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Besides customising cheap cushion covers with iron-on transfer, another one of my favourite ways to save a bit of money when decorating is by repainting thrifted frames.
Most thrift stores sell a variety of second-hand frames, from tiny ornate frames to oversized poster frames. Depending on the size of the frame and the store itself, thrifted frames can be as cheap as a dollar a piece.
And, with a little bit of paint, you can transform an old, dated frame into something new and pretty.
For example, I recently picked up this frame for $2.
With a bit of paint and a printable, it now looks like this:
While repainting frames is pretty easy as far as DIY projects go, I’m not going to lie and tell you that all of my frame makeovers have worked out.
When I first started, I wrecked a bunch of them, mostly because I didn’t know some basic stuff, such as when to use primer and how to protect the finished product. So I thought today I’d share five pieces of super basic advice I wish I’d known before I started repainting frames.
This advice isn’t groundbreaking or unique. If you’ve repainted frames before or are a seasoned DIY-er, you’ll probably think “Well, duh”. But if you’re a complete beginner, these tips will help your frame makeover turn out well.
P.S. If you need some art for your new frame, check out the free printables section. You might find something you like 🙂
Repainting thrifted frames: Tips for complete beginners
1. Wipe your frame down
Before you begin painting, it’s a good idea to give your frame a quick wipe down to remove any dust or dirt. This is important for two reasons. Firstly, dirt will stop the primer (or paint, if you’re skipping primer) properly adhering to the frame, as it will adhere to the dirt instead. Secondly, the presence of dirt or dust can add an unwanted texture to your paint, making your project look messy.
I like to use microfibre cloths to clean and dry my frames because they don’t leave any lint behind.
2: Use primer (depending on material)
Depending on what your frame is made of, you may or may not need to use primer.
Plastic and metal always need primer. If you don’t prime them, the paint scratches right off with the slightest bump. I use Dulux primer because it’s readily available here, but you can pick up some cheap multi-purpose primer here.
Wood frames, on the other hand, don’t always need primer. The best way to check if your wood frame needs primer is to paint a small corner of the frame, leave it to dry, then gently scratch the frame with your fingernail. If the paint comes off easily, you’ll need to prime the frame.
3. Use multiple light coats
When repainting your frame, it’s better to use a few light coats than one heavy coat, especially if you’re using spray paint. This is for a few reasons. Firstly, using a heavy coat can cause the paint to pool in the crevices of your frame. Secondly, when it’s humid or cold, a thick coat of paint can go “gummy” and take a long time to dry. The longer it takes to dry, the more likely it is that some rogue bit of dust/hair/dirt will fall into the paint and get stuck on the frame.
4. Use paint to bring out your frame’s details
When painting an ornate frame, sometimes the details become flattened by a coat of paint. To fix this, you can do one of two things.
The process is simple. Mix three parts acrylic medium to one part acrylic black paint. The black paint provides the pigment while the medium slows down the paint’s drying time, giving you time to wipe off mistakes.
Working in small sections, use a small brush to work the paint into the crevices, then wipe any excess paint away using a damp cotton bud.
5. Seal your projects
When you’ve finished painting, you can protect your frame by applying a light coat of spray sealant (I use this sealant because it’s cheap). This will help minimise the chance of moisture damage. In addition, it makes the frame easier to clean. Sealed frames can be wiped down with a damp rag to remove dust and dirt. In contrast, if you wipe down an unsealed frame with a damp rag, some of the paint will come off.
I hope you found this little tutorial useful. If you have any questions or need clarification on something, please let me know in the comments. I’ll do my best to help 🙂