Making Custom Picture Frames?

Custom picture frames give you a lot of flexibility and let you frame odd size documents, pictures or artwork.

You can even make custom frames for standard size documents if you want to create your "own look" with mat borders of different widths.

Custom picture framing can save a lot of money too. By making your own "cheap picture frames" that don't look cheap, you'll rake in the savings.

Movie poster frames, old record album cover frames, assorted concert tickets frames are all possible in any size you desire, when you make them yourself!

Before you touch a piece of wood though, you need to figure out what size frame you're going to make.

Many times people forget this all important step and end up with a picture frame that is the wrong size in the end. Don't let that happen to you!!

Figuring it out isn't very hard - in fact it's very easy.

The trick to it rests on 2 things - both covered below.

What Size Custom Picture Frames Should I Make?

Once you have the answer to the two questions below, you can make your own custom picture frames:

1. what are the measurements of the document you are framing

2. how wide do you want the mat borders around the document to be (use the Suggested Border Chart to help with this)

Once you have this information you're ready to go.

Number 1 - for this discussion let's assume we are making a custom picture frame for a diploma that measures 14" x 17". That covers "need to know item" number 1.

Number 2 - the width of the border around the diploma, is a little bit trickier to figure out (you don't need a diploma in mathematics, it's just a little bit trickier)

Let's use the Suggested Border Chart to help us here. The chart tells us that a good border for a frame (or document in this case) measuring 14" x 17" is 2", (good - an even number!).

Custom Triple Diploma Frame

Maybe you'll want to make a quadruple!

Note: we're sort of reverse engineering here, using the document to find the mat border width to determine the frame size.

Remember a mat has four sides, so we have to add 2 inches to each side to account for each border. The way I like to do it, very simply, is like this:

14 + 2 + 2 = 18 and 17 + 2 + 2 = 21.

The custom frame in this example then would be 18" x 21".

We now know the size of: our frame, our glass, our mat board and our backboard.

All of them are 18" x 21".

What's Left Before We Start Our Custom Frame?

The only other thing to consider before you head into the workshop is how wide you want the rails of the frame to be.

Like always, use your own judgment and decide what looks good to you. You are making custom picture frames - you can make them any way you want to!!!

As a general rule this is how I do it:

  •  certificate and document frames generally have thinner rails, somewhere around 1" to 1 1/2"
  •  diploma frames generally have wider rails, somewhere around 1 3/4" to 2 1/2"  – the larger the diploma the wider the rails
  •   artwork is really a matter of preference and can depend on what the artwork looks like and whether you are going for a certain feel
  • pictures are much like artwork. If you're framing your own art work or photography you can decide in advance. If you're thinking of getting into your own photography, here is a link to the top DSLR cameras selling on Amazon - with complete reviews and specs 


        ..if you're trying to create a dramatic look using a small picture or painting you may want to have mat borders of 4 or 5 inches around the picture and a frame that has really wide rails on it also, or... may want to give visual length to a painting. To do that you can make the mat borders on the top and bottom of the painting wider than the borders on the sides of the painting and use thin rails to make the length stand out instead of the width.

To help you get a better feel for it and see how different border and rail widths affect a picture or painting, ask the love of your life what she or he thinks (could lead to other projects though, so think about this one), look through some magazines, check out prepackaged frames in the store or... up some friends who have good taste, invite yourself over and see what's on their walls (that may even give you an idea or two for gifts down the road).

Leave any questions, thoughts, tips or suggestions below!

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Updated November 18, 2022