11 Easy & Affordable Steps to Update Old Picture Frames

How does the saying go? One man’s trash is another man’s treasure! Follow these easy steps to transform an old picture frame into something spectacular! It is a fun & relaxing activity that will certainly put a smile on your face as soon as you have seen the results! Follow the 11 easy steps outlined below and get your creative juices cooking!

Step 1: Pick out the picture frame that you want to revamp

Yes, I’m talking about ‘that’ hideous frame somewhere in-between the hidden pile of ‘old stuff’, just in case someone might notice a possible hoarding situation. It’s okay, you’re not the only one! Most of us form sentimental attachments to at least some material things in our lives. Nevertheless, the time has come to pull it out and bring it back to LIFE my friend! What’s the point in having something that you can’t enjoy? If you have recently watched Marie Kondo (the ultimate queen of tidying up) on Netflix or if you are one step ahead of the rest of us & already follow the minimalist living trend, don’t panic! You can always find something worthwhile at a thrift store for a great bargain to join in on the fun! The picture frames that I have chosen were frames that my grandparents threw out ages ago, but my dad, for some reason, couldn’t let go of. I saw potential in the frames & decided that it should be enjoyed & appreciated! So, I gave it the spark that it needed to light up our, by that I mean myself, my hubby & our little Yorkie Bella’s, lives. Note: If you can find a Victorian style frame or a frame with vintage twists & curls, I can guarantee that the antiquing method will knock your socks off.


Photo by Jessica Ruscello on Unsplash

Step 2: Fill the cracks & fix the broken detail on the picture frame with Wood Filler

Here, you will have to get your hands dirty! I used Alcolin Wood-Filler Natural, which you should find at a Builders Warehouse or at most hardware stores, if not, then try the Smith & Co Wood Filler. I found it easier to fill the gaps with the wood filler by using my fingers instead of using a special toolkit. If you need to build layers on a chipped section, remember to let each layer of wood filler dry before you attempt to apply the next layer. Don’t worry about the coarse texture that is left behind, you will sand it down once you are done with the restoration of the frame. Wood filler smells A LOT, so I would suggest doing it outside & letting it dry there too.



Step 3: Sand down the entire surface of the picture frame until you have achieved an overall even, yet slightly rugged texture, in preparation for the painting process

When you end up in the hardware store, you certainly don’t have to buy a roll of sanding paper. You will only require a few sheets of sanding paper, depending on how damaged the frame is. Choose fine sanding paper, perhaps a smooth kind to round off with and another kind with a coarser texture, because you don’t want to be busy sanding all day! If you use sanding paper with a texture that is too rugged, you might just lose all the hard work that you have put in at step 2. Just be careful. For this project, I popped into our local Builders Warehouse and chose an abrasive paper of 120 as the ‘coarse-textured sanding paper’ & another abrasive paper of 180 (could even be 200) as the ‘smooth-textured sanding paper’. Start off with the 120 abrasive paper & then finish off with the 180 abrasive paper. When the entire surface appears even (remember it’s art, so it will not & should never be perfect) then dust it off with a dry cloth or a dry paintbrush.


Photo by Fancycrave on Unsplash

Step 4: Paint the picture frame with the colour of your dreams

This is the most exciting part of the entire project. It can be a fun-filled family activity or just a relaxing, soul-searching ‘time-out’ for yourself. I used my ‘go-to paint range’ called, Harlequin Provencal Furniture Paint. In the photo below I used the Provencal French White colour. You can order the paint from Harlequin Paint’s website or have a look at their stockists. PS: The other colour that I made use of, as shown in Step 6, is called the Harlequin’s Provencal Blue Paint. You will likely have to paint a few coats & I would suggest using a soft paintbrush, preferably one that is light coloured & doesn’t lose bristles in the process. Have a look at brands such as Smith & Co (can be found at hardware stores) or Harris (green range/ no-loss range). In my experience, I found it worthwhile to buy branded paintbrushes. Remember to keep the brush strokes in the same direction & to let the paint dry before applying the next coat (important for the antiquing process). If you are unhappy with the texture of the paint, it may be because you applied too much at once. In that case, just dip your brush in water and smooth out the parts that you are unhappy with.


Step 5: Use an antiquing liquid (water-based) to achieve the desired ‘aged’ or ‘stressed effect’ that you want

This step is the most complicated step in the entire process but once you get the hang of it, you will be amazed at the results. I wanted you to see the difference between a painted (only) frame, shown above and what the same frame looks like after the first layer of antique liquid has been applied (shown below). The Harlequin Paint’s Provencal Antique Liquid is my favourite, because it is a very forgiving liquid – meaning that you can easily fix mishaps with a brush & water. You can apply it with a dry brush, sponge or cloth, just start by using very little at a time and slightly dipping it in water between every other brush stroke. If you go over the same spot too many times, it might rub off and create a ‘white stain’. When this happens, just dip your brush in water and brush all over the frame to get an even finish – the water removes the stain & redistributes the liquid around evenly. It is essential to keep in mind that staining should never be perfect! I usually only apply one, seldom two layers of the antique liquid. I absolutely love the colour transformation after the staining has dried completely. The staining creates a warm undertone.


