How to Build a Large Picture Frame

-- Compiled from a first-time experience building a particular style of conservation-quality frame for a large panoramic photo.


The components of the frame, from front to back, are:
  • frame
  • glazing
  • matting
  • picture
  • backboard

Here the frame is approximately 2x6 feet.

Useful summary: [1]



  • wood for frame (2 separate pieces for the rabbet)
  • 4 flat right-angle brackets with screws
  • glue for wood
  • paint/stain and finish
  • acrylic
  • foam-core board, acid-free
  • matting, acid-free
  • hinging/mounting tape, acid-free
  • nails or mending plates for securing the backing
  • picture-hangers


  • saw and miter box
  • clamps
  • sandpaper
  • paintbrush or soft cloth
  • drill
  • knife for cutting plastic
  • knife for cutting cardboard
Use a template out of cheap wrapping paper to position your picture on the wall and decide on the best dimensions of the matting and frame.  
The Frame    

The frame can be created out of 4 separate pieces and joined together with a miter joint. The frame needs a rabbet to hold the picture and backboard. The wood can either be purchased directly with the rabbet or two pieces of different widths can be attached together. The second option is used here.

Cut Glue Paint Connect  
1. Select the two pieces of wood for creating the rabbet.
flat piece for back beveled piece for design rabbet

2. Cut the 8 pieces for the frame edges (2 for each of the 4 edges). For a miter joint, cut the ends at a 45 degree angle.

3. Sand down any rough edges.  
4. Glue each set of edges together. Spread the glue evenly and use several clamps so that the whole length of the wood is held together while the glue dries.

Here used Titebond glue for interior wood use, which needs only ~30 minutes to attach. Excess glue can be wiped away with a wet cloth. For tighter clamps, a cloth or small piece of wood can be used between the frame and clamp to avoid damaging the frame.

5. Paint/stain the wood pieces as needed.

Here used a brown stain which dries after 15 minutes. After 8 hours, a few coats of finish can be applied.

6. Join the edges together with glue and a flat right-angle metal bracket. An alternative is, for each set of perpendicular edges (e.g. the two on the right), to drill a hole at 45 degrees and run a glue-covered dowel through it.

Glue first and then drill the holes for the bracket. Glue the bottom piece to the two vertical pieces first, and then glue the top piece. Any remaining misalignments could be filled in with wood filling.

The Glazing    

Glazing is used to protect the picture or backing materials over time from harmful environmental factors such as light and humidity (e.g. UV rays can cause discoloration in papers or fabrics that absorb UV, including photographs).

Typical options for glazing are: glass, acrylic, laminate, or nothing. Some criteria to consider are shown on the right. Acrylic is usually used in conservation-framing such as museum paintings. Acrylic is used here.



Glass Acrylic Laminate
Cost cheap expensive expensive
Weight heavy light very light
Shatter-resistant no yes yes
Reversibility (does not modify picture) yes yes no

Additional qualities to look for:
- anti-glare
- UV-filtering coat
- tint (glass is slightly green, acrylic is slightly yellow)
- light-transmission for visibility of picture (thicker material or protective coats like the ones above reduce transmission)

Useful links: [1], [2]

1. Score the acrylic so that a groove is created halfway through. Use a knife for cutting plastics or a saw if the acrylic is too thick.
knife for plastic saw
2. Brace the acrylic against an edge (e.g. between two scrap pieces of wood), and snap it down along the groove. The scored acrylic should break cleanly.  
3. Gently trim any rough edges with a blade.  
The Backing    

The backing has (optional) matting or spacers and a foam-core backboard to provide support. Matting/spacers are used to separate the picture from the glazing (to prevent the picture from attaching to the glass over time and moisture getting trapped between the frame and picture) and for the aesthetic purposes of an extra border/shadow effect.

The matting, backboard, and materials used to secure them should be acid-free to preserve the picture over time.
Other criteria for matting include:
- preservation-grade (wood-pulp, cotton)
- ply for rigidity
- color/texture

The backboard can also be covered by another layer of acid-free paper to protect against moisture and dust.

1. Cut the matting and foam-core backboard.

matting foam-core backboard
2. Attach the picture to the foam-core board using a T-hinge or V-hinge made from self-adhesive acid-free tape (or self-adhesive tissue for smaller pictures). Hinging the picture only at the top allows it to expand with changes in temperatures without creating wrinkles.

Some alternatives are gummed tape (which is water-activated and slightly harder to use), mounting corners for smaller pictures, or non-reversible techniques like spray mounting.

It is also possible to tape the matting to the foam-core board on one side like a hinge.

The picture is placed face-down in the frame. The foam-core board is then placed on top of the picture and tape.

Useful links: [1], [2]

Putting it Together    
1. Add sawtooth picture-hangers onto the frame, with the teeth facing downward. This will latch onto hooks or nails in the wall.

An alternative is to use wire attached to the sides of the frame using D-ring hooks.
2. If using nails to hook the frame, use a stud-finder to find the best place along the wall to position the nails.  
3. Drill holes for flat mending plates onto the frame. Leave the screws loose until the final assembly, as these will hold all the backing materials in place. Clean off any loose debris before adding the backing materials.

An alternative for securing the backing is to use small nails on the side of the frame.

4. Place the glazing into the frame. Keep the middle part of the protective plastic on the acrylic board until the frame is finished. Then place the matting, picture, and foam-core board into the frame, adjusting as needed.


5. Tighten the mending plates to secure the foam-core board. Since this is a larger frame, here there is also a wire running between two screws at the top and bottom edges of the frame.


Home | Last Modified: 2011

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