How to upcycle old paintings

How to upcycle old paintings

Every room could benefit from some art on the walls. But art can also be expensive to acquire. One way to get around this is to get your artwork from thrift stores and garage sales. It’s usually pretty easy to find cheap art there, but there’s a good chance the art you find won’t be to your personal taste. That doesn’t mean you have to pass it up! With some creative thinking and a few supplies you can turn almost any thrift store find into an upcycled art masterpiece. Let’s take a look at some easy techniques to try.

Selective Chalkboard Paint

How to upcycle old paintingsSource: The Mosaic Butterfly

With this technique you can turn an old work of art into a functional memo board. For this you’ll need a piece where a section of it can be blacked out by chalkboard paint. If it’s a portrait, you can keep the image of the person and blackout the background. In scenes like the one featured, the tree becomes the chalkboard. Once you decide on what element is going to become the chalkboard, carefully tape around that section with painters’ tape to prevent paint from ending up where you don’t want it, and paint over with chalkboard paint.

DIY Paint by Number

How to upcycle old paintingsSource: Under the Sycamore

For the more artistically inclined, you can upcycle your art by painting over it. While you can paint over it any way you see fit, we like this DIY paint by numbers approach. It keeps the subject of the piece intact, but allows you to brighten it up and give a more traditional style a contemporary twist. Click here for more detailed instructions on how to do this technique.

Word Art

How to upcycle old paintingsSource: A Bird and A Bean

This is a good option if you like the colors of a piece but not necessarily the subject matter. Word and phrase art has been a popular wall choice for a few years now, and this puts a bit of a new spin on that. All you have to do is pick a word or phrase you really like (and that will fit the space available) and mask it out using painters’ tape or contact paper. Paint over the rest of the painting, peel off your letters once dry, and voila! More detailed instructions can be found here if interested.

Silhouette Painting

How to upcycle old paintingsSource: The Bee and The Bobbin

Somewhat similar to the word art technique, this takes the classic art of silhouette cutting and turns it into something new. This style of upcycle will work well for those old still lives that can be found in thrift stores across the country. It works best with darker colored paintings, but could look good in a variety of different ways. While the original tutorial is no longer available, it can be achieved using similar steps to the chalkboard and word art options.

Dipped Art

How to upcycle old paintings

Inspired by the artist Oliver Jeffers, we’ve really been digging dipped paintings lately. To truly achieve dipped paintings you need to dip the painting into a large container of paint, but we found an easy way to achieve the same look. Using painters’ tape, paper, and spray paint you can get the results without using as much paint. Make sure to watch our video for the full instructions.

Sometimes all an old piece of art needs to look good as new again is a fresh frame. If you find a work of art you love, no matter how old, don’t be afraid to display it proudly. But, if you find some pieces you know have potential but definitely need some help, try out some of these techniques to create something totally new and your own. Have you already tried one or more of these? We’d love to see your results!

The best things in life are (nearly) free. Go green this year and instead of tossing or donating your old stuff, try one of our project ideas to upcycle it into something new.

Related To:

Pocket Change = Slug Repellant

One of the most common garden pests, slugs are bad news — especially for vegetable gardeners, but they’re also fond of munching on ripe fruit and all types of seedlings. So, whether you’re hoping for a landscape filled with flowers or edibles, slugs are a threat. Deter them with our DIY penny ball that uses the magic of copper to ward off these insatiable eaters.

Kid Doodles = Gallery Wall

After all, your kids are your favorite artists, right? Put their best work on permanent display by framing, then hanging their drawings as a grouping. Shop your local craft or big-box store to purchase basic frames with white mats so the cost stays low — and their handiwork remains the star.

Pretty Paper = Table Runner

For a colorful table runner that’s just as easy on your budget as it is on the eyes, sub gift wrap or even multiple squares of patterned card stock for a standard fabric runner. Bonus: Spills aren’t a worry; when the party’s over, just toss the stained paper — or, if it’s still in good shape, save it to use again later.

