How To Spend A Ton Of Money, Trying To Save Money, On Picture Frames

Yeah, I bought all this crap.

Last year when I moved into my apartment, I wanted to be thrifty with the decorative elements, so I decided to make my own picture frames. I watched a couple of videos on YouTube about how to use distress ink and then made a quick jaunt to my local craft store to buy a couple of ink pads and maybe some glittery powders if things got out of hand.

FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS and forty crafting items later, and it seemed I was ready to make my super cheap wall hangings. Apparently, I had no business being in a Micheals with a credit card. That aside, I figured since October is one of my favorite months, because it has Halloween in it, now would be the perfect time to share with you how to construct spooky picture frames of your own; that may as well be encrusted in canary diamonds with an adhesive made out of diesel fuel, because that’s how much you’ll spend to make them.

First you need a good craft frame. I like the 8×10 version. You can buy them online for $7.55 each. Then you’ll probably want to apply some Gesso. I don’t know why. All I know is that in art school they made us put Gesso on everything. I’m assuming it makes for a more workable surface, but I dropped out of art school after one semester, so don’t take my word for it. It costs $12.59.

While your Gesso is drying you can either eat a whole pizza, or you can go to the gym because you ate a whole pizza last night. I wonder which one I’ll do…

Once the Gesso is dry you can dip into your Distress Ink. These are by Tim Holtz and can be purchased online for $4.99 each. Four of them will do for the purposes of this project, but if you’re a maniac, by all means, buy over a dozen in slightly varied colors, sometimes repeating yourself, in an effort to be the world’s biggest nimrod when it comes to saving money on interior design.

You can buy this ink applicator for $4.99. It has a Velcro bottom to attach these different foams to so that you don’t mix up all of your inks.

I like to layer my inks beginning with the lightest and then gradually adding the darker colors. For this frame I used the Mustard Seed first, using a circular motion in the corners and blending inward, always leaving portions of the middle bare. This will give you nice highlights later on. After the Mustard Seed, I add a layer of Barn Door and then finish with Vintage Photo.

Now you’re ready to start stamping. This is the fun part. Choose any stamps you want and layer these too. You can buy sets of stamps from Tim Holtz’s website for $21.95 I start with this one and coat it in the Barn Door.

I stamp that on and then I add a layer of Broken China.

Always make sure to clean your stamps in between each color. I use this Cleansit stamp cleaner for $4.49.

Feel free to go nuts with your stamping. I like to add all sorts of things before I begin my embossing (get to that in a minute). For this project I’m throwing in a bunch of butterflies and flowers but there’s all sorts of cool designs you can add. I especially like Tim Holtz’s cling mount stamps with different scripts and backgrounds, but I’ve also made frames with stamps of haunted chairs and creepy birdcages. Have I mentioned Tim Holtz yet?

Now it’s time to emboss. I like to use this Versamark stamp pad for $2.37 and the Ultra Thick Embossing Enamel for $9.12.

I’m using this stamp for the left side of my frame.

Push your stamp into the Versamark and then press it onto the frame. It will come off as a clear gel. Pour the embossing enamel all over the gel and then dump the excess into this white thing. I can’t say for sure how much this costs as I can’t find “white thing you dump embossing enamel into” online, so let’s just put it around $1.29.

You’ll need a heat tool in order to get the glossy embossing effect. This thing will run you around $14.50…

 …but I wouldn’t rule out using a hairdryer if you’re thinking this has already been a ridiculous amount of money to spend making something that won’t survive the move to your next apartment.

Apply the heat sparingly at first. I start far away and then gradually move in closer because if you go at your beads too fast they’ll scatter everywhere and not stick properly to the Versamark. When you see them start to melt together, that’s when you know you can get all up in that shit, holding the heating tool an inch or so away, for about a minute and VOILA! You have this super, awesome, shiny dragonfly on your frame!

Now use that white thing to dump the rest of the embossing beads back into their container.

When using the embossing materials, beware of choosing stamps that are too condensed in their design. I was trying to make this bird in a nest but it turned into this weird globby thing. So I just stamped another bird on top of it. Problem solved.

Once you’ve finished your glossy accents, you have your very own homemade picture frame!

For the bargain basement price of only eight and a half million dollars.

Once you’re done making your frames, pick your favorite artist and print out some of their paintings. At work. To save money on paper.

Just a quick side note to this, I am aware that in the art world, printing an artist’s work from your computer is essentially considered “stealing”, however, after having just spent nearly twice my yearly income on one DIY project, I’m not about to spend five hundred dollars on a Lori Earley print. She is fantastic though, isn’t she?

All kidding aside, had I not gone absolutely bonkers in the craft store, I could have made these six frames for a total of $136.89. That’s only $22 a pop. Which is only slightly more than what I would have paid had I just gone to Target and picked up some already made frames. Not bad! Plus, now I have all this cool stamping stuff for things like…making more frames. Oh! And my friend Jackie used them for her wedding invitatations. So there’s that.

I’m not sweating it though. I’m sure I’ll find plenty of things to do with my solid gold collection of crafting supplies and when I do, you can be sure I’ll post them right here. Until then, I’m open to suggestions.

P.S. I’d like to dedicate this post to my Aunt Nicole who has crafting skills like nobody’s business, and who has also confessed to being “Tim Holtz’s bitch” for years. Happy to know I’m not the only one bankrolling his private jet and Swiss Chalet.


  • Gabriele Davieds

    Loved the article…but instead of running out and making that multi-million dollar purchase, I will just either come over and borrow your shit, or wait for you to make some more frames and bestow me with some “home made gifts.” I’m surprised you didn’t cut out some wood and hammer those frames together before all that stamping and gluing! I must say though, the frames look FABULOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!

    A side note. What ever happened to flat Stanley? I’ve been waiting all week to find out what his latest saga was! You must tell me. I must know!

    • Kelly

      Guess who the frame in the picture is for??? My friend Lauren. Just kidding mommy! It’s for you! You have to wait for Christmas though. More Stanley to come, just didn’t want Stanley overkill.

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