Framing Tutorial: 5 Ways to Make a Big Impact with Tiny Paintings

Tiny original paintings are the perfect, affordable way to collect beautiful artwork to fill your walls. It can be tempting to think your postcard-sized paintings are destined to become puny desktop jewelry at best, but I'm going to show you five ways to make small artwork shine with affordable framing solutions you can (mostly) do yourself. 

1. Art History Method

Io Moth painting in ornate gold frame by Aimee Schreiber

Anyone else love the obscenely ornate gold frames in art museums as much as I do? Sometimes they are the best part of the visit and the more ornate, the better in my opinion. Local framing stores often have small moulding remnants at a discount, so ask them to make you a custom frame to fit your painting using the thickest, most intricate molding you can find or check your antique stores and relatives' attics for pre-made antique frames. If you happen to find an amazing frame with a larger opening than your painting, you can always get a mat custom-cut to fit. Since my paintings on paper are acrylic and varnished, you can even frame them without glass if you plan to hang it in a moisture-free room. 

2. Reversed Mat Method

Green Butterfly Gold Frame

Any frame style you like can work with this slightly more subdued but still beautiful method- the trick is using a slightly larger frame opening and layering the painting on top of the mat to add dimension with multiple borders. If you make the opening larger than the painting (get a 5x7 inch frame for a 4x6 inch painting), the painting will look much larger and the edge will be exposed, which is especially beautiful for papers with deckled edges. For extra oomph, place paper or mat in a contrasting color behind it and place some thick adhesive squares behind the painting to create depth. I love the curved lines of this golden garage sale find (it just so happened to have the perfect green mat already inside!), but you can experiment with all sorts of mat colors and frame styles. If you have any paint on hand, you can even refinish the frames you find to suit your décor.

3. Pressed Glass Method

Pressed Glass Hanging Gold Frames

Pressed glass frames create a vintage vibe I’m in love with, especially since it leaves the poems on the backs of these paintings visible. Going for either a sculptural free-standing or hanging frame in a larger size than the painting leaves a nice border around the paper while keeping things understated and elegant. You can even layer pressed flowers, leaves, or feathers in the extra space around the paper for a Victorian herbarium look.


4. Fitted Wide Mat Method

Monarch Painting Brass Frame

Building empty space around the painting using a solid mat or two is a great way to elevate artwork and draw your eyes to the center. Find an existing larger frame with a 4x6 mat or layer two mats together for a slight twist on this traditional framing method. I had an 11x14 inch frame that came with an 8x10 inch mat opening and another mat with a 4x6 inch opening so I layered them together on top of this monarch painting. You can find standard sized mats precut in most craft or framing shops or can easily and cheaply have the framers cut a custom mat for you. The painting will sit under the mat in the traditional way.

5. Extra-Wide Floating Mat Method

Extra Wide Mat Framed Tiny Painting

If you have some serious wall space to fill, this is my favorite method for letting tiny artwork shine in a big way. Take any 16x20 frame (or even larger if you want to get really crazy!) and have a frame shop cut a 16x20 mat in a complimentary color with a 5x7 opening. It’s hard to go wrong with white or black, but if you want some color, they have mats in all sorts of shades. Place another mat with a larger opening underneath that one to raise it and create an extra dark shadow. Now, take a piece of paper larger than the 5x7 opening and use some tape and cardboard or thick foam adhesive squares to adhere the painting onto the paper to create depth so it also has a dark shadow. The expanse of solid color or white looks ultra-modern with a skinny, metallic frame but any frame you love can be used. Here’s a summary of the layers needed from the back to the front:


frame backing
blank paper that matches the mat
mat with large opening
mat with 5x7 opening
thick adhesive squares or cardboard

 Gallery Wall

Tiny Painting Gallery Wall

To re-create this gallery wall, you'll need one 16x20 inch frame, two 11x14 inch frames, and two 5x7 inch frames. Simply center a vertical 16x20 inch frame on a wall at eye level, and add a horizontal 5x7 inch frame to each side, one aligned to the top and one aligned to the bottom. Then, add an 11x14 inch horizontal frame (an 8x10 will work too- just add more space between the frames) to each side in the remaining space, and it's done! Depending on the width of your frames, you may want to play around with spacing between them. Lay it all out on a floor or bed before you start hammering so you can adjust the frames and get an idea of how much spacing you'll need. I usually just eyeball things (which is probably why I have so many holes in my walls :) but for the perfectionists out there, you can measure and mark things once you have it laid out on the floor.

Feel free to experiment with different shapes, colors, and frame finishes— no need for it to be symmetrical! I'll do a gallery wall tutorial showing different configurations in the future, but this should get your wheels turning 

Thanks for joining me on this DIY framing adventure—I hope it was helpful and that your walls will soon be brimming with tiny original paintings! To start off or add to your collection, check out what poetry postcard paintings I have available here or use hashtags to search Instagram for tiny original paintings from amazing artists across the globe. 

Happy Framing!