How to Make a Picture Frame

Easily DIY your own wooden picture frame to display your favorite prints and photos.

Blue and White Living Room with gallery wall and furniture
Photo: David A. Land

Looking for an afternoon DIY project that's as satisfying as it is fun? Try building your own picture frame. With the right tools, this project is surprisingly simple. In fact, once you complete your first picture frame, you'll be going the DIY route every time you need to frame a new print. Best of all, you don't have to be an expert woodworker or have a shop full of tools to make a picture frame.

How to Size Your Picture Frame

While sizing a picture frame might seem as simple as cutting the inside lengths of each side to match the dimensions of the print, there's a little more to it than that. Picture frames have a groove along the back inside edge called a rabbet. This is what holds the glass, the print, and the mat board in place.

The rabbet itself only needs to be 1/4-inch wide, so subtracting 1/2 inch from the length and width of the print will leave enough room for the rabbet. So, for framing an 8x10 photo with no mat board, the inside board lengths (short length between each miter) would be 7-1/2 inches by 9-1/2 inches. If you wish to preserve the visibility of the edges of your print, make the frame larger and include a mat board behind the photo.

How to Make Frame Glass and Filler Board

For the front piece of glass, have your local hardware store cut a piece of acrylic to match the dimensions of your photo. To ensure the piece fits inside the rabbet, ask them to make the acrylic piece slightly smaller than the dimensions. For the back filler board, simply cut a piece of cardboard, using the acrylic piece as a guide.

How to Make a Picture Frame

Follow the steps below to make a picture frame for an 8x10 print.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Miter saw
  • Table saw
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Stiff ruler
  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Strap clamp (preferred)
  • Standard clamps (optional)
  • Painting supplies (optional)
  • Staining supplies (optional)
  • Hammer
  • Utility knife


  • 1 1x2 x 8' board in your preferred wood variety
  • Wood glue
  • Painters tape
  • Custom-cut acrylic piece
  • Cardboard
  • 1 inch Brad nails
  • Picture frame mounting hardware
  • Paint and primer (optional)
  • Stain and pre-stain wood conditioner (optional)
  • Spray-on satin lacquer (optional)


  1. Cut Boards

    Set a miter saw to 45 degrees and cut the end off of a board. Flip the board over and, using a stiff ruler, measure from the inside of the miter and make a mark 9-1/2 inches down the board. Align the mark with the blade of the miter saw and make a second cut. You should be left with a board with an equilateral trapezoid shape with a short side measurement of exactly 9-1/2 inches. Cut the end off of a board once more and flip the board over. Using the first board as a guide, mark the second angle on the board. Cut the angle with the miter saw.

    Repeat this process, decreasing the short side measurement to 7-1/2 inches from the two remaining pieces.


    To increase the precision of your cuts, cut each board a little long, then stack the board and cut them to final length together. This will ensure the boards are identical.

  2. Cut the Rabbet

    Set your table saw fence to 1-1/4 inches and set the blade depth to 3/8 inches. With the backs of each board facing the table saw surface and the short edges facing the blade, make a pass through the table saw. Once one cut has been made on each blade, move your fence slightly away from the blade and make another pass. Continue this process until your rabbet has been cut out of each board.

  3. Lightly Sand Boards

    Lightly sand each board with 220-grit sandpaper to clean up any cuts and smooth the surfaces before gluing. Be careful not to alter the shape of the miters, as this will result in uneven joints.


    Orbital sanders and sanding blocks are hard to control when it comes to precision sanding. You can easily make a hard sanding stick by cutting strips of sandpaper and adhering them to paint stir sticks. This results in easily controllable sanding for precision applications.

  4. Glue Frame Together

    Line the frame pieces up with their ends touching, alternating short and long pieces. Tightly align each outside miter edge and place a piece of painters tape across the two boards. Flip the boards up and apply a layer of wood glue to each side of the joint. Fold the frame together, allowing the tape to hold the shape tightly together. Place one last piece of tape on the untaped joint.

  5. Clamp the Frame

    After adjusting and ensuring the face of each board is aligned, use a strap clamp to pull the joints together and hold the frame square as the glue dries. If you don't have a strap clamp, simply clamp from side to side, checking for square as you go. Wipe away any excess glue and let dry.

  6. Finish the Frame

    Stain or prime and paint the frame to your desired shade. If you used a soft wood, apply a pre-stain wood conditioner before staining. Apply several layers of spray-on satin lacquer as a finish coat. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for application and drying times on finishing products.

  7. Insert Frame Components

    Place the acrylic piece, your print, and a cardboard backing into the frame. Lightly hammer small brad nails around the perimeter until half the nail has penetrated the wood. Bend the nails toward the cardboard to hold all of the components tightly in place.

  8. Add Mounting Hardware

    Add your preferred mounting hardware to the back of the frame ensuring it's level and centered on the frame.

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