Step 6: Seal the frame by applying a clear gloss/matt varnish

There are so many varnishes & finishing waxes to choose from, especially from Harlequin Paints, but my favourite one, that I use for everything, is called Harlequin Paints Furniture Varnish (blue stripes on the front of the can). In my opinion, gloss varnish makes the colour of your frame pop! I always varnish whatever I have painted with clear varnish to preserve the item & to ensure that it can be easily cleaned without causing any damage – durability is key. For instance, if red wine spilled on your white coffee table, then you wouldn’t have to break out in a sweat. You can just wipe it away with a damp/wet cloth!


Step 7: Pick the artwork that you want to dedicate your wall to

My hubby & I adore colourful & uplifting artwork! Why? It brings tremendous joy & positivity into our hearts & home. We selected two small oil paintings from an artist called, Ella, that we just fell in love with for our finished frames. If you love the photos below, go and have a look at her webpage, Ella Art Studio.

Step 8: Buy & cut the hardboard at your nearest hardware store according to the measurements of the opening at the back of the picture frame.

Since we chose oil paintings, it helped to determine our framing options. Oil paint doesn’t necessarily have to be covered by glass & it usually needs to be able to breathe as the temperature & humidity changes. For more information on this, visit Art Tutor or go to Pro Frame (professional framing shop) for advice. We used hardboard, similar to Masonite Standard Brown with a 3.2mm thickness available at Builders Warehouse, to serve as both the mount/mat & the backing board of the frame. This way we were able to create a visible separation between the art & the frame, which is usually the purpose of a mount. Masonite is normally available in large sheets & inexpensive too. Ask the hardware store to cut the hardboard according to the measurements of the opening at the back of the picture frame, actually a tad smaller, to ensure that it fits perfectly.

cutting wood

Photo by Greyson Joralemon on Unsplash

Step 9: Paint the hardboard with a complimentary colour

We painted it with the Harlequin Paints Provencal French White, however without applying a sealant or any type of staining or varnish as a top coat. We preferred the no varnish texture, but you can try a matt varnish if you like. I would definitely suggest using a mini foam roller set to paint the hardboard with & don’t be shocked if it takes many layers of paint because the hardboard itself is very absorbent. The colour that you choose depends on your wall colour, the separation that you want to create between the painting and the frame & the colours in the painting itself. In my opinion, the idea is that a picture frame should always compliment & accentuate the artwork, the rest of the conditions are fluid. This is where a professional framer will be able to offer great advice.


Step 10: Attach the artwork to the hardboard

Take the hardboard measurements into consideration when you calculate the central point that the painting should be attached at. Normally, more space is allocated to the gap between the painting itself and the frame, at the bottom half of the structure than at the top half of the structure. So, you won’t usually attach the painting at the center of the hardboard. The reason therefore is that when the entire structure hangs upon the wall, we view it at eye level & misjudge the central point (so it will just look funny to us), but by adjusting the bottom half’s space, just a tad bit, it will probably look ‘just right’ to us. In this case, however, it looked much better at the exact central point. I think it is probably because the frames were very ‘heavy’ in appearance. To attach the painting to the hardboard, it is important to use the correct adhesive, e.g. hinging tape, to ensure that the painting doesn’t get damaged. For more information on this, visit DIY Framing or a framing shop.


Step 11: Lastly, fit & attach the hardboard to the frame

To seal the back of the frame either self-adhesive or gummed tape should be used. For more information, visit DIY Framing. Attach the metal clips/d-rings to the frame to hold the string that you will need to keep your gorgeous artwork up on the wall. For more information, visit Oak Smith Studio. Also, be on the lookout for DIY Framing Kits in art & craft stores or visit a professional framing shop.




I opted for steps 8 through 11 to be done at a local framing shop called, Pro Frame (Glenfair Centre, Pretoria), that I would highly recommend.  Pieter & Annemarie are certified picture – framers & have impeccable taste! They certainly take their time to help you until you are 100% satisfied. DIY framing isn’t familiar territory for me & I didn’t want to jeopardize my hard work by doing it myself, however, if you have the guts – go for it! Their advice to use painted hardboards was a brilliant idea. They provided the correctly sized hardboards that we painted and returned to them to complete the framing process. At the end of the day, after so much TLC has been put into a project, you want to be absolutely satisfied with the results! Our frames are currently hanging on a wall in our lounge area and not only does it cheer us up, but it serves as a reminder of our grandparents daily. Now that, in my opinion, is when something material is certainly worth the sentimental value that we attach to it.

Please let me know how your project turned out in the comments section below! I can’t wait to hear from you!

With love,


Note: Everything written in blue are ‘clickable links’ directed to the original websites/sources used to write this blog post.

Note that statements made and opinions reflected in this blog do not represent those of any of the entities mentioned or discussed herein. The blogger is furthermore not a representative or agent of any entities referred to in this blog. The knowledge provided is founded upon the personal experience and fluid opinion of the blogger. The methods explained in this post may hield unwanted/unexpected results that the blogger cannot be held liable for. Please refer directly to the entities mentioned in this blog for accurate & up to date information/methods to follow. Furthermore, if you do attempt to try this at home it will be at your own risk.

Posted in: DIY

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