Terra-Cotta Pots = Cake Stands

Turn inexpensive terra-cotta pots and saucers into gorgeous cake stands with our easy tutorial, below. With personalized stamped sayings and a trendy distressed look, your friends and family can have their cake and Instagram it too.

Coffee Filters = Scratch-Free Storage

Protect your favorite dishes, mixing bowls or serveware from scratches and scuffs between uses by placing a coffee filter between each when stacking. This trick is especially handy for protecting hand-me-down pieces that you want to keep in pristine shape so you can someday pass them down yourself. Get more tips for chef-worthy kitchen storage, below.

Tablecloth = Indoor Playhouse

Get crafty to turn a basic white tablecloth into an indoor playhouse your little one will love. Our easy-to-follow instructions and video, below, show you how to cut out windows and a door, then deck out the house with colorful linens to customize the look.

Leftover Paint Samples = Daring Dresser

We all have them: multiple small bits of paint left over from a variety of projects. Clean out your stash by following these tips from HGTV Magazine : Starting in the top right corner, tape off a triangle, apply two coats of paint, then pull off the tape while the paint is still wet to ensure clean edges. Patience is key: wait till each section is completely dry before taping off the next one, then going triangle by triangle, complete your design. Get more tips for coloring your world with paint, below.

Today the Farmhouse Hens are featuring frame projects and I am so very excited to share my ideas for upcycling old picture frames.

Also, make sure you scroll to the bottom of this post so you can click around and visit the talented Farmhouse Hens and be inspired by their fabulous thrift store projects.

Upcycling Old Picture Frames

I am a huge fan of recycling, repurposing and reusing an item to keep it from the landfill. While strolling the aisles of the thrift stores and flea markets, I keep my eyes open for things that I can purchase inexpensively and give them a makeover. Picture frames are something I never pass up.

How to upcycle old paintings

If you were to walk through my house you would see that upcycling old picture frames is one my favorite ways to add some inexpensive character and charm to my home. Who doesn’t love unique and inexpensive décor?

Let’s take a virtual tour and I’ll show you how I am repurposing my growing collection of picture frames.

I started a gallery wall in my modern farmhouse kitchen and this yardstick picture frame is a great addition to the wall. I love the colors and the typography on the yardsticks and the weathered frame.

How to upcycle old paintings

When I did a pantry makeover for less than $50 I added this dry erase board made from an empty picture frame that I painted with my homemade chalky paint. I love having this in the pantry so I always know what I need for meal planning.

How to upcycle old paintings

When I did a makeover for my teen daughter’s bedroom, we added a gallery wall of vintage gold frames and mirrors. She chose the color scheme, I shopped my house, added some DIY projects and we love how the whole room turned out.

How to upcycle old paintings

I have taken upcycled picture frames into our glamper too. When I did a makeover of our glamper living room I added this old frame that now holds a vintage map page with my favorite Ferris Bueller quote.

How to upcycle old paintings

This flower was made from 3 tin cans and I added it to an old picture frame lined with leftover fabric from my chenille pumpkins.

How to upcycle old paintings

This memo board was made from a vintage frame I picked up at the flea market and it’s lined with old dictionary pages.

How to upcycle old paintings

I’ve also taken my picture framing habits out to the front porch. This large frame sat in storage for years and it was upcycled with leftover slats from a window blind. I change out the wreath with the seasons.

How to upcycle old paintings

DIY Frames

Sometimes I don’t have a frame in my stash that will work for a particular project so I have my hubby make what I need. (He’s such a kind, patient, handy guy that puts up with all my DIY requests.)

This is a large board covered with a vintage map and the simple black frame was made from scrap wood. The quote was hand lettered using a simple technique with Sharpie markers. This artwork hangs in our glamper where there used to be a TV.

How to upcycle old paintings

This “party of 6” farmhouse sign was completely made out of scrap wood and hangs in my living room as a reminder that we will always be a family of six even though my son has gone to heaven before us.

How to upcycle old paintings

How to upcycle old paintings

In my office I have used an old window as a frame for my vintage book page wreath.

Those are just a few ideas for upcycling old picture frames and I hope that I have inspired you to think about incorporating some of these ideas into your home decor.

