How to DIY: Custom Framing

For the finishing touch on our dining room, I wanted to have three menus custom framed from important life events.  One from Chez Panisse, from the day after our wedding, another from E’ by Jose Andres, when I was pregnant with our son and the last from Castagna, our first “fancy” dinner when we moved to Portland, to celebrate my husband’s birthday.

I was so excited, loaded with a 60% off framing coupon to Joann’s Fabrics, until I got the estimate from them.  To frame all three menus, it was going to cost over $500, and that was AFTER my coupon discount!!! I couldn’t believe it. I was so crushed.

So I started scheming of a way to do it myself.  Here is how I cut the costs down from $500 to about $50 using DIY:diy-custom-frame-buy-standardFirst I went to Aaron & Brothers to find some basic frames that would work.  I looked at Joann’s while I was there, but they didn’t really have a wide enough selection to accommodate all the odd size menus I had.

select-basic-frame-DIY-customIt was a little tricky to find three frames that had dimensions that worked with all three menus, but the sales associate at Aaron & Brothers was very helpful and worked with me to find me what I needed.

DIY-custom-frame-professional-mat-cutIf the piece you are framing is a standard photo size, like a 3X5 or a 5X7 you can purchase mat boards at a store like Aaron & Brothers.  If you have an odd sized piece or pieces like me, you will have to get mat boards cut for you.

I looked into purchasing mat cutting equipment to do this myself, but it was so expensive, it didn’t seem worth it unless you plan on doing A LOT of mat cutting.

My Uncle John is a framing hobbyist, so I asked him if he could cut the mats for me.  He lives in Missouri, so I mailed him the menus and put notes on them about the dimensions of the frames and colors of the mats I wanted and then he mailed them back to me with the mats when he was done.

If you don’t have a friend or family member with mat cutting tools, you can take it to a local frame shop to have the mats cut.  This is still a little pricey, but definitely cheaper than having the whole thing custom framed.  Another great option, would be searching on Craigslist for someone who will do this for you or posting a listing for someone with this skill.

DIY-custom-mat-tapeOnce you have the mat boards, you can attach your piece/pieces.  Make sure it is centered where you want it and tape the back with some masking tape.

DIY-custom-mat-pull-tightPull the piece smooth and tight and tape the opposite side. Then tape the other two sides.

DIY-custom-frame-taped-backWhen you are done, the back will look something like this.

DIY-custom-frame-frontAnd the front will look something like this!

DIY-custom-frame-open-backFrames have different types of back openings, but if it is like mine, you can use a flathead screwdriver to open up the back.


And that’s what it should look like when you are done!  An easy project with a BIG savings reward!  Hope this helps you to DIY custom frame!

This post was NOT sponsored by Aaron & Brothers or any other corporations.  I DID experience excellent service at Aaron & Brothers and would recommend their services to my readers.  Also BIG THANKS to my Uncle John for cutting these mat boards for me!



  1. says

    It looks great. We tried to get something custom framed once. I couldn’t believe how much it cost. We ended up just finding the closest frame size we could and made it work.

    • [email protected] says

      It really is CRAZY. We used to have this guy in Orange County who did custom frame work that was AMAZING! He cut the mat boards into designs that were BEAUTIFUL and it was WAY less than what Joann Fabrics is charging for a SQUARE MAT. I actually looked him up for this particular project, but sadly, his website is gone and I think he no longer does framing. So depressing when artisans get put out of business just because they don’t have the marketing of the big-box retailers.

  2. says

    That’s so sweet! I love the idea of framing menus to commemorate special meals! I have a few menus from really special dinners, but they just are in a keepsake box, how wonderful to be able to actually display them like this, and it’s probably a great way to trigger the memory and a talking point!

    • [email protected] says

      Bring them out and get them on the wall! It is so much fun! Just the other day we were talking about a dish at Castagna with my parents and we were like, “What was that dish called? Oh wait! It’s right here!” So helpful for the absent memory!

    • [email protected] says

      It’s funny, when we lived in an apartment, our walls were covered, but now that we have our first house, (most of) our walls are BARE! I guess it all seems like such a big commitment when you are living somewhere long term. It feels like it all needs to be so well thought out. We have a stack of framed art prints and concert posters sitting in our basement that we STILL haven’t hung! Don’t feel bad!

    • [email protected] says

      I wish I could say I came up with this idea on my own! An old boss of mine (who happens to be the original founder of Hot Topic) has a bunch of restaurant menus framed from his home town. It was a while back, but I think they were just of diner-type places that he liked to go as a kid.

  3. says

    I love this idea! I feel like I would have to get it done, though, the mat board cutting for sure! Many of my great memories include dining… I wish something like this would have dawned on me before; now you have me recalling all these special times… Thanks for sharing this :)

Leave a Reply