How to Create Window Art Frames

Transform old windows and mirrors into original art for your home.


Matthew Moffitt thinks it's important to stand out from the crowd. That's why this talented painter decided to take his art to the next level by framing his pictures in a totally unique way. Instead of store-bought frames, he rescues old windows and mirrors and converts them into one-of-a-kind works of art. Once the subject for his painting has been decided, he begins his search at flea markets, junkyards and second-hand stores looking for windows and mirrors that have a unique shape. His beading, painting and in-lay work add just the right touch to his paintings. The best part, no two are ever alike.

Materials and Tools:

sturdy old window frame
1/2" dowel rod
measuring tape
wood saw
wood glue
wood putty
putty knife
220- and 300-grit sandpaper
needle nose pliers
rotary tool with wood grinding attachments or an electric drill with various drill bits (1/16" up to 5/8")
1" paintbrush
various paintbrushes
acrylic, enamel or oil paints
drop cloth, newspaper and old rags
assortment of embellishments:
-cabochon (flat back) rhinestones
-semi precious stones
-small round mirrors
beading wire
matte spray paint
mahogany stain
permanent marker
small eyehook screws
push pin/thumbtack
craft cement (for bonding plastic, glass and wood)
unprimed canvas
fabric scissors
black permanent marker
staple gun and staples
framing wire (50 lb. and up)
fine steel wool #0000
water-based polyurethane varnish
safety goggles and painting masks
rubber gloves
lacquer thinner
painter's blue tape
hand sander - optional


1. Look for a sturdy but attractive window frame without windowpane dividers. Avoid wood that is soft, rotten or moldy. Make sure the wood is not cracked or unsteady.

2. Spread out a drop cloth. Break and clean the old glass out of the window frame using a hammer. Wear gloves and safety goggles for protection.

3. Wearing gloves and a painting mask, wipe the entire wood surface with lacquer thinner. Clean off dirt or wax to detect the condition of the paint, wood and varnish. Remove nails, tacks or other items from the wood



4. Fill any nail, screw holes or cracks in the wood with wood putty and a putty knife. Level the putty flush with the wood's surface. Let dry according to putty directions.

5. If the window has sash cord holes in either side, cut dowel rods to fit into the sash cord hole and glue into place. When the glue has dried, seal remaining space with putty. Level the wood putty flush with the wood's surface. Let dry according to directions.



6. When the wood putty is dry, sand the whole window frame to make the surface as smooth as possible. Start with 220-grit sandpaper and then follow with 300-grit (a finer sandpaper, for a smoother finish). Wrap sandpaper around a wooden block and sand by hand, or use a hand sander.

7. When the frame is sanded and smooth, prime the window with gesso using a 1-inch brush. Brush the gesso on with the grain of the wood, paying extra attention to the corners and the sides of the window frame. Let the gesso dry for at least five hours.

8. When the gesso has dried, lightly sand the gesso to remove any brushstrokes.

9. Wearing goggles and a spray-painting mask, place the window frame on a drop cloth and spray paint the frame. (Matte spray paint is more forgiving than gloss spray paint.) Hold spray can 12 inches away from the frame and spray in even strokes, until all sides are covered. Let dry according to directions. When one side is dry, turn over and spray the opposite side. Let dry according to directions.



10. Mix equal parts of turpentine and mahogany stain and apply the wash over the base color using a small paintbrush. Create a wood grain texture with your brush strokes.

11. While the frame is drying, sketch a design, motif or inspiration for the frame. Be as creative as desired. Determine rhinestone, natural stone or cachebon placement in advance. Consider wiring strands of beads to embellish the edges of the frame. Include brushstrokes of paint colors to accentuate inlayed stones.

12. When the spray paint is dry, lightly pencil in the design on the frame in a corresponding colored marker.



13. Inlay the frame with the semi-precious stones, rhinestones or other flat objects that can be cemented into the wood. Trace around the selected stone with the colored marker, referring to the sketch for placement.

14. Drill out the area where the stone is to be place. If using a drill bit, try to use round stones that are the same circumference as the hole you are drilling. Make the hole 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch deep depending on the height of the stone. If the stone is not backed with reflective paint or a mirror, paint the inside of the drilled area with white paint for a visual effect. Allow paint to dry before cementing the stone. Cement the stone into the drilled area, wiping away excess cement. Mirrors can be added in the same way, but remember the areas drilled are shallow.



15. When stones are in place, paint in decorative scenes and brushstrokes. Flowers, vines, swirls, spirals and leaves are useful accents that highlight the inlaid stones and the painting. Let the frame dry overnight.

16. Wearing gloves and a painting mask, lightly brush on a layer of water-based polyurethane varnish to protect the frame. Let dry according to instructions. Note: If the finish is too glossy, use #0000 steel wool to dull the varnished finish.

17. When the frame is dry, lay the frame on a large piece of canvas and trace around the outside of the frame with a black permanent marker. Move frame and cut 1/2 inch inside the black marker line. Place cut canvas on the back of the frame and staple in place with the staple gun. Staple canvas 1/2 inch away from the frame's opening. Cut away any excess.



18. Turn the frame to the front; lay it on the drop cloth and carefully gesso the canvas, paying close attention to the inner frame. Let dry. If any gesso gets on the frame, wipe off with a wet rag. Turn the frame onto the back and gesso around the staples for added strength.

19. When the frame is dry, place two small eyehooks on the back of the frame. Start a hole with a push pin (or thumbtack) for the small eyehook to twist into and string with 50 lb. framing wire to hang the new painting.



20. Paint a portrait in the new frame. Mask off the inner frame with blue painter's tape to protect the frame's edges while painting.

21. When the painting is done, add any final embellishments to the frame, like wiring strands of beads or bead garland around the edges using beading wire threaded through small eyehooks. To paint extra ornamentation on the frame, lightly sand the varnished area with 300-grit sandpaper and paint. Re-varnish the wood frame when finished. Hang on a wall to display.

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