Keep scrolling to visit the Farmhouse Hens below and be inspired by there amazing creativity.

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — If you’re looking to spruce up your home with new art, you might be able to save money by creating your own wall paintings.

DIY expert Shannon Quimby joined AM Extra to show how to up-cycle old canvas to create something new.

Upcycled DIY Canvas Art


  • A square framed ugly or no longer loved canvas art
  • Painter’s tape
  • A ruler
  • Pencil
  • Miller Paint Color Sampler; color: Casper White
  • 1 1⁄2” paintbrushes. Six were used to speed up the painting process
  • One No. 1 watercolor paintbrush
  • Six colors of paint. Used for this project are Miller Paint colors; Midnight
  • Magic, Whimsy, Ocean Storms, Lioness, Miniature Posey and Gray Coat

How To:

  1. Paint the canvas art
  2. When attaching the painter’s tape, always press the tape down with
    your fingers along the edge of the tape. This will decrease the paint
    from bleeding under the tape.
  3. With ruler and pencil, locate and mark the center of the canvas then
    tape it equally in four equal square sections.
  4. With tape, add diagonal strips, within one square starting from the
    center, working outwards. Spacing between each strip can be slightly
    wider or narrower than the other. Repeat the same pattern on the
    other three squares to match up with the first.
  5. Starting from the center and working outward, paint a different color
    of paint onto the white surfaces between the strips of painter’s tape.
    Color order starting from the center: Midnight Magic, Whimsy, Ocean
    Storms, Lioness, Miniature Posey and Gray Coat. Two coats
  6. Remove all painter’s tape and let dry
  7. With thin watercolor paintbrush and paint color, Casper White, touch
    up any color bleeding that might have happened.

How to upcycle old paintings

Upcycling old picture frames to use in a gallery wall is a bit trickier than you’d think. Here’s how I created a new gallery wall of special old garden-themed photos for our kitchen-diner using old picture frames.

I buy old frames at the local charity shops. They often have frames in boxes out the back so it’s worth asking and having a rummage. Don’t worry about the colour of the frame as you can paint or wax to whatever finish you like. Make sure the glass isn’t cracked. It’s also worth checking to see if the frame comes with fittings on the back as this will make life easier.

This stack of frames sat on the island for about two months before I got round to using them.

Work out which photo you want to use in each frame. You may have some photos or pictures already printed, so pair these with frames first. You can then order prints of your electronic images at whatever size you want to fit the remaining frames. I like to use Photoshop to size the picture to exactly what I want. I do this by first of all resizing the image to the desired measurement in millimetres, and then layering on top of a blank image sized at 6×4 inch (or whatever standard photo size is suitable). I then order prints of the 6×4 inch image. This ensures that my image prints at the correct size. I use DS Colour Labs in Didsbury – their online ordering system isn’t super-easy to use, but the quality of the prints is excellent.

I like to mix up picture, frame and mount sizes when creating a gallery wall. So I include some small images in large frames with large mounts, some multi-aperture mounts, and some large images with narrow mounts. Remember that you can use a custom mount to make a rectangular photo square, or create a small image from a large one by zooming in on a detail. This is particularly useful for when you already have the images printed and ready for framing, and aren’t able to edit the original image unless you go to the faff of scanning it in.

The next thing to do is order the custom mounts. I use Frame Lizard for mine. Work out your sizes by measuring the backer board of the frame (or the existing mount), and the image the frame will contain.

The thick brown card here is what I call the ‘backer board’.

Write both measurements down on a post-it, along with a note of the image you intend to frame, and whether the image will be portrait, landscape or square, and stick it onto the glass. It’s really easy to forget which image you plan to use in which frame so the post-it helps with this. I also take pictures with my phone of each frame/post-it combination in case they become separated. You don’t need to worry about factoring in an overlap as Frame Lizard will do this for you, so just measure the actual size of the mount and the actual size of the image to be framed.

I usually use a hammered ivory finish for the mounts. In general terms, I think it works well to use an eclectic set of frame finishes with single-colour mounts, or vice versa.

