Introduction: Industrial Picture Frame

Picture of Industrial Picture Frame

This is an easy and cheap industrialish picture/poster frame I came up with a while back - it uses 1/8" thick 3/4" wide flat aluminum stock and some little alligator spring clamps; all of which you can pick up at Home Depot and the like. I've used this on larger (20"x30") pictures but here I'm showing some smaller prints, whatever the size the method is the same.

Step 1: Parts

  • 4’ of 1/8” thick 3/4” wide flat aluminum stock | Home Depot, etc.
  • Alligator spring clamps | Home Depot, etc.
  • Parts cost - ~$13.00 | enough to do 3 8”x10” pictures
Note: the picture that is being framed is a slightly modified version of this iStock vector illustration.

Step 2: Cut to Size

Picture of Cut to Size

Cut the aluminum to size - they need to be as long (or wide, depending on orientation) as your picture. These pieces will be placed on the top and bottom of the picture, so measure accordingly. I used a miter box and a hack saw for the cutting:

Step 3: File

Picture of File

After cutting the aluminum to length it's a good idea to file the ends, to get rid of any burs:

Step 4: Clean

Picture of Clean

Clean the aluminum - I used a special aluminum cleaning chamber but you could get by with a bathroom sink, soap and water:

Step 5: Foam Core

Picture of Foam Core
To add some rigidity (so it does not slouch) to the hanging picture, we'll use foam core board:

  • Measure and cut the foam core so it's the same size (maybe slightly smaller) than your photo.

Step 6: Prep the Clamps

Picture of Prep the Clamps

Next, we prepare the clamps. The ones I got from Home Depot have a neon green plastic cover that I removed:

Step 7: Bring It All Together

Picture of Bring It All Together

The only thing left is to do is clamp the aluminum, picture and form core board together.

Note: I've found on larger pictures I've had to glue the picture to the foam board using spray adhesive for best results.


paqrat (author)2014-08-05

Very cool and very good instructable. Might I suggest instead of the clips you use to use Binder clips. I used some large ones to hold up a small oriental rug so I could hang it on my door. The binder clips have the advantage of your being able to remove the shiny handles so that only the blackened clip part remains. If you don't want to remove the handles you can just fold them in towards the artwork.

marydecorator (author)2014-03-27

Woah! I believe my husband would love these in his office. Do you make & sell these?

Natasha Dee (author)2010-11-16

Silly question: How do you hang it from the wall?

DIY Dave (author)Natasha Dee2010-12-10

See step 6 picture 4. He hangs the pictures on nails using the holes in the clip.

Ben The Builder (author)2010-03-26

 I like the clips but I think you should try something with some sort of screw system, big bolts or something kind of gaudy like that to look even more industrial, also If you would happen to have a digital copy of the art that's on those sheets I would like it, very cool

mada (author)Ben The Builder2010-03-28

That's a good idea.

I bough the image from iStock and I though I have a copy of it I can't distribute it in the manner your asking me to. You can grab a copy for yourself from iStock for cheap.

Hiroak (author)2009-12-06

Great instructable and it was much cheaper than a poster frame.

mada (author)Hiroak2010-03-28

Look sweet. Thanks for sharing.

and-reas (author)2009-10-28

That looks really great :D 

lcwmoore (author)2009-07-29

I've been looking all over for quick and easy, cool frame ideas, because I can't afford custom framing right now-- why didn't I come to Instructables first? Mada, this is fantastic. I can't wait to try. I kind of want to keep the rubber on the alligator clips-- the green color is fun. THANKS!

lcwmoore (author)lcwmoore2009-08-06

Update: I did this with a bigger picture (24"x30"). I left the small green plastic piece on the alligator clamps for grip, and left off the aluminum stock. I cut down a plexiglass piece to cover the art and protect it. I think it looks great! Thanks again for the idea.

