Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Never Buy Custom Mats Again!

Sometimes even John and I forget how much cheaper and easier it can be to just make stuff yourself.

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.


Done!


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:


AW YEAH.



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!

36 comments:

  1. LOVE this! It really makes the art that much more spectacular! It makes me want to cover ALL mats in fabric, forever. Just looking around my house I can see lots of improvements I can make to my art. Thanks for the inspiration!

    ReplyDelete
  2. "You'll never amount to anything! Your mother was a sod pallet!" HAHAHAHA!! Jen, I love you.

    Beautiful work, as usual. You two are awesome.

    Looking forward to seeing the completed room. Every element looks gorgeous so far, so I know it's going to be spectacular when it's finished.

    KW

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! I'm not really very crafty, (I do okay with stuff for the kids I work with, but don't ask me to use power tools) and typically only read tutorial posts because Jen's writing makes them worth the read--even if I'll probably never try to recreate anything she and John make--and it's worth it. Those comments really made it today. :D

      Delete
  3. That's brilliant! Over the past few years I've amassed quite the geeky art collection and not knowing any better, I bought some really cheap plastic frames for them. A few years and a move later, a lot of them are falling apart. Also, a lot of my art is weird sizes but my frames are all whatever I could find, so some of them are sort of fake matted with a piece of cheap paper behind them. I'm definitely ready to step my framing game up, but I'm pretty cheap, so this is a revelation.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I've spent hundreds (a thousand on one set of pieces) on getting my cross stitched pieces framed but so totally worth it. I would do this if I had room for anything else on my walls.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Remind your home improvement store employee to measure twice, cut once. Our glass come home 1/4" too small. Son of a Nutcracker!!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Gorgeous! As a past frame shop employee, I can tell you that sooo much of it is overpriced (even 13 years ago) that I used to work up an order for someone, see their face and then walk them through building their own stuff out with other store items. (when the frame shop is in the back of the craft store, why not!) We got plenty of orders the old fashioned way with people who wanted to hand it over and have it done (or super specialty work, oohhh the blue dog piece that came through....) that sharing some tips with those who would then buy the stuff in store to frame it themselves never hurt us. I still have a piece that will never get framed correctly because it needs six mats in various colors. (and then of course the frame to top it!) Your mats are wonderful! and the frame cuts are fantastic. Love seeing this room come together!!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I love the look! The colors you chose for the fabric make the art look even more perfect. Did you have to glue the art to the mats to have them stay in place once they went into the frames?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just a few pieces of double-sided tape to hold the prints in place. Once in the frame, the pressure from the backer board is really what holds it all together.

      Delete
    2. you might consider using acid free photo corners instead of double sided tape. The mat should cover them nicely and you won't risk damaging the art if you choose to reframe. :)

      Delete
    3. Or there's gummed linen tape, which can be removed without harming the art.

      Delete
  8. Love this idea, both look wonderful! Hoping to pick up some new art when I go to Megacon in April, so maybe I will try this on those! Also, super jealous of the Elizabeth piece - where did you find it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a convention-only print from Echo Chernik. Only $10 or $15, but last I checked you can only get them from her in person!

      Delete
  9. Absolutely brilliant. Simple, and cost effective. Perfect!! Absolutely doing this for prints!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Yeah, just spent over $300 on four custom frame pieces, and that was on a 70% off sale! I'd brought in over 20 pieces, and went home with lots of off-the-rack frames instead. I just left the original/signed pieces to be custom framed. And I'm still feeling the buyer's remorse. I'm just not confident enough in my ability to do it myself. :-(

    ReplyDelete
  11. These are FABULOUS!! This is why I frame all my needlework myself. It's just too expensive to have someone else do it when I can get nice results on my own. Besides, the thought of leaving my work with strangers to potentially destroy gives me the chills! And I never considered fabric mats before, but I bet they'd look delightful with embroidered work. Totally giving this a try on my next piece!

    ReplyDelete
  12. "You're nothing but an unstable, short-chain molecule!"

    ReplyDelete
  13. My brain isn't working too well this morning, as I was reading on and on about how to make mats, with the picture of the double doors, and that's why you needed two mats...and all along I was thinking "welcome mats" or "door mats" and how I need them and would love to know how to make them, right up to the point where you were cutting the leather with the big X in the middle, and then it finally dawned on me that you were talking about picture mats and not floor mats, and now I'm going to have more coffee and see if I do better for the rest of the day. (And how's that for a sentence???)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Oh, DUH as a crafty art girl myself, I can't believe I never thought of doing something like that myself! Such a great idea--that's why I LOVE YOUR BLOG. :)

    ReplyDelete
  15. For smaller pieces, you can get 'fabric' scrapbook paper and glue as well. You'd follow the same procedure, but the final product would be acid-free. You're limited to just under 12"x12" of course. I know they make linen, tweed, burlap, pleather, and velveteen papers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And though I haven't ever tried this myself, I'm thinking that for bigger pieces it should be possible to affix strips of acid-free paper to the underside of the fabric-covered mat board, so that only the acid-free paper is actually touching the artwork.

      Kimstu

      Delete

    2. kimstu, you're on the right track!

      Delete
  16. Yes! I've done this before (not the frames, just the mats) and it is awesome. I've only done it with paper products and fabric scraps I've had around. I really like the idea of cutting down a large frame - those are usually the prettiest.

    A commenter above asked about how to keep the art piece straight, I'd suggest photo corners on the back of the mat but I don't know how you handled that.

