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Build Easy DIY Picture Frames in 20 Minutes

Learn how to quickly build a wood picture frame in just minutes!

You can never have too many picture frames, especially when you learn how fast and easy they are to make.

I needed some new picture frames for my fall mantel, instead of heading to the store, I headed to the garage. In less than an hour, I had 2 rustic picture frames and that included taking pictures to share.

You will love these easy DIY picture frames and find so many places to use them. They also make amazing gifts!

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two diy rustic picture frames with fall apples

Fast DIY Project

To keep my pictures frames extra quick to build, I didn’t sand them before painting. Instead, I used a dry brush technique to highlight the texture of the inexpensive wood I had laying around.

But you can build your picture frames with nicer wood to minimize sanding time, or they may take closer to 30 minutes to get the perfect finish!

Really the longest part of building these frames is waiting for the paint to dry, and you don’t have to wait around for that.

diy rustic fall picture frames with apples

How to Make a Picture Frame

Tools & Materials

Recommended Tools:


Overall Dimensions

You can build your picture frames any size you want!

These instructions include easy to follow steps and formulas for you to figure out how much wood you need and how to cut your pieces for any picture frame you can dream up.

rustic picture frames diy with fall apples

Cut List

The size you cut your pieces will depend on the size of your picture and the board width. What size to cut your pieces is detailed in the printable PDF plans.

Button to buy the PDF plans for the DIY picture frames.

How Much Wood Do You Need to Buy?

How much wood you need depends on how big of a picture frame you want to build and what size boards you are using. Once you decide on that you can figure out your shopping list.

You will need to know two things to figure out how much wood to buy:

  1. The picture height (PW) and picture width (PW)
  2. The width of the 1x board (BW)

Then use the following formula to determine how long of board you need.

(PH + (2 x BW) + PW + (2 x BW)) x 2

So if you want to build an 8×10 picture frame using 1×3 boards* (actually width is 2 1/2”), you will need:

(10 + (2 x 2.5) + 8 + (2 x 2.5)) x 2 = 56”

I recommend getting a few extra inches, so I would buy 60”, or 5’, of 1×3 to build the picture frame in the example.

STEP 1- Cut a groove

Adding a groove on the back inside of the frame creates a spot for the picture to sit into the frame with glass and backing.

Cut a 1/4” deep by 1/4” groove in one side of your board on the back with a router or table saw. 

If using a table saw, set the blade to 1/4” tall and 1/4” away from the fence. Run the board through twice, once with the back against the fence and once with the side against the fence.

wood shown with table saw for cutting for diy rustic frames

If you do not have a way to cut a groove, you can glue 1/4” to 1/2” trim or square dowels to the edge of your board. 

Set the trim in about 1/4” from the back to create a groove. Use blue painters tape to hold the trim in place until the glue fully dries. 

You can create a lot of variety with trim on your picture frames.

STEP 2- Cut your pieces

You want the window of the frame slightly smaller than the picture and the final groove slightly larger so you have some wiggle room. To do this, we will measure from the inside edge of the groove.

Draw a line on one end of your board so it is angled 45 degrees toward the groove side of the board. 

Measure from that line, where it intersects the groove, the picture height + 1/4”. Make a mark. 

I was using an 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper for my first frame so I measured 8 3/4 inch inside the notch so the opening would be about 8 1/4 inch.

rustic wood shown with measuring tape

Then draw a 45 degree angled line to intersect that mark. Make sure it is angled toward the groove side of the board. Cut along the angled lines for the frame side piece and repeat so you have 2 sides.

Repeat for the frame top/bottom pieces but this time use the picture width measurement.

As you can see in the picture I cut it wrong the first time and then forgot to take a picture of the correct angle, so pretend it’s right here and try not to cut it wrong like I did.

ratter square shown on rustic wood for picture frames

STEP 3- Assemble picture frame

If you are building a frame with 1×3 boards or wider you can assemble them with pocket holes. Use a brad nailer to secure frames built from 1×2 or 1×1 boards. 

Thinner boards will not work with pocket holes because there is not enough space for them on the back of the board without being able to see them on the sides. 

Drill 1 or 2 pocket holes in the angled ends of the two top/bottom pieces. Make sure to line them up so the are completely inside the board and will not poke out the inside of the frame or groove. 

wood shown with Kreg jig for cutting wood frames

Add wood glue to the angle edge of the frame top bottom piece and clamp it to the side piece. I prefer face clamps for this to help hold the pieces flush on the front and back.

