Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

Cheap frames

In a comment at the post I published the other day about designing artwork to fit precut mats, photographer FF noted that acquiring frames is an expensive proposition. This is certainly true, even at an outfit such as Aaron Brothers, which has two-for-one sales every few months.

There are two very inexpensive source of frames, some of them quite nice: yard sales and estate sales. People are always trying to unload artwork they’ve tired of. Sometimes they’ll get the most ordinary prints and posters custom-framed. And of course, when they sell the print, they sell the frame and mat with it. You can usually buy these things very cheaply. Remove and throw out the cheesy artwork, and voila! a frame. Install your own mat (if you do this often, it soon becomes cost-effective to buy a mat cutter) and your preferred image or object, and you have a custom-framed work.

Here’s a pastel done by La Maya, whose hobby is painting in pastels and oils. The frame is an estate-sale find.


She cut the two mats herself and placed the entire arrangement in the frame, using her dining-room table as a workspace.

dcp_22431The frame itself is rather interesting, and it works very well with the mats to display the image handsomely. The cost was a fraction of what she would have paid at a frame shop. If you do a lot of photography or painting, it’s well worth stopping at yard or estate sales to check the offerings. Ignore the ugly, faded prints: just search for desirable frames.

Author: funny

This post may be a paid guest contribution.


  1. Thrift stores have been an amazing source of frames for me — toss bad artwork and you’re good. I bought one that had a (what I thought) was a pretty cheesy photo, but it was signed so I did some research and sold it for a few dollars on ebay because it was by a known artist. So my only tip is look at the artwork carefully before tossing. A lot of people collect vintage paint by numbers, for example. You could make enough to pay for the mat-cutter 🙂

  2. Paint by numbers! Heavens!!!! I used to do those when I was about 10 or 12 years old. How hideous they were, too…. 😀

    Good point about checking out the art before deep-sixing it. A numbered print (sometimes called an “original print”) may be considered akin to original artwork, since these are often done by the artist him- or herself. They do have value. And all it takes is a few evenings in front of Antiques Roadshow to hope that every scruffy print or painting is a lost masterpiece.

  3. I’m going to have to see if I have any unframed artwork stashed away somewhere, now that I know how to get it fixed up for less!

  4. Wonderful tip and a nice post reminding us to recycle and reuse. I’m always looking for great finds at thrift stores but it’s harder and harder as more people are getting into the recycle craze.

  5. Am I the only one who finds that the local thrift stores charge insane prices for artwork? Unless the frame is VERY nice, it would be cheaper around here to just buy a frame.