Having taken care of printing and mounts, you can get to work upcycling the frames. I’m usually quite lazy when upcycling picture frames, on the basis that the finish doesn’t need to be strong and durable as they’re only going to be hanging on the wall, rather than being knocked around in daily use. So generally I don’t mess around with primers, but just put the paint straight on. I also usually paint the frame carefully without dismantling it because otherwise it’s easy to get the glass muddled up. You can dismantle if you find that easier, but be sure to keep things in some kind of order. When painting a frame, especially without using primer, a couple of thin layers works better than one thick one. I prefer using regular paint and a brush to spray painting, as the latter is messy and smelly. I also use up old paint samples rather than buying new paint as you only need a tiny amount.

You can also wax instead of painting – this works best when the frame already has a wooden finish. If I’m just touching up a frame with wax to hide a few chips then I just dab it straight on where needed, but if I’m doing the whole frame I’ll give it a light sand if necessary to take off old varnish or other seals that would prevent your wax or oil from sinking in properly.

The number of finishes you use in one gallery wall is up to you, but I normally use 3 or 4. For this garden-themed wall in our kitchen, I used dark grey paint, gold paint, wood, and wood and gold, to be paired with brightly coloured images and single-colour ivory mounts.

When the mounts arrive, it’s time to start dismantling the frames. It’s very easy to get the glass and existing fittings muddled up, so it helps to completely do one frame at a time. So dismantle the frame (a small screwdriver helps to prise the fittings up), carefully remove the glass, wash the glass with soap and water, and dry with a lint-free cloth (I use the kids’ old muslin cloths). Then reassemble, using the new custom mount. I use a couple of pieces of tape to hold the image into the mount so it doesn’t slip around. I also use new fastenings where necessary. For small pictures, I find the easiest hanging mechanism is the little clips that fasten around the backer board – look up ‘clip over sawtooth frame hanger 2-3mm’ on eBay.

Close-up of the sawtooth fastener which clips over the backer board.

Make sure no bits of dust or other specks are visible against the mount/image before you completely fasten everything in place, or you’ll have to dismantle the whole thing again.

Now you’re ready to figure out the layout of your gallery wall. I measure out an area on the floor the size of the wall I want to fill, and then mess around re-arranging the frames until I’m happy. Then take a photo of the whole thing with your phone so you don’t forget the layout!

If you’re hanging a gallery wall of small, light frames, you can just use simple nails and hooks rather than more complex fastenings. Ikea have a nice kit of various types of hooks. If you’re using larger, heavier frames than you’ll need to drill a hole in the wall and use a plug. Or command strips, which I know some folk swear by. I’m old-school though and like hammering and nailing things.

To put the nail in the right place on the wall, turn the frame over so the reverse is facing up, and place the hook wherever it would go against the frame. If you’re using string or wire, this involves pulling the string upwards to where it would naturally stretch. Then take the following measurements: 1) the distance from the edge of the frame to the centre of the hook; and 2) the distance from the top of the frame to the centre of the hook’s nail hole.

Printed family photos are the kind of things that might become heirlooms on day, but occasionally you might find yourself in possession of double prints or photos that aren’t yours. Instead of getting rid of them, why not transform them into part of an art display?

Check out these 15 DIY designs that put old prints and family photos to good use in creative and even practical ways!

1. Polaroid pop up card

How to upcycle old paintings

Have you stumbled across an old print of you and your friends that made you laugh? Share it with them by turning it into a hilarious birthday card! When the little Polaroid camera pops up and they see the image, they’ll get a giggle out of it too. See how it’s done on Brit + Co.

2. Magnetic photo calendar

How to upcycle old paintings

Do you have many prints or random old photos that aren’t currently being put to good use? If you have around 30 of them then you have just about everything you need to make this awesome magnetic photo calendar! Number them with a label maker and keep cue cards or strips of card stock on hand to write notes in and slide behind the pictures. Photojojo shows you how to make it.

3. Ceramic photo tiles

How to upcycle old paintings

Brit + Co. shows you how to use old photos to make adorable, bright ceramic photo tiles. You could use these for any number of things, from simple wall decor to tiling the floor or a counter top in your kitchen!

