On a starving artist’s budget.

It may seem like the obvious answer to “how to frame art” is to gather up your pieces, hop in the car, and jet over to your local frame shop or craft store. But, the truth is, custom framing can add up quickly. So if you have a collection the size of a museum and a budget the size of a day pass to aforementioned museum, DIY may be the way to go. Here are a few tips to create the perfect gallery at home:

Hunt For Treasures

Create a list of the dimensions of all the pieces you’ll want to frame and head to your local thrift, consignment, vintage, and flea shops to look for gently used, inexpensive frames. Nab any frames that appeal to you, keeping in mind you can always sand and re-paint any that are not quite the right finish. A good mix of styles and colors makes for a more interesting gallery wall.

Take It Apart

Oftentimes, frames will have a “dust cover” of craft paper adhered or stapled to the back. Cut this off with a utility knife (go ahead and discard), and begin removing the other layers behind the glass (including whatever art originally came with the frame).

Mat It

If your art is on paper, like a watercolor, ink drawing, sketch, or print, matting is a nice choice. Purchase mat board at your local craft store; white or off-white looks nice with anything, though gray or black can add much needed contrast and drama. Measure the opening you’ll need in the center to reveal the art behind it. Use a utility knife to cut out the center as well as cut the perimeter of the board down to fit within the frame. Tape down the art to the back of the mat board, so that the portion you want showing is revealed through the opening in the board. Insert back in the frame. Add a layer of foam or wood behind the art if the frame did not come with one, securing with pins or nails.

Or Don’t…

Photography and paintings on canvas particularly shine without a mat. Photography looks especially impactful when floating loose in the frame. You can also “float” art OVER a plain white or black mat, particularly if it has interesting edges. To do this, create “hinges” using tape, so the tape is hidden behind the art and all you see is the art on the board. You can also frame right around the edge of the art, leaving nothing behind it exposed. With canvas paintings, skip the glass and matting, and opt for just a molding around the edges.