Case in point: we went to a local craft shop to get two custom mats for some art for the steampunk room. Since we wanted an antique look, we picked fabric-covered mats, which we were told would take over a week to make, and cost over $60.
Now, $30 each may not sound TOO bad... but that's more than we spent on the art being framed! And all for a one-inch decorative border? NUH-UH.
So we canceled the order and headed to the fabric section.
We bought about half a yard of two fabrics that almost exactly matched the original mats we wanted: a faux red velvet and a faux leather. Total cost? Around $8.
New art on the wall.
Here's the thing: fabric-covered mats - which both look and ARE the most expensive - are actually the easiest to make yourself, since you don't need a mat cutter or special tools. All you need are fabric, mat board (available in huge sheets for less than $10 at any craft shop), a craft blade, and spray adhesive.
I'm sure I've shown this kind of thing before, but here, look how easy:
Cut your mat to size using a plain craft blade - no bevel needed.
Spray the mat with spray adhesive and lay your fabric on top. Smooth out any wrinkles.
Trim the edges with scissors.
Flip the mat over and cut a big X in the fabric, making sure the cuts reach all the way to the inside corners.
Fold back each flap, trim the excess, and glue or tape in place.
Caveat: none of this is acid-free, so I wouldn't recommend it for expensive or irreplaceable pieces. Everything else, though? GO NUTS.
And here's a tip for saving crap-tons of money on custom-sized frames: just buy a pre-made frame that's too big, and cut it to size yourself. We found this gorgeous frame for only $13 on a clearance rack over a year ago:
John cut it down to size ["You'll never amount to anything! Your mother was a sod pallet!"] with his miter saw, then re-assembled using a nifty framing strap which you can just see in the top right corner here:
The ratcheting strap holds all four corners at perfect 90 degree angles while the glue dries. (For larger frames make sure you also use pin nails to hold everything in place.) Cool, right? And not so hard? You should totally try this.
Next John painted the frame bright gold and aged it with a little black, so now it looks like this:
And if you want to fool everyone into thinking your art is an original and NOT a print, here's another ridiculously easy trick: just leave out the glass. Glass screams "I'm a print!" even when it's not, and the reflection gets in the way anyway.
See? No glare!
That said, since my Elizabeth poster was severely damaged by a hungry cat (grrr), we had to spring for some non-glare glass on her to help hide all the creases and dings. Worked pretty well, too!
This is another frame John cut down and re-sized, since the print is a funky size. We left the finish as-is, though, since it went perfectly with Songbird's head.
It amused me to line up the glare so Songbird's eye is glowing. :)
If you do need to buy glass, don't worry; the plain stuff is ridiculously cheap. You can even buy it at the hardware store, where they'll cut it for you!
Since we already had spare mat board and used frames we already had, our only costs were the $8 fabric and about $15 for the custom non-glare glass. (Yay coupons!) Plus we had it all done in about a day - no waiting on custom orders!
Hope this helps inspire my fellow art-lovers out there to start making and modifying your own mats and frames! It's always galled me that the framing process is so flippin' expensive that most folks end up just tacking their pretties to the wall. Well, no more! Frame up those pretties, my friends! Frame 'em!