Secure with 1 1/4” pocket hole screws or nails through the sides.

natural wood shown being clamped

Repeat for all 4 corners until you have a finished frame.

If you only have 1 pocket hole in each seam, it is possible the joint can twist. To prevent this, keep the frame clamped flat while the glue dries fully.

diy wood frame with wood glue in corners on work table

And you’re all done building. Ready for paint.

completed diy wood frame prior to painting

STEP 4- Finishing

Sand and paint/seal/stain your picture frames however you want.

I wanted my frames to look rustic, so I skipped sanding and let the texture of the wood become part of the finish.

To dry brush the frames, I barely added any paint to the end of the paint brush.

Then quickly brushed this paint over the rough, unsanded wood. Use an old rag to rub off any heavy spots before it dries.

rustic frames shown with dry brush paint

I just love how the texture shows through and it looks so rustic. The paint only took about an hour to dry because it’s such a thin layer.

For my 12 x 16 inch frame, I used black paint and the same dry brush technique. It looks like a charcoal stain. I really love how it turned out.

two diy rustic picture frames with apple printables shown on mantel

STEP 5- Add photo

If using glass, add it to your groove. Then place your picture inside.

Place a piece of chipboard, cardboard or foam board behind the picture to support it. Secure the back with tape, turn button fasteners or glazing points.

For picture frames you want to hang on the wall, you will need to add a hanger to it.

If you have a router, a keyhole bit will give you an easy keyhole for hanging. Or you can purchase keyhole hangers that attach to the outside.

Another option, which is my preference for large picture frames, are D ring hangers.

For these, you will want to add one hangers on each side of the picture frame. You can add a wire between them to hang from. Or just place two picture hanging hooks in the walls and hang the D ring directly on them.

back of diy rustic picture frame showing cardboard taped to it

Don’t forget to grab the printable PDF plans here!

Premium plans include:

  • Recommended Tools
  • Materials list
  • How to figure out how much wood you need
  • How to figure cut list for various sizes
  • Step-by-step instructions with 3D renderings
  • Helpful resources
  • BONUS: 3D SketchUp file

And now I have two DIY picture frames. Painted and ready for my mantel.

I think I may be getting addicted to making these rustic frames. Who else can I build one for?

two fall printables shown in diy rustic picture frames

Happy Building!

-Kati with picture of blog author Kati
fall printable apple picture shown in diy rustic picture frame
rustic picture frame pinterest image shown with wood background

Connor Prothero

Thursday 18th of January 2024

Hi can you please make a picture frame for me and send it to me please thank you

Jennifer Dawn

Tuesday 1st of September 2015

These are great, and I love the printable inside. I just wanted to stop by and let you know that we're featuring these at this week's link party!

Kati Farrer

Wednesday 2nd of September 2015

Thanks so much Jennifer for sharing my picture frames and printable :)


Wednesday 26th of August 2015

Only 20 min?? Wow! They turned out great. Unfortunately, I'm not allowed to handle power tools, ever since I cut my finger pretty badly just washing dishes! oh well, I can enjoy looking at yours!

Kati Farrer

Wednesday 26th of August 2015

Ha ha! My hubby tries to tell me to be more careful, even bought me a kevlar cutting glove. I told him it is just going to keep happening as long as I keep using sharp things (and they are necessary for cooking) so he stopped complaining about me hurting myself! Sorry about your finger though. It's never fun, especially since you cut it doing boring things like dishes.

Lisa @ Fun Money Mom

Tuesday 25th of August 2015

You did an awesome job on the frames and I love how they turned out! Now I want a fall mantle but I just have one small fireplace! Visiting from the Wednesday Showcase

Kati Farrer

Wednesday 26th of August 2015

Thank you Lisa! You could always build a faux mantle, I've thought about doing that in my basement so I have another fun place to decorate!

Megan @ C'mon Get Crafty

Monday 24th of August 2015

I have been considering expanding my craftiness to include wood-working, but I'm nervous! You make it look so easy! Thanks so much for linking up to Merry Monday!

Kati Farrer

Monday 24th of August 2015

Thanks Megan! Wood working is so addicting. Just start with a couple simple projects, then you will realize you can create so many fantastic things!

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