Photo Triptych: An Easy Way to Make Large Frames

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A few weeks ago, when we painted our great room, I took down most of the wall decor because I just wasn't feeling it anymore.  I didn't have any plans for what to replace it with, I just knew that since we were painting anyway, it would be the perfect time to get rid of them and patch the nail holes.  And so, the empty frame gallery wall went bye-bye!

Here it was, missing a frame in the bottom left corner that was knocked off the wall and broken.

I knew I wanted some art that really made an impact and filled the entire wall.  I also wanted to give the engineering prints from Staples a whirl, and thus, the idea for this triptych of photos was born!

I've never made frames before.  I have tried mitering wood before, and the results of that endeavor didn't turn out too well, so I thought I would make some super simple, super easy frames that didn't require any mitering at all!  If you have a drill, you can totally make these.

I'll give you the measurements I used, but these can be easily altered to any size you want.

The greatest thing about these frames is that you don't have to do any cutting of wood.  Is anyone else terribly afraid of saws?  Get Lowes or Home Depot to do the cutting for you.

First, go to the hardware store and pick out 4 of the straightest 1x4s you can find.  Take them to the wood cutting area and have the lovely helper cut you 6 pieces at 29" long, 6 pieces at 21" long, and 9 pieces at 9" long.  I actually didn't have quite enough wood to make all 9 9" pieces, so one is 6" and I'm okay with that.

Secondly, take both ends of your hammer head (the flat end used for hammering nails and the fork end for removing them) and take out your frustrations on the 29" and 21" pieces.  Only one side of the wood will show, but all of the edges will, so make sure to give all 8 edges some dents, but just one flat side will do.  If you're not going for the rustic look I was, you can skip this step.

Then give all your 29" and 21" boards a good staining.  Save your stain and only do the front and sides because the back won't show.  I used Minwax Dark Walnut because it's what I had.  It took 2 coats to get the color I wanted.

Next is assembly.  I told you this was easy!

Grab some of these, or whatever the best/cheapest option is for you.  One pack of these was about $3 and was enough for one frame.

Using your handy drill, attach one 29" board to one 21" board like so, making sure you're attaching the un-dented/un-stained sides!

Then attach two of the Ls you made to each other, as illustrated below:

I mean, could that get any easier?!  I think not.  My one word of advice would be, if you have a T-square, use it!  We didn't so we checked to make sure each L was a perfect 90 degree angle as we went by roughly fitting all 4 boards together to make sure one wasn't wonky.

Now the fun part: attaching the photos!  Okay, so this wasn't really the fun part.  In fact, it was probably the hardest part for one simple reason... Staples sized my photos to fit the size print I ordered (24" x 36" I think) instead of keeping them the size I uploaded them at which would have fit my frames perfectly.  I didn't want to waste the $11 I spent on them, so they ended up a little more cropped than I originally planned.  I used my huge quilting cutting mat and my rotary cutter (oh no, I used a fabric tool on paper - call the sewing police!), which made it pretty easy, but it was still a pain.  If yours are the right size from the get-go, then this will be a breeze for you.  Maybe there's a place to put in comments so you can note it there, or if not, then call your local Staples.  I resized and changed them to grayscale on my computer before uploading them to Staples as I've heard that the colors can get weird if you let Staples change them to grayscale for you.

Once your photo is the right size, just tape it in place using packaging tape.  Duct tape would probably work too, but packaging tape seemed to do just fine.  Tape along one edge then make sure your photo is still centered from the front, no white edges are showing, etc., then continue taping around the other edges.

Were you wondering what those short 9" pieces were for?  Well, wonder no longer... they're for hanging, of course!  Find the center of each of your short edges (or whichever edges will be the top and bottom once hung) and screw one 9" board to each top and bottom edge.

We just used two screws for each piece which seemed to hold just fine.

Now for the hanging.  Invest in a chalk line.  They're inexpensive and come in SO HANDY for projects like this.  Whatever you do, don't breathe in that chalk dust because the warning on the label is mighty scary when it comes to that.

Snap a chalk line 3.5" below where you want the top of the frame to be once hung.

Starting in the center of your hanging area (where the middle frame will be), attach one 9" piece, lining it up with the chalk line.  Check for level after you screw in the first screw, but before you screw in the second one!

Sorry for the lack of photos of this part, but all you're going to do next is rest the top 9" 1x4 of your center frame onto the 9" 1x4 on the wall, and check to make sure the center of the frame is lined up with the center of the wall-mounted 1x4.  Repeat for the other frames, spacing as desired (mine are 4" apart).  So, the frames are not actually attached to the wall, but are definitely secure enough where they can not be easily bumped.  They also sit out from the wall a tad which provides a nice 3-dimensional quality that I love!

Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Here you can see how the frames stick out from the wall.  That's why we added the 1x4 at the bottom - so the frames would be parallel to the wall once hung.

I love how they fill that whole wall that leads to our bedroom, the laundry closet, and the basement, but still really make an impact in the living room too.

I don't think I've ever shown this view of our living room from the kitchen before.  Probably because it makes it glaringly obvious how much I need something to fill that wall to the left of the fireplace.  Any suggestions?  Obviously I took this photo before I revamped the mirrors.

Here's our new view when we step out of our bedroom in the morning.

Before we painted, I had some wedding photos displayed in the foyer, but I don't think I'm putting those frames back there, so I used this opportunity to get some photos of us up in herre!  Oh, and seeing as how it's across from our bedroom, I thought it was appropriate.  The ones on the ends are from an engagement session and, obvs, the one in the middle is us leaving the church on our wedding day.

I'm really loving the great room so much now!  The Sterling walls, the touches of wood, the hints of black - ahh so much better than the beige we had going on before.

Here's the cost breakdown for 3 frames:
Wood: $20-ish
Brackets: $10-ish
Photos: $11-ish
TOTAL: $41-ish for 3 humongous frames!

Can't beat that with a stick.

So, have you tried Staples' engineering prints yet?  For the money, I think they're just great.  They are super HUGE and just printed on regular ol' paper, which makes them not too precious and perfect for craft projects.

Have a great day, lovelies!


  1. The project turned out great! I've been wanted to give the engineering prints a whirl too. Thanks for the tips!

  2. Such a great idea and they look fabulous! Jenna @ Rain on a Tin Roof

  3. These look so good, and the pics and frames are a nice scale for this room. Nice job!

  4. This is really AWESOME, Jenna. Wow. I love this. PINNED!!! Thanks for showing how. Linda