Houdinipeter (author)2009-06-19

Did you just use nails threw the top clamps to hang them?

mada (author)Houdinipeter2009-06-19


artist without a medium (author)2009-04-30

I have some cool black and white photos of Violent Femmes band pictures I wanted to frame. Do you think clamps will hold weight of glass?...What about using recycled clips from old multiple pants hangers?

I'm sure they will... You;d probably have to put some rubber grips on the side of the clip that touched the glass. Any clip that can hold the weight should do.

oakironworker (author)2008-05-15

looks great its cool nice work

mada (author)oakironworker2008-05-16


terryperry (author)2008-03-21

Well it was too obvious. So much so that I thought, 'Nah, that would be too obvious...' Seriously. We should find a way to securely mount it so that the nail on the wall would be completely inconspicuous and would make the alligator clips seem like they were totally there for 'the art' and the aesthetics moreso than 'the function'. thank you.

mada (author)terryperry2008-03-21

well.. the clamps/clips are there for the "the art" and aesthetics... otherwise I would have glued (or something) the aluminum to the frame.

If you look at the pic you can see that you can't see the nail at all. Unless the picture was hung closer to the ground no one would see the nail.

terryperry (author)2008-03-21

how did you mount these frames onto a wall? It should have been included in your step

mada (author)terryperry2008-03-21

Thought it might have been obvious... Step 6 picture 4 - the note on the picture says that the clips have a hole for mounting. So a small nail was pushed though the hole and then the whole thing was nailed to the wall.

alienpriest (author)2008-03-09

That's awesome looking! Some cautionary notes from a professional picture framer, though: There's no mention of glazing (glass or plexi) to protect the surface of the art, I would include some. Aluminum strips could scratch the art where it touches it. The sides of the art look exposed, and could receive some damage even if covered by glazing on the front. Also, paper changes size slightly over time, and securing it on the top and bottom like this can result in eventual bowing and sagging of your art. Other than that, though, this is a neat looking clip frame. I would just not trust anything valuable to be held in it.

crypticgeek (author)alienpriest2008-03-21

If UV wasn't a concern, a durable lamination would do the trick. Would actually be perfect for my bedroom (I keep it dark most of the time _).

But like you say, framing both preserves the artwork and gives it a bit of a sense of presence and value.

mada (author)alienpriest2008-03-09

I agree (see reply to RetroTechno below), that this is not for priceless or one-of-a-kind artwork or pictures. This "framing" method leaves the picture completely exposed, RetroTechno mentioned putting a piece of plexi on the front which would offer some protection for the picture but this is still not a frame for priceless art. The prints shown (and the others I've framed like this) are digital images that can easily be reproduced. The size show cost about $1.00 to get from Costco so it's not even work spending $100.00 on a frame for them. Unless it's a priceless one-of-a-kind picture, ect. regular frames are WAY overpriced. I went into a frame shop looking for a frame for a 20x30 poster; the guy wanted over $100.00 to frame a picture that cost me $10.00 to print.

alienpriest (author)mada2008-03-10

Yes, custom framing is expensive. Since I opened my own shop, I discovered that's because the materials are expensive to shop owners. $100 is really not a bad price for custom.

You may have only spent $10 to print the piece, but putting a frame on it can make it look like it is worth $100. The value of art goes far beyond the mere cost of materials. Preservation is important: you can easily print more copies, but who will print more when you're gone?

mada (author)alienpriest2008-03-10

In this case the value of the print does not go beyond the cost of the print. I'm not particularly worried about who will print more when I'm gone, being dead and all I'm not thinking that it's something I'll be concerned with.

You could maybe justify a $100.00 frame if you said it was the labor of making the frame but I can guarantee you that there is not $100.00 or even $50.00 worth of materials in that frame. Frames are one of those products that are grossly overpriced.

