DIY framing in Photoshop

Make your own remarkable frame

diy framing in photoshopThere are tons of free frames available on the Internet. They’re fun to use. But wouldn’t it be great to make your own frame? If you have a photo program that works with layers, it’s not that hard.

I have made the frame in the accompanying picture with a bristle brush. I love the imperfection of a handmade drawing. Of course there are ways to make it digitally though you will probably need a drawing tablet to get a similar result.

I’ll explain step by step how you can make a frame like the one shown here. And I’ll also give alternatives, so you know how you can customize it to your own liking.

I use Adobe Photoshop, but Photoshop Elements or any other program that works in layers will do. Gimp and PaintShopPro seem to give good results, although I don’t know them myself. I am an Apple user by religion 🙂

What do you need?
A picture you want to level up

red tulips
Tulip fields in april in Holland

The picture can either be a really good one, so you want it to stand out extraordinarily. Or it can be a picture that isn’t very good, but that has others reasons to be handled with extra care. For instance, it’s a picture that resembles great memories and you want to combine several of those memories into one image.

A self-made frame
Try to think in layers on forehand

painted frames
Self-made frames, paint on paper that was spanned on plywood

Although I adore my computer I am from the age of paint and stained fingers. So I make my frames with real paint or ink as in this example. But in any photo program there are tools to make similar quadrangles and spots in a digital way.

The tricky part when painting
Wet paper crinkles easily

crinkled paper
Wetted paper will not dry flat

Paper that is not supported in any way will stay bubbled after getting wet and drying. You can easily prevent this by adhering the paper on the edges. (Have a look at this painting in Museum Insel Hombroich – talk about crumbled paper!)

The easy way
Which is of course more expensive

If you can afford it, you can buy a block of quality paper. It’s quite expensive but the color and the surface are really grand. Because the sides are pressed together it doesn’t matter that the paper gets wet: it will dry flat every single time. It’s for sale in any good art supply store.

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The difficult way

And more affordable with the same or even a better result

I use water-resistant plywood to span the paper. As you can see I pull the old layers of paper tape off and use the board several times.

  1. Gather the following: plywood board, paper tape, a sheet of paper, a sponge and a bowl of water
  2. Use a sheet of good quality paper and wet it with a non-marking sponge. The paper will swell. Make sure the paper is wetted evenly
  3. Let it rest for a couple of minutes
  4. Tear the paper tape to the desired length. Wet the pieces of paper tape and let them rest for a moment too
  5. Place the paper on the plywood and rub it gently from the center to the sides
  6. Paste one long side with a strip of tape
  7. Rub the paper again on the board until it’s more or less flat and adhere the opposite side. And then the two short sides
  8. Let it dry completely, before you paint on it

spanning paper
I use water-resistant plywood to span the paper. As you can see I pull the old layers of paper tape off and use the board several times.

Good preparation is half the job

Collect the right tools for the other half of the job

tools of the artist
Usually I’ll try both ink and paint with different kind of brushes, because they will give a varied texture

Once the paper is tight and flat in front of you, draw all kind of frames on it.
The paper will swell again of course, but because of the paper tape it will dry up nicely time and again.

Sometimes I draw rectangles in the ratio of the photographs I am going to use. Sometimes I draw freeform shapes. You can do whatever is to your liking. Just make sure that the contrast between the color of the paper and the color of the ink or paint is high enough.

From old-fashioned to new media

Scanning, choosing, masking

making a frame diy
For the intro picture I chose a painted, stripy blot.

I scan all the frames I have made and choose which one to use after that. The reason to scan also the frames that are not completely right is to be able to digitally copy and paste parts of them.

Open the scan in your editing program.

magic wand in photoshop
The magic wand in Photoshop or another photo program

I am a huge fan of Adobe Photoshop, but any other photo editing program if fine too.
By varying the value of the magic wand you can select as much of the smudge as you want.

magic wand photoshop

Layers make my life so much easier

framing in photoshop

Copy the selection and paste it in a new layer on your picture.

masking in prhotoshop
I made the mask yellow so you can see what I selected

Invert the selection and activate the layer with the picture. And throw away the selected part.

frame diy photoshop
The result

I added another layer that I made yellow, well, kind of yellow. The main reason being that it supports the explanation. Generally I would make that layer white to make the spot stand out more.


My article about a selfmade card is also about layers in Photoshop.

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