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How to Repurpose Old Picture Frames

Do you have old frames laying around your home? Piled up in the garage? I recently repurposed old picture frames for a stunning new look.

Can picture frames be reused? Of course, An old finish or color or style shouldn’t stop you. Old picture frames can be repurposed to give your home a fresh style.

Let’s face it. New picture frames can be expensive, even at the big box stores. Repurposing picture frames can save you big bucks. Repurposing old frames saves the environment, too. If you ever come across some old picture frames that you are considering tossing, think again.

There are so many ways to repurpose old picture frames.

This post contains affiliate links to products used in this project. If you should order any product from this site, I may receive compensation to support this site. You do not pay a penny more for the products.

Where to Find Old Picture Frames to Repurpose

Old picture frames are readily available.

  • flea markets
  • estate sales
  • garage sales
  • antique malls
  • your own home

Which Came First? The Art or the Frames?

I have had a spot in our entry that has needed some art. Next to our entry commode with a framed~mirror was a big blank wall.

I thought a grouping of artwork between the mirror and the closet door would balance the mirror and give color and pattern to the space.

spring entryway

In this case, the artwork was the inspiration for this project.

Finally, the right artwork appeared.

I had seen some artwork on canvas on Amazon that I loved: a series of 6 blue and white chinoiserie pieces. The blue and white color scheme was my favorite and I love chinoiserie and collected quite a bit in the last few years.

The set was not expensive, but I waited for Amazon Prime Day to buy them. The canvases were 8 X 10.

blue and white canvas art

Finding Old Picture Frames to Repurpose

The next thing I needed were frames.

I knew that I wanted gold frames to compliment the large framed mirror in our entry. I could have bought brand new frames. Before spending money, I remembered that I had a stack of frames that could be repurposed to decorate this space.

Over the past few months, I had removed framed pictures of ourselves, kids, and grandkids from mismatched frames. These pictures were hung on our stairwell. Some of the frames were at least 30 years old. I was slowly replacing them with matching black frames.

I had about 18 empty frames. Looking through them, I found 6 frames that were the right size and shape for the chinoiserie canvases.

gold old picture frames

Three of the frames matched and three were similar. All had varying shades of a gold finish. One had carvings and one had a linen mat. Three had a crackle finish.

My plan was to paint all 6 frames in gold spray paint to give them a cohesive look.

Repurposing Old Picture Frames with Paint and Wax

Here are the steps I took:

Step 1 ~ Take the frames apart, setting the fillers and backing aside.

Step 2 ~ Place the glass on a dishtowel to keep the glass safe. You can clean the glass now or later.

glass on dish towel

Step 3 ~ Decide the color and finish you want for your frames. I wanted glossy gold, which fortunately had on hand. I also got out my spray paint hand gripper. This tool makes spray painting so much easier on your hand.

gold spray paint

Step 4 ~ Set up your spray paint “station”. I used my spray tent outside in the garage with the garage doors open. It was very hot so I painted early in the morning.

Step 5 ~ Using a back and forth and up and down motion, apply the spray paint to the frames. I painted in two batches.

painting old picture frames

I set up my floor fan to decrease the drying time.

Step 6 ~ When all the frames were dry (about 30 minutes)~ it only took one coat of paint ~ I brought them inside. The frames now had the same gold color and were more coherent. However, they didn’t have the bright gold metallic look that I wanted. What to do?

Using Gilding Wax on the Old Frames

Then I remembered Gilding Wax. Years ago, I had used this wonderful product in silver on several pieces (frames, a tray, a shelf, a decorative letter. I knew it would give me the bright metallic gold finish that I wanted for the old frames.

how to use gilding wax jars

Fortunately, I had plenty of Gold Metallic Gilding Wax on hand.

Step 1 ~ Place paper on your work surface to protect it. Place the painted frames on the work surface.

I have found the easiest way to apply the Gilding Wax to your surface and keep your hands clean is to wear disposable plastic gloves. These are the kinds that you use in the kitchen for working with food. I use them all the time for paint projects.

Step 2 ~ Dip your finger in the jar of Gilding Wax ~ it has a creamy consistency ~ and start rubbing the wax on the frame. Rub it across the surface of the frame, adding more wax as needed.

Here are more in~depth ideas for using gilding wax.

The wax is very easy to spread on the frames. Cover all the surfaces on the top and sides of the frame. Rub off any excess wax and use on the next frame.

Step 3 ~ When you are through with one frame, set it aside and repeat with the other frames until all have been waxed. Here you can see the frames with and without the Gilding Wax.

By the time you have finished the last frame, the first frame should be cured.

Step 4 ~ Use an old clean towel ~ I used a piece of a flour sack towel to buff the wax into the frame. Use some elbow grease as you rub the frame on the top and the sides. There should be no tackiness and the surface should be smooth.

buffing old picture frames

This step adds a patina to the surface of the frame.

Finishing the Repurposed Old Picture Frames

Now is the time to add your artwork to the frames.

Step 1 ~ Clean the glass. I found that the easiest way to clean the glass is to place it in the frame. The frame holds the glass. This way you don’t have to get your fingerprints on the inside of the glass.

picture frame with glass

Step 2 ~ Before you go any further, decide which canvas will go in which frame. These considerations would play into this decision.

  • I would have two columns of three frames.
  • the final arrangement of the canvases for balance and symmetry.
  • The size of the frames: three were the same size. Two were a little bigger and one was in~between.
  • The backs of the frames had different hangers.

I decided that the two larger frames would go on the bottom. The matching frames would go on top. The middle row would have two slightly different frames.

Step 3 ~ Place a canvas in the chosen frame. I placed a piece of computer paper cut to size next. This step made sure that there was no shadow behind the canvas.

Step 4 ~ Add the backing to the canvas, pushing down on the brackets or staples to hold the canvas and the backing.

Step 5 ~ Turn the repurposed frame over and use glass cleaner on the outside of the glass.

repurposed old picture frames

Hanging the Repurposed Frames and Art

Sweet Shark and I measured and drew lines and marks, nailed and adjusted the frames until the spacing was as good as we could get it. As I mentioned above we had some different size frames with different hangers.

It was a challenge, but at the end of the day, we stood back and loved how we decorated the wall with the repurposed old picture frames and canvases.

I’m so happy with the arrangement of the canvases. I think most people won’t even notice the slight difference in frame sizes.

The next morning I took down the artwork one by one. I used a Magic Eraser to remove our pencil marks.

On the entry commode, I added some topiaries with blue containers and gold leaf on a brass tray (another repurposed project). In the center of the tray, I added one of my most recent chinoiserie pieces with faux white flowers.

The entry now was a more interesting look. I am absolutely in love with how we repurposed our old picture frames and decorated our home with them.

entry way with new art

What do you think? What is the moral of this story? Don’t ever throw out old frames. There are so many ways to repurpose old picture frames.

I hope you are inspired to use spray paint and Gilding Wax to give old frames an updated look. Please PIN this project so you don’t forget it.

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  1. Great idea, Carol!! They look beautiful! You can buy frames so inexpensive at the dollar store or thrift store and make them look expensive with just paint!

  2. These frames came out beautiful! I love how you took these thrifted frames and bought them back to life. Great job.

    1. Meagan, I am so happy with the way the frames turned out ~ and I didn’t spend a penny! They are the perfect contrast with the blue and white canvases.

  3. Your display is beautiful Carol! I love how you made the different sizes work together. Thanks for the tutorial – I have lots of frames lying around and now I’m inspired to do something lovely with them.

  4. They turned out great and such a beautiful gold color too. Really makes the blue and white vases stand out. 🙂