Upcycling picture frames: a creative wall design made from a variety of wooden frames

Empty brown picture frames are creatively arranged on a lilac wall
Even empty picture frames can lend a wall a unique dash of creativity.

  • Difficulty
  • Cost
    55 £
  • Duration
    4 h


Anyone who thinks that old picture frames belong in the bin is mistaken. One simple upcycling idea is all it takes to transform your picture frames into a snazzy wall design. Add a splash of colour to the mix and you can turn any room into a unique, ultra-chic design piece in no time at all. Want to know how? We’ll show you, one step at a time.

It should go without saying that your safety is paramount throughout every step of the project, so make sure you take the necessary precautions to protect yourself. You can find everything you need to know about the correct protective clothing you need when using each type of tool in our overview.

You need
  • hammer
  • ladder
  • paint brush
  • paint roller
  • adhesive tape
  • Old picture frames
  • Nails
  • Primer
  • Wood varnish
  • Wall paint (in the same colour as the wood varnish)
  • Masking paper/packing paper
L: Length, W: Width, H: Height, D: Diameter

Let's go - step by step

Step 1 6

Painting the wall

A bucket of lilac paint is standing in front of a freshly painted wall. A paint roller is lying next to it.
Paint the wall a bold colour to give the room a unique look.

You need: ladder, adhesive tape, paint roller, Wall paint (in the same colour as the wood varnish), Masking paper/packing paper

Your new wall design made from empty picture frames will look even better if the colours you use for the picture frames and the wall are a perfect match. We decided to go with a darker lilac tone, but you can pick any colour you like. Take a look at our colour guide to find out what kind of effect different colours have on a room. Make sure that the wood varnish and the wall paint are near enough the same colour.

If your wall is already the perfect colour, you can skip straight to step two. However, if your wall is due a new coat of paint or you don’t like the colour anymore, then let’s get started.

But before you can start painting, you first need to cover everything to protect it from being splashed with paint. This includes light switches, plug sockets, door frames, window frames, skirting boards and so on. You should also protect the edges to the adjoining walls, the ceiling and the floor. Use the adhesive tape for smaller things. It’s best to also use masking paper to protect the floor. Once everything is ready, you can start carefully painting with the paint roller. You can find a few handy tips for painting walls here.

Step 2 6

Preparing the picture frames

A picture frame is being sanded with a cordless sander.
Lilac varnish is being applied to a picture frame that has already been primed with a varnish roller.

You need: Multi-sander, Sanding Paper, paint brush, paint roller, safety glasses, Old picture frames, Primer, Wood varnish

Sand all of the picture frames so they’re smooth (image 1). Start by using a coarser grain and then switch to a finer sanding sheet for the finishing touches. Make sure that you remove all of the old paint from the picture frames and then wipe them down with a damp cloth.

Next, lay some newspaper or an old sheet on your workbench and prime all of the frames. Once the primer is dry, you can start varnishing your frames (image 2). Make sure that you always go with the grain and not against it while you’re varnishing the frames. You can take a well-earned break after this step while you wait for the frames to dry completely.

Step 3 6

Arranging the wall design

Several lilac-coloured, varnished picture frames are on a grey floor in front of a lilac-coloured wall.
Take your time when you’re laying out your varnished picture frames so that you can come up with a design that’s right for you.

It’s now time to position the frames on the wall. Start by laying all of the varnished picture frames on the floor in the exact arrangement you want to attach them to the wall. Take your time here. Feel free to move them around as you see fit. Don’t start attaching them to the wall unless you’re 100 per cent happy with your arrangement.

Step 4 6

Attaching the first picture frame

A person is holding a varnished picture frame up against a wall and marking a point with a pencil. A cross line laser device attached to a ladder is projecting a green cross line laser onto the wall.
The laser lines help you position your picture frames exactly where you want them.

You need: Cross Line Laser, ladder, tripod

You can now start attaching the first picture frame to the wall. Start by attaching the Quigo cross line laser to a ladder with the MM2 Flexible Mount or mount it on a tripod. Align it so that the horizontal laser corresponds with the height at which you would like the bottom of your design to be and the vertical laser corresponds with where you would like the left edge of the design to be. We have gone for a height of 90 cm in our example. The horizontal and vertical laser lines now represent the bottom and left exterior edges of your creative wall design.
Next, use a pencil to mark two points on the wall exactly below the upper edge of the frame. Hammer a nail into the wall at both of these points and then hang the first picture frame, positioning it exactly where you want it to be.

Step 5 6

Arranging and attaching more picture frames

A device is projecting a green cross line laser on to a wall. The bottom edges of several picture frames are aligned with it.
A person is standing on a ladder and holding a picture frame against a wall exactly where two green projected laser lines cross to form a corner.

You need: Cross Line Laser, hammer, pocket rule, ladder, pencil, Nails

Now, align all of the frames that will form the bottom row of your masterpiece with the lower horizontal laser line one by one (image 1), just as you did on the floor before.

Next, you need to determine the upper height for your design and adjust the cross line laser accordingly and attach it to the ladder in the new position. The vertical laser still needs to be exactly in line with the left exterior edge of the first frame. We chose a height of 240 cm on our wall. Now, align the next frame above the first one so it is positioned exactly in the laser cross, mark two points for the nails (image 2) and attach the frame to the wall.

Align the remaining frames with their top edges flush with the horizontal laser line and nail them to the wall.

Step 6 6

Filling the gaps with smaller frames and aligning them

A person is holding a picture frame against a wall. The top edge is perfectly aligned with a green horizontal laser line.
The distance between two picture frames is being measured with a tape adapter for a laser measure.

You need: Laser measure, hammer, pencil, Nails

In the final step, fill the gaps between the top and bottom rows of picture frames with smaller frames that have also been varnished (image 1). Repeat the previous steps to attach the smaller frames. Finally, take the Zamo laser measure, attach the tape adapter and adjust the distances between all of the frames so that they are equidistant from one another (image 2). This will give your design a harmonious look.