This here is my first ever tutorial. I have studied many a one in my various projects, but never put one together before.

This information may be commonplace, but if not, it may be helpful to another family on a budget.

Here's how I managed custom framed family photos on a budget. My total from start to finish for 3 custom framed family photos was approximately $90. If you have ever priced custom frames, you will need a minute to catch your breath. Good? Read on to see how I got such a great deal.

1) Check craigslist or similar website in your area for photographers who are offering specials or even FREE photography. Often photography students will have great deals while building their portfolio. You may have a great photographer in the family who can get some shots that you like. Our photographer was Ray Brandon of We loved his work and plan to go back to him again. I found him via craigslist.

2) Decide how large you want your photos. Ours are 8×10 and 20×24. I took advantage of our wholesale club memberships to inexpensively print the 8x10s.

The 20×24 was an anniversary gift for my husband. It was also the most expensive part of the project. The traditional 2nd anniversary gift is cotton…and canvases are made of cotton. I had this photo printed on a cotton canvas. It was well worth the cost at $75.00.

3) Comb through your local thrift shops and garage sales for framed art. Ignore the dated and ugly prints and focus on the sizes and shapes of the FRAMES. I was able to locate 3 frames that matched from two different shops by keeping an eye out even before I planned the project. 

4) Next go through your toolbox to locate the necessary tools and materials you will need to put it all together.

Tools and Materials Needed:





eye screws

photo wire

spray  paint


cardboard cut to size of photo opening

Custom frames tutorial 3

Custom frames tutorial

If you are lucky, like I was, you may already have many of these items lying around your house or garage. I had all of the above except for the spray paint. 

Since I had not planned this specific project, I began by painting all my frames in a glossy black spray paint. I set them aside, knowing that we would eventually be framing some family photos. Once I decided on the anniversary gift, I ordered with the large frame in mind, as I already had it and it was painted. 

Custom frame tutorial 5

Custom frame tutorial 6

Once you have your frames ready, all you have to do is insert the photos in the frames.
If you are lucky (I was not!) Your frames will have glass, backing material and hanging wire or teeth attached. If so, slap those babies together and hang them! 

If you aren't so lucky, you will have a few minutes of work ahead. Measure and cut some old cardboard to size, depending on the size of your frame opening and set it aside. If you have no glass, that can easily be remedied by robbing from old frames you have on hand, or again, finding inexpensive frames at yard sales, freecycle or craigslist. 

Insert the glass first, then photo, then cardboard. Nail or staple a small nail to hold the layers together.

Custom frames tutorial 2

Measure your walls and frames to get an idea of how much photo wire you will need. You don't want the wire to stick out above the frame, so you may have to adjust after a test hanging.

Kids custom frames

Custom frames tutorial 4

Your frames won't look like much from the back, but who goes snooping around the backside family photos anyway?