It's amazing how giving something just the right frame can instantly transform its look. In my art, I often add an imaginary frame - a decorative border - for that finishing touch.
But despair not if you've noticed less-than-exciting frame options in the store. You can easily create them yourself. For instance, to dress up an ordinary dime-store frame, use an all-purpose glue to attach checkers, dominoes, buttons, jigsaw puzzle pieces - anything lurking in the toy chest or junk drawer.Revitalize an old wooden frame from your neighborhood thrift store with acrylic paints. Choose your colors: soft and serene to let the framed photo or artwork stand out; brightly hued or even sponged with multiple colors to highlight the frame itself.
Pair castoff frames with family portraits painted by your child on canvas board. Add three-dimensional details - for instance, a recycled necktie for a portrait of Dad, with the tie hanging from the painting below the picture frame. Or glue real barrettes onto the portrait subject's hair and cover the frame with snippets of fabric.
Oversize, timeworn frames from the attic look absolutely elegant spray-painted with a metallic finish and garlanded in artificial flowers attached with a glue gun (remove stalks first). Change the look to suit the seasons: roses in summer, mums in autumn, holly and ivy in winter, and daffodils and tulips in spring. This is a lively way of showing off pictures of family outings year-round.
Or make your own frame inexpensively: Cut foam core to desired size using an X-acto knife; add an opening for a photo. The photo needn't be scaled to the size of the frame; in fact, it's particularly charming to choose a small photo to peek out from the "window" of the frame, perhaps a circle or triangle instead of the usual square. Using decoupage glue, cover foam core face completely with cutout magazine text, sheet music or old maps. Now overlay magazine imagery related to the photo and seal with decoupage glue. Attach photo to the back with acid-free linen tape, available at art supply stores.
If you want really easy, make a Popsicle-stick frame just by gluing the sticks together so that their edges overlap. Embellish the corners with glued-on charms. Glue fabric cut slightly smaller than frame size to the back of the sticks and attach stick-on black photo corners to the front side of the fabric. Slip photo into the tabs. What a cute way to show off the grandchildren!
Remember, too, that your frame needn't be a "picture" per se. Prop tall and short, round and square frames together and let them frame each other in a geometric collage. Staple chicken wire or mesh to the back of a frame and use it to hang your earrings. Or just string a series of twine "clotheslines" across the back of a large, open frame for displaying vintage picture postcards or a series of photos of a trip; attach with clothespins. This is a quick way to change a display without fussing with matting.
To come up with more ideas, just put yourself in a creative frame of mind.