Summer is definitely here to stay! We are having fun so much fun this summer. Lots of pool days, festivals, and mountain adventures. Today we spent the day in the Uinta Mountains exploring new places we haven’t seen before.
This is one of the biggest reasons we never want to leave Utah, we are just a short car ride away from some of the most beautiful mountains. But the only thing we are missing, the ocean. If Utah was close to the ocean it would be the best place ever!
One of my favorite things to do in the summer is fill our home with coastal, ocean inspired decor. It’s my way of bringing the ocean to our home in Utah. A bright, beautiful home full of seashells and driftwood is almost as good as actually living on the beach.
So today I am sharing the start of my summer mantle (now that it is time to say goodbye to the beautiful patriotic decor) and it starts with these DIY custom photo mats to surround some free printable watercolor seashells!
I don’t always use photo mats in my picture frames. I actually like the look of the picture filling the whole frame. But sometimes I love the look of the white mat framing the picture or art, too (I like lots of things, you can make me choose just one).
Since I am usually too cheap to buy mats because I want to be able to change them out whenever the mood strikes and they can get pricey, I have found a little trick to help me make my own quick and with cardstock.
I always have a plethora of cardstock in my crafting stash. When Michael’s crafts puts their cardstock packs (the ones with 5 different coordinating colors in them) on sale for 5 for $10 I grab all the colors that look pretty to me that day. And when I need to frame out new pictures like these free printable watercolor seashells, a selection of cardstock comes in handy to make DIY custom photo mats.
To make these photo mats, I use my Silhouette cutting machine. It makes quick and very precise work out of cutting lots of rectangles, but it is not necessary, you can do the same thing with a ruler and an X-acto knife.
For each photo mat I use 5 sheets of paper. You can create a plain white mat by using 5 white pieces of cardstock, or you can have some fun customizing your mat for your artwork and use a variety of colors.
For one of my mats, I did white, sand, white, sand, white to give a little stripe to the mat. For the other one, I did an aqua blue ombre effect by doing white, light blue, light blue, darker blue, darker blue.
I only used 3 colors for the ombre cause that is what I had on hand and didn’t really want to go out in the heat for more paper, but if you have 5 colors that would work, it would look really awesome.
The possibilities are endless, and you don’t even have to use 5 sheets of cardstock. I did one for another picture with just 3 white and it looks great, if you want more depth to your mat you can do more than 5. This is by far my favorite pat of DIYing, you get exactly what you want.
For these printable watercolor seashell prints, I needed a mat that had a 5×7 opening and one that had 4 4×6 openings. I wanted to reuse my 20 minute rustic picture frames because they are awesome and I use them all the time. So I made the 8 1/2×11 inch frame to hold the 5×7 and the 12×16 frame to hold the 4 4x6s.
Making my frames perfect did take a little bit of math, but I promise it is not hard. I started with the opening 5×7 as the largest opening size that would be the very top of the mat. Then I went smaller from there.
I wanted to have the actual opening just a bit smaller than the 5×7 so the photo would fit behind it. Each rectangle was 1/16″ (or 0.0625″) smaller than the one above it to make tiny steps down to the center, and since I did 5 pieces of cardstock, that left the opening 1/4″ smaller than the original (5×7).
I really hope this is making sense. Here is a cheat sheet for you for the 5×7 size and the 4×6 size.
It was as easy as creating 5 rectangles, specifying the size I wanted them to be and centering them on the page. Then when it was time to cut them on my Silhouette, I made sure that I was only cutting one rectangle at a time by using the cut line option and only picking the one rectangle I wanted cut each time.
Then to keep things organized, I labeled all but the top one with a little number in the corner, 2 through 5.
Once they are all cut out, I just a basic school glue stick to glue them together. I found it easiest to start at the bottom with the smallest rectangle. Line the #4 up on top of it and then give it a little glue right around the rectangle to keep it together.
Then grab #3 rectangle and repeat. Because the paper is not loaded in exactly the same spot every single time, I found it better to center the rectangle opening instead of the actual sheet of paper. The edges were a little off (by less than 1/16″) and once in the frame it was completely hidden.
After I got all the pieces glued together I could tape the watercolor seashell print to the back of the mat and admire my work. So easy and perfect for our coastal decor.
For the 12×16 inch frame that had 4 openings, I did each opening separate and lined 4 pieces of mat on like the other one.
Then because I cannot cut a 12×16 inch piece of paper on my Silhouette, I cut the two piece by hand.
After the holes were cut out, I lined the colored mats up underneath the openings and glued them together. It was only slightly more work than the one with one opening.
The best part of this project is that you can do whatever size of opening or mat that you need without the expense of buying custom photo mats. I know I made standard sized mats for this project, but I think it would be fun to make a frame with a bunch of square photos, maybe from your Instagram account, in it. Or long openings for panoramic photos. The possibilities really are endless!
And if you want to add a little coastal charm to your summer decor, I am sharing these free printable watercolor seashell prints in my library of free downloads. Sign up below for access to my Library of Free Downloads. Inside you can download these prints and many other awesome printables!
I hope you are having a wonderful and safe summer too.