4. Glowing house decor

How to upcycle old paintings

Fellow Fellow suggests using old photos of buildings, beautiful venues, and historical landmarks to build 3D paper models. Next, backlight them with electric tea lights or small white string lights and let the buildings glow as though people are inside!

5. Photo transferred custom pillows

How to upcycle old paintings

Photo transferred iron patches are an amazing tool for creating custom clothing, bedding, and other material! BHG shows you how to turn a picture into an iron patch to create a pillow featuring any image you like.

6. Polaroid charm necklace

How to upcycle old paintings

Do you have a tiny copy of a print or picture? It sounds like it would be perfect for creating this adorable faux Polaroid picture necklace by Dot Coms For Moms! If you have more than on mini print you could even switch out the image depending on your outfit.

7. DIY canvas portrait

How to upcycle old paintings

A Beautiful Mess reminds you that sometimes a minimalist project is the most stylish. Take a large print of an old photo and transform it into a piece of canvas wall art to make a decor piece that is simple and to the point, but with an air of nostalgia.

8. Pop art washi tape wall art

How to upcycle old paintings

Design Sponge has the perfect solution for old pictures that speak to you more for their style than their personal value. Washi tape frames stuck down in interesting geometric shapes will turn the images into wall art instead of just a regular picture display!

9. Photo lollipops

How to upcycle old paintings

Photojojo guides you through the steps for creating actual lollipops that contain a picture you like in the middle of the candy! Don’t worry, you don’t actually have to eat the paper.

10. Envelope liners

How to upcycle old paintings

Paiges of Style knows that pictures are sometimes best shared rather than just hung on a wall. If you’ve found a print that you think your friend would love to see, surprise them with it by lining the envelope of their birthday card with it so they get a wave of nostalgia when they open it and pull the card out.

11. Fabric photo pockets

How to upcycle old paintings

A Beautiful Mess shows you an awesome technique for transforming old pictures into fashion statements by making them into little pocket patches. You don’t have to put those pockets on a skirt, but it sure looks cute!

12. Glowing photo spheres

How to upcycle old paintings

BHG shows you step by step how to copy an old printed image and transfer it onto a ceramic or glass surface in order to create a glowing candle display.

13. Memory candles

How to upcycle old paintings

Do you love the idea of photo candle display but you’re set on using your actual personal photos rather than just scenery pictures? Inspired Ideas Mag shows you how to transfer an image onto the surface of a glass candle holder in a way that’s slightly transparent so that the picture glows from behind when you light the candle.

14. Photo pendant jewelry

How to upcycle old paintings

Whats even better than keeping a small cut out photo in a locket? Showing the photo off outright in the middle of a shaped pendant, of course! Love The Country shows you how to make these adorable photo pendants in all different sizes.

15. Family photo bookshelf

How to upcycle old paintings

Are you looking for a way to display large family prints in a very unique way? A Beautiful Mess suggests lining the back of a bookshelf with them! They’ll become a central piece in the space and visitors will love looking at them!

Have you created other unique displays and projects with your old family prints? Tell us about how you did it in the comments section!

So we’ve already shown you how to repurpose your old stacks of magazines, but in case none of those tickled your fancy we’ve got one more DIY for you. DIY silhouette wall art! Ta dah! This DIY Basic is super simple. In just five easy steps you can create wall art that is fun, original, and packed with color.


– hot glue sticks



1. Print and cut out a silhouetted shape. (Download some ideas here!)

2. Tear out a bunch of magazine pages. Fold in half twice to get four small rectangles.

3. Start to roll! Try to keep the magazine rolls as tight as possible. Tape the end to avoid it from unraveling.

4. Hot glue your magazine roll-ups to your silhouette. Once the silhouette is covered, trim off the extra magazine pieces. This will reveal your silhouetted shape.

5. Glue magazine silhouette to your wood board.

Time to get started! Cut out your silhouette from scrap paper. You can download our adorable bear right here.