I would sooner cut my heart out with a spoon ('cause it's dull and would hurt more) than spend $100.00 to frame a $10.00 print. Unless that print is a one-off, priceless, irreplaceable, etc. then there is no justifying it.

alienpriest (author)mada2008-03-10

Fair enough. You frame accordingly to the value of the pieces has to you, that is appropriate in any setting. Let me break down the cost for a full understanding of what would be paid for at a shop. Your local custom framer is probably getting $30 out of that $100 in labor (fit, mount, etc.) the other $70 is materials cost on an invoice. Of that $70, a fraction of that is markup: which is necessary to pay rent, utilities, and other fixed costs of running a shop. This is fair, because these materials would be unavailable to you without the existence of the shop (and especially unavailable to non-resourceful, non-handy people, who are unlike you and me). The materials are expensive to the custom framer precisely because of the labor (and other costs) involved that transforms them from the lumber they originated as. So, yes, essentially what you pay for at a shop is labor. The labor of the manufacturer, passed on to the wholeseller, passed on to the frame shop owner, and passed on to the end user, and everyone takes a cut to feed themselves along the way. The only way to cut out all those middle people is to.. well buy the wood, have the tools, be a creative person, and do it yourself ;)

mada (author)alienpriest2008-03-10

"Fair enough. You frame accordingly to the value of the pieces has to you, that is appropriate in any setting." Exactly what I was trying to say - you said it better.

David Scrimshaw (author)2008-03-13

Perhaps binder clips could substitute for the clamps...

bbqpope (author)David Scrimshaw2008-03-15

Yeah, but no..... binder clips are already associated with art. I have seen too many shows hung with them. I think the clips he uses are cool because they are not art related.

mada (author)David Scrimshaw2008-03-14

Sure would - I actually tried that at first but liked the looks of the clamps better.

Big Bwana (author)2008-03-09

on the cleaning part soap and water works but a little vinager works better aluminum .. but thats a kick ass frame

mada (author)Big Bwana2008-03-10

Interesting - I'll have to keep that in mind for next time. Thanks!

RetroTechno (author)2008-03-08

Very nice job, but I have one concern. If you use the temporary approach without the spray adhesive, do you have to worry about the metal discoloring the artwork over time? It might be wise to add a sheet of Plexiglas or glass to the front side of the art to protect it.

mada (author)RetroTechno2008-03-08

Thank you. I have some larger pictures (20"x30") I've used this on and they have been hanging for about 2 years now. I just took a look and I cannot see any discoloring on the picture from the metal. It might be wise to note that this is probably not a method you'd want to use for a priceless piece of art work, or a one-of-a-kind photo. The pictures I've used this on are all digital and can be reproduced very easily; just upload the photo to the Costco photo center and order a new print. It's not that this framing method would ruin a photo ought right, it's just that if it's valuable or not replaceable you'd want to protect it.

sickdog74 (author)2008-03-06


mada (author)sickdog742008-03-07

Thank you

Scammah (author)2008-03-06

So maybe I missed this but do you nail the clips in on the top and the bottom or do you let the bottom ones just hang

mada (author)Scammah2008-03-06

Sorry for not mentioning that - it's just one nail in the top center clip.

orksecurity (author)2008-03-06

Simple and effective. Nicely done!

mada (author)orksecurity2008-03-06

Thank you.

LinuxH4x0r (author)2008-03-06

Cool! I was going to do this, but never got around to it.

mada (author)LinuxH4x0r2008-03-06

Thanks. You know what they say about great minds.

LinuxH4x0r (author)mada2008-03-06

I had this really neat broken lcd screen that had awesome fractal like shapes on it that I wanted to frame. Can't wait till I get a chance to make this.

mada (author)LinuxH4x0r2008-03-06

Cool! I'd love to see it when your done.

Brennn10 (author)2008-03-06

Nice work mada! These look awesome!

mada (author)Brennn102008-03-06


GorillazMiko (author)2008-03-06

Woah that's awesome! What are those pictures in the middle, I must ask? They look very nice. Great job. +1 rating. (added to favorites)

mada (author)GorillazMiko2008-03-06

If your refering to the picture I'm hanging - it's a slightly modified version of this iStock vector illustration.

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