours. 


5. Continue to make all four corners.



Side note: What to Do if You Don’t Have Cardboard Long Enough for a Side


Joint two strips together by using a scrap piece of cardboard (whatever shape, as long as it’s long enough to cover the joint). Align the two strips and glue the scrap piece on the back where they press up against each other.


6. Check everything out and make sure the frame lines up to your liking (much easier if you weren’t lazy and actually used a ruler. Go figure.).


7. Now cover up any joints you don’t want to be visible, such as where you joined two pieces of cardboard. To do this, simply cut a strip of paper bag and glue it around the joint.
Like so. It’s up to you if you want to cover your corner joints as well. I decided to keep mine visible.





8. Now add the back. Cut pieces of cardboard so that the back of the frame is covered. Be sure that the back is big enough for you to slide your picture in (the back should be wider than the picture itself and should extend further than the inner edge of your frame). The cardboard does not have to extend all the way to the top of the frame.


9. Glue into place along the sides and edges (not the top for obvious reasons), again making sure that the glue line does not extend too far in so that there is room for the actual picture. Cover up any joints with paper bag strips.


10. Time to paint!
Decorate as desired. If you choose to paint, you can just slip a piece of scrap paper into the frame to prevent getting paint of the backing.










11. Pat yourself on the back; you made a frame.

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