Next you want to tear up those pages. First fold the page in half and tear down the center, then fold in half again and tear. Now you will have tons of small rectangles ready to roll.

Start at the edge and tightly roll the page into a cylinder. Secure the end with a piece of tape.

You’re going to need a lot of roll-ups 😉 Try to pick magazine pages that have fun colors!

Using the hot glue gun, glue the roll ups onto your silhouette. Don’t worry about covering the smaller sections. Once you trim off the excess roll up you will have smaller pieces that will fit into those tiny spaces quite perfectly!

Trim the excess magazine to reveal your silhouetted shape. Remember, don’t throw away those tiny pieces.

Patch up those paws!

Look at those colors! Wait, do I see one brown hand?!

Time to mount your silhouette to a board. We used a thin wood board that we found at the art store. You can use wood, cardboard, illustrator board, etc. You could even go directly on the wall.

This bear is ready to hang.

I spy San Francisco! 🙂

We couldn’t do a post about wall art without doing a geometric pattern! Try grouping the same colors together, this gives it a fun color blocking effect.

Time to retire your bike? Why not transform into a work of art or a wearable memento?

  1. Bike table The inventive item in this photo makes the best use of repurposed bike wheels. It’s a great outdoor or indoor item for any cycling enthusiast. Old rims form the base of the table, while spokes and cords form the unique pattern under the glass. Even the glass was reclaimed from old windows. How to upcycle old paintings
  2. Bike gear iPhone dockHere’s a wonderful example of how gears were repurposed into a different and unique item. The gears were cleaned and fitted with a wooden insert and docking cable. Reusing gears like this is a great way to celebrate your love for cycling, while giving your home an industrial feel. How to upcycle old paintings
  3. Candlebar This is an inventive use of the handlebar off a racing bike. It balances nicely to hold the candles while providing a sporty look. This would look unique on any cyclist’s dinner table as a centerpiece. It goes to show how versatile handlebars can be. How to upcycle old paintings
  4. Stained glass wheel spinner This project was the winner of the Flea Market Garden ‘Upcycled Spring!’ Contest a couple of years back. And with good reason. A project like this works best with vintage wheels that have a ton of spokes. The crafter got the stained glass from a local crafter and had the glass cut at a nearby glass shop. You can find the full DIY tutorial for this one here. How to upcycle old paintings
  5. Bike hornsHere’s a great example of using old bike parts in conceptual art. The mock deer heads are an inventive use to be sure. You could use this to hang anything from bikes to coats to umbrellas. It would be great in an apartment where you can’t leave your bike outside. How to upcycle old paintings
  6. Bike hanger Along the same lines, here’s just a solid bike handle hanger. The stem is attached with solid galvanized piping. The handlebars are even wrapped with inner tube to protect paint on bikes, should you hang your bike from this. It’s recommended that you hang a bike rack like this by stud mounting and with heavy anchors. How to upcycle old paintings
  7. Tire belt This is a great piece if you are vegan and want to go leather-free. Once completed, the black belt honestly just looks like a regular belt. Yet they have a unique texture that would give any outfit repurposed style. This link contains a complete tutorial for making one of your own. How to upcycle old paintings
  8. Bike stool If you want to reuse the full frame of the bike, this is your project. It’s a real conversation-starter of a piece that would look great by a home bar. This bike was just cut apart with a hacksaw and sanded with a metal file. You can find a quick tutorial here. How to upcycle old paintings
  9. Bike part wall hangingThis is a great use of old bike chains to keep to a cycling theme. The wood is also salvaged, and it was made with salvaged hardware. The wood was coated with a water-based polyurethane to bring out the grain texture. It would be a great gift for the cycler in your life. How to upcycle old paintings
  10. Bike chain keychain Celebrate your love of cycling everywhere you go. If you don’t want to go big with it, a little bit of bike chain goes a long way in an item like this heart keychain. This is a cute little item that would be a great gift. How to upcycle old paintings
  11. Bike pedal docking standThis stand makes full use of the bike pedal and chain. Again, the hardwood is even salvaged on this item. It comes with a charging cord hole, as well.

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