    Also, I have two large and thick pieces of table glass - I wonder if the home store would cut that for me? I'll have to call and ask. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  17. full disclosure here... I am a former professional picture framer and member of the PPFA... You paid $8 for just the fabric? What was the cost of the rest of the materials? how long did it take you to do it? Factor in the costs of running a business and $30 each is perfectly reasonable for a specialty one off item like this. Also, chances are a custom framer doing this is using fully archival materials so they are probably more expensive up front. Custom framing is just that, custom. One off usually, with specific materials ordered and cut specific for your job. And you are paying (hopefully) for an America worker making a full wage (as opposed to ready mades made overseas for horrible wages) You can also usually get a better deal and product at an independent shop than a chain craft store with their fake "sale." That said, there are many things i will do myself rather than paying someone else to do it, but I will not devalue the professional job nor say the prices are inflated until I really look at what goes into creating the item/ service I am looking at..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, sure, I agree $30 each was a decent price for the mats we wanted, assuming we didn't want to do the work ourselves. (I never intended to badmouth framers, so I'm sorry if that's how it came across.) There are plenty of expensive things worth the money - but I don't think it's insulting to the pros if we decide to DIY instead.

      Delete
    2. I didn't mean to imply you were badmouthing them, i apologize if it came across that way... this was more in relation to a couple comments above that framing is "overpriced" and to give an insight into it from the other side because it is something that is seen by many as "overpriced", esp with the false 70% off sales that are constantly run, giving people the impression that full price is so exorbitant that we can do it for 70% less and still make money... when often the 70% off price is actually more than a real frame shop would charge with no sale... ok, im rambling... off my soap box :)

      Delete
    3. Kris P I am glad you posted and shared all that information. I did not know that, and now I feel more educated about framers. Around 10 years ago, I got a $20 copy of Lepa Zena by Marta Gottfried framed. I had found it at Bed, Bath and Beyond on sale and snatched it up. I couldn't believe my good luck. I had been looking for a price for the print that I could afford for years. I held onto the print for a couple more years and finally decided to get it framed. I went to a custom frame store and it cost me over $200. I guess I have expensive tastes, but the picture is gorgeous and was worth it to me at the time. Nowadays I might be more confident to try framing something on my own.

      Delete
  18. Lovely! Another cheap way to get custom frames, buy molding. ;) Reasonably cheap, easy to cut, add a quick paint job and you're good!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Very nice fabric mats. May I make some suggestions, based on what I learned a LONG time ago when I worked for a chain that does some framing? Your basic idea for your mats is sound. However, you should be able to get a mat cutting tool, which uses single edged razor blades and will cut those bevels. Don't get the expensive monster, get the hand held one and an aluminum yardstick, and 2 C clamps. Now, when you clamp the mat down, don't forget to put a piece of scrap matboard under it, you cut through. Simple too, and you can do inlays and fancy cuts too. So, your fabric covered ones, use YES paste and a rubber brayer. It's a very stiff, sticky water soluble glue that is also not poisonous. You don't need much, and you can also use a water mister to keep the glue tacky if you have a huge area to work. Cut the mat, glue the fabric down, put the mat center that you cut out back into its hole to press the fabric onto the bevel, and put large books or other flat stuff over the mat to press it firm. Then cut and turn the fabric as you did, that's perfect.

    ReplyDelete
  20. LOVE your DragonCon photos. You get really wonderful shots of those beautiful costumes. Thank you for going and bringing back treasures for us.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hi Jen! I always love your crafty tutorials, and since I've had a slightly crafty problem I think you're the best person to run to.

    I've got some great steampunk books, but their covers are awful. They're brand new so I don't want to ruin them, but I really would like to find a way to replace the paperbacks with something nicer. Do you have any advice?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know, I've been looking for a good book re-covering solution for ages, for just that reason. Well, that, and to make modern books look more like fabulous old leather-backed volumes.

      So far the only thing I've come up with is to make a dust jacket sleeve (like we did for textbooks back in school) out of either canvas/duck cloth or a faux vinyl. I've also thought about using real leather, so you could emboss the title and/or simple symbols into it, but I've yet to actually try that. It'd be pretty labor intensive, but totally worth it for special books!

      Delete
  22. What is with the prints being funky sizes? I ended up custom framing my prints (NOT $60 WAY more) I got at D-Con because I couldn't find frames the right size. And this tutorial wasn't up yet. :( So seriously, why do the artists do weird sizes?

    ReplyDelete
  23. Hello! I have a question for you, and I apologize if you've covered this somewhere else. I'm going to try to repaint a large frame like this, and was wondering how John refinished in the two colors. Did he spray paint the whole thing with gold, and then add the black in with a brush? Or spray the black on and then wipe off right away, like you showed in one of your other tutorials? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hiya! Yes, John sprayed the whole thing gold, and then applied - and quickly wiped off again - a black glaze. (You could use thinned-down paint, too - it will just dry faster.) Good luck!

      Delete
  24. Jen, here I was feeling super smart about 10 years ago when I used Christmas fabric (bought on sale during the off season) to cover the mats of the enlarged photos I'd taken of our group with Father Christmas. I framed copies for each of the people in the photo and gave it to them for Christmas. I don't know what the others did with theirs, but mine comes out every December and still looks good.

    ReplyDelete

Please be respectful when commenting; dissenting opinions are great, but personal attacks or hateful remarks will be removed. Also, including a link? Then here's your html cheat sheet: <a href="LINK ADDRESS">YOUR TEXT</a>