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cheap trick: how to get inexpensive custom framing

I’ve held off writing this post because there’s a definite possibility that everyone already knows about this “trick” and my brain was all, “What if everyone that reads this gives their computer the side eye and thinks to themselves ‘there goes Molly again with the totally useless information'” and then I realized that’s a silly thing to be worried about because THIS WHOLE BLOG is useless information. In the grand scheme of things.

But if I help one of you pull the trigger on framing some art you’ve had rolled up under your bed for eight months, or if I help you save some money, then BY GOLLY it’s worth it. I’d like you to picture me delivering this paragraph on top of a desk, à la Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society. Now rip apart your textbooks! 

inexpensive custom framing

I guess I’ll get to the point: to get the look of a custom frame for large or irregularly-sized art, I buy a ready-made frame from Hobby Lobby, then have their framing department cut and install a custom mat around the art. I’ll lay out specific tips below, but for large art (somewhere between 16″x20″ and 24″x36″), the total cost for frame/mat/hanging hardware normally runs me somewhere around $60 with this method. For comparison’s sake, a similarly sized custom frame from an online company who sells directly to consumers is about $150, and the sky’s the limit for a true custom frame from a local framer. Obviously each one of these options has its own perks, like more unique and interesting frames available from online companies and the quality craftsmanship you’ll find with local framers. But right here, right now, we’re talking about lowering the barrier to entry on custom framing so that you can get some dang art on your wall. 

cheap custom frames


  • Buy your pre-fab frame from Hobby Lobby while their wall frames are on sale for 50% off. I am not exaggerating: this sale happens every other week. One time I showed up to get a print framed while the frames weren’t on sale, and the awesome guy in the framing department said that if I wanted them to not start work on it until the following week, when the frames would be back on sale, that he would still extend the discount. Deal! But yah, that’s kind of an important part of this strategy. Make sure you get that ish 50% off!
  • Use your 40% off coupon for the mat. Hopefully you guys know that you can always, always find a 40% off one regularly-priced item coupon on the Hobby Lobby website. Use it for your mat to bring the cost of the job down significantly. Important: you can only use one of these coupons per purchase, so if you’re framing a bunch of pieces, pick them up one at a time so that you can use the coupon for the mat for each piece. 
  • Think about the size of your art, the size of your frame, and whether you’d like a large mat or a small mat. For a large mat, buy a frame significantly larger than your art. As an example, my “See Mystery Lights” print is 20″x28″. I knew I wanted a large mat, so instead of buying the 22″x28″ frame, I bought the 24″x36″ size. 
  • Always have them add hanging hardware. I think this actually costs $3 and it is so friggin worth it to have a wire installed. Makes hanging so easy!
  • Try to avoid looking directly at the Riesens while you’re standing in the checkout line. This is the only place I have ever seen Riesens sold in public. They are so delicious and chocolately and chewy and caramely. My mouth waters just thinking about them. LOOK AWAY.

finnegan blue

So there’s my “trick,” which was really several tricks rolled into one, you’re welcome. Related: I’ve cobbled together most of our smaller frame sources (that work nicely for smaller and regularly-sized art) for each room on the Shop Our House page, if you’re in need. Also, Finn. 

Any good framing tricks up your sleeve that I need to know about? Or cheap tricks in general? (They’re illusions, Michael.) 

Disclaimer: Hobby Lobby has no idea I exist and this post is *not* sponsored. 




  1. Thanks Molly!!! UM this is in no way “useless info”. I am a frame-aholic. And I’m constantly wanting to update images into new frame styles. Whiiiiiich can get EX-PENSIVE. So I will definitely “seize the day” and get me some framing done at the Hobs Lobs.

    • Go figure that you’re a frame-aholic 🙂 🙂 Glad it was useful to you!!

  2. Jim Richardson Jim Richardson

    I’m really pissed at you! You should have posted this 35 years ago, before I made a habit of paying more for a mat and frame than I did for the artwork. My children could have tasted steak. But Nooo, you had to keep this little secret all these years.

    I will be using this with the Yellowstone pics.

    • What’s “steak”? Sounds fancy.

      I might use it for a Yellowstone pic as well. 🙂

  3. Shannon Lindley Shannon Lindley

    This was NOT useless information. I struggle with framing, but thanks to your brain nuggets of info – NOW I KNOW!!!

    • Brain nuggets. I like this. Hahaha thank you, Shenon!!

  4. Molly, where do you find your art? It is so intereting. Art can be expensive so do a blog on where to find art?

    • I’ve been thinking about doing a post on that – I love seeing where other people are able to find awesome, inexpensive art. Thanks for the extra motivation, Edith! <3

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