You are currently viewing Cardboard Picture Frames Made with Saltwash

Here at Sunny Side Design, we’re all about creating beautiful spaces in our homes on a budget! You can’t get any more budget-friendly than creating a gallery wall for FREE! It’s likely that we all have empty cardboard boxes at home. Don’t throw them out just yet. We’re so excited to show you how to create cardboard picture frames using Saltwash!

Not only is this project cost effective, but it’s a great activity to let the kids help with. Heaven knows all of us Mommas need some creative ideas to keep the kids entertained this summer!

Creating Cardboard Picture Frames

FREE Cardboard Picture Frames

Before creating cardboard picture frames, think where you’ll be displaying them to get accurate measurements.

I’d been planning to create a gallery wall of all the cute art my kids make for sometime. Using a large roll of paper we sketched out each frame and cut them to size. Then we were able to arrange them on the wall with painters tape to see if we liked the layout before we stuck any nails in the wall.

Click the video link below to see how to make these cardboard picture frames in action.

Cutting Cardboard Picture Frames

FREE Cardboard Picture Frames

The benefit to creating your own picture frames is that you can customize them to any space in your home! Having free cardboard lying around doesn’t hurt either! Who doesn’t like a cost effective home decor project?

After the cardboard picture frames have been measured and sketched onto scraps of cardboard, begin cutting out each frame.

To make easy work of this, we used a quilting ruler. This made it really easy to create straight edges and perfect angles.

A utility knife works great for cutting through the cardboard, although it works even better if you begin with a new blade!

(For safety, we made all of the cuts so the kids wouldn’t get hurt.)

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. As an Amazon affiliate we earn from qualifying purchases. See our disclosure for details.

Assembling Cardboard Picture Frames

FREE Cardboard Picture Frames

Cut a minimum of two pieces of cardboard to size per each frame. Each layer will be held together using hot glue.

FREE Cardboard Picture Frames

For the above cardboard picture frame we glued four layers together. The first three layers were all cut to the same size, with the same opening in the middle.

The fourth layer (the top layer) of the cardboard picture frame was cut to the same dimensions of the outer edges of the frame. The inside edge was cut 1/4″ smaller than the other layers. This was done to create a lip for the artwork to rest on.

*Be sure to save the cardboard pieces cut from the middle of the frames. These will be used as the backing for the artwork.

Transform Cardboard Picture Frames with Saltwash

FREE Cardboard Picture Frames

Although it’s pretty unique to be making picture frames using cardboard, Saltwash is the secret to creating picture frames that don’t look like cardboard at all!

Saltwash is a paint additive primarily designed to create a weathered and worn paint finish on furniture. We’ve used Saltwash on many projects around our homes, mainly on furniture. However, we’re starting to push the limits and see what other projects we can use Saltwash for to create unique home decor items.

The key to using Saltwash correctly to make these cardboard picture frames, is to mix the correct consistency. The general ratio is a 1:1 mixture of paint and Saltwash. A little more paint additive may be needed for this project. The paint mixture should be thick enough that it won’t fall off the stir stick when held up.

How To Apply Saltwash

FREE Cardboard Picture Frames

Typically when painting anything we use long even brush strokes. When applying Saltwash use a dabbing motion. This will create high peaks and ridges in the paint.

While applying paint to the cardboard picture frames, we found it easiest to dab the paint along the inner edges of the picture frames first. Then repeat the same process for the outer edges of the frames.

FREE Cardboard Picture Frames
FREE Cardboard Picture Frames

After all of the inner and outer edges of the picture frames have been painted, lay the frame on a flat surface. Repeat this paint application by dabbing onto the front surface of the picture frame.

FREE Cardboard Picture Frames

Allow paint to partially dry. When the paint becomes a little bit tacky to the touch gently pull the brush over the high peaks and ridges. We’re still going for a fair amount of texture here, we’re just knocking the ridges down a little.

A second coat of paint was applied to the outer edges of each frame. The edges had a lot of texture and as the paint dried it soaked into the cardboard leaving some deep grooves that needed to be filled. The second layer allowed us to cover all remaining cardboard that was visible, creating a smooth surface on each of the outer edges of the frame. Allow the paint to completely dry.

Once the base coat of Saltwash paint mixture has completely dried, the top coat of paint can be applied. For this final coat of paint, we used white paint and applied it using long even brush strokes. This layer of paint does not have any Saltwash mixed into it. Again, allow to completely dry.

Creating the Weathered and Worn Patina

Sanding is the key step to creating this weathered and worn finish! After the final layer of paint has completely dried, take a piece of medium grit sandpaper and distress any areas of the frame you wish. The base coat of paint will be seen through the texture as the top layer of paint is sanded off.

The finish will then appear to have been weathered and worn exposing multiple layers of paint through the years.

Place artwork into the cardboard picture frames and secure into place with a piece of cardboard that was cut out for the frame opening. The cardboard fits nice and snug without the need of inserting any fasteners to keep it into place.

To hang these cardboard picture frames on the wall, we used nail-less saw tooth picture hangers. Measure and mark the middle of the frame about 1/2″ down from the top, then press the saw tooth hanger into place. 

Cardboard Picture Frame Gallery Wall

FREE Cardboard Picture Frames

And here’s a look at the completed cardboard picture frame gallery wall.

FREE Cardboard Picture Frames

I love the fact that we were able to create these frames to the exact dimensions we wanted. And why be limited to just one picture in a frame? Why not make a frame with multiple photo openings?

FREE Cardboard Picture Frames

I couldn’t be happier with the finished result of these cardboard picture frames! They have the appearance of an old weathered tin. They definitely don’t look like they were created with cardboard!

FREE Cardboard Picture Frames
FREE Cardboard Picture Frames

The largest frame hanging on the bottom is even large enough to hold a canvas painting.

FREE Cardboard Picture Frames

What do you think? Would you have ever thought to create picture frames using cardboard? Let us know what you think, we love hearing from you!

Thanks for spending a little time with us! If you are new here WELCOME!

You can learn more about us here.

Please PIN and share with your friends!

And as always here at Sunny Side Design


To see more projects we’ve used Saltwash on click on each image below.

Be sure to follow us on Pinterest for even more home decor and DIY ideas.

You can also find our video tutorials on our YouTube channel. 

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Kathryn Bauman

    What a great idea! I believe using empty boxes is a responsible option for our landfills. With Amazon deliveries daily it seems boxes multiply out of control! I will use this technique. Thank you, ladies.

    1. Michelle Dickson

      Thank you Kathryn. We love to reuse and repurpose!

Leave a Reply