Introduction: Creating a Custom Frame Part 1 - the Matte Board Customization

If you have a great picture that happens to be an odd shape, it can be frustrating to find one in the stores and expensive to have it custom matted and framed.  Here I am going to show you how to take any picture of any size and create a custom matte board with special etchings that relate to the photo.

Required Tools:

- The picture of your choice (any size)
-  Scrap matte board (color of your choice).  If you don't have any at home you can go to a local craft store that does custom framing and a lot of times they will sell scrap pieces for cheap.  They will most likely be on the smaller size.
- Cutting matte or board to protect the surface.
- Ruler
- Double sided tape
- Matte cutter or if you don't have that then use an exact-o knife and a ruler (you will have to cut it multiple times before it cuts all the way through).
- A t-square or an easy way to make sure your lines are straight.
- Laser cutter

This was made at TechShop Detroit and requires the Laser Cutting and Etching SBU class in order to complete.


Step 1: Trim Picture

Once you have your desired picture, trim the excess from the sides.  Be careful to leave a few inches that will eventually be attached to the bad of the matte board to hold it in place.

At this point you will also need to figure out how thick you want the matte board on all sides of the picture. For this example I am choosing to do 1 in. on the top and both sides and 2 in. on the bottom for the custom etching.

Step 2: Measure the Matte Board

With the back of the matte board facing up draw out the out line for the matte board.  By drawing your measurements on the back of the board, any mistakes that are made will not be seen.

Measure out the thickness of the matte board by using the outer edge as the starting point. You only want to measure out 2 of the 4 sides.  I did the top and the right side first.

If you matte board is way too big, then cut it down to a smaller more manageable size.

Step 3: Align Your Picture and Matte Board

Make sure to measure your picture so you know the size you are working with.  REMEMBER to leave a few inches on all sides that will be attached to the matte board so it will stay in place.

Next you want to line your picture up, remembering to over lap it a few inches and draw the remaining left side and bottom outline.

My final outline is 1 inch on the top, left and right and then 2 inches on the bottom for the custom etching.

Step 4: Find the Custom Design

We left an 2 inch piece of matte board on the bottom to create a custom etching using the laser cutter.  It can be anything you choose, either a picture, design or wording. 

The easiest way to etch on the matte board is to make sure the "object" you choose is a vector image.  You can use other types but they will take more skills and manipulation then we will do here. I would choose a few different ones to practice with because you never know if you will like the way another one turns out better.

Because my photo is a graduation photo I am going to choose a few different logo's with the school identification. 

Take a extra scrap piece of the matte board and practice on the laser cutter using the different setting till you get your desired result.

The two logos I have chosen are different colors because one will etch differently then the other because of the color. 
Make sure to save them as PDF's.  Corel draw works easiest with a PDF.

Step 5: Practice

Now, we want to practice with our designs and make sure we get it the way we want before making the final board.

Bring all of your designs into CorelDraw.

Scale them to the approximate size they will actually be. This will help to get a more realistic view of their final appearance. 

Once you have a size your happy with then place them in a position where they will take up the least amount of space and use the least amount of matte board.  

Take the skills you learned from the TechShop 'Laser Cutting and SBU' to set up the laser properly for you project .

Now practice printing you raster designs.  You may want to do this step a few times to get a clean final design.

Keep practicing until you are satisfied with the end result.

Step 6: Set-Up and Cut

First, Create the template for you actual board size.  Make sure to align the inner square properly.  Turn the squares into "hairline" lines so they will be a vector line and cut completely through. Draw a 'temporary' vertical line using the midpoints of the top and bottom lines.  We will use this as reference to make sure out design is centered as well.

Import your design and make sure to scale it if necessary to fit the allotted 2" piece on the bottom of the created matte board.  If you have more than 1 design or want to add your own custom text to add to your design then do so at this time.

Once you have your designs placed where you have them then delete the 'temporary vertical line.  We don't need it anymore.

Print both you raster and vector for the first pass.  If you raster design needed multiple passes to make the final design to your liking then DO NOT TOUCH your matte board and print just the raster lines until you are again satisfied with the end result. 

Step 7: Putting It All Together

Now that we have our finished matte board and our chosen picture, it's time to put them together.

I used double sided tape because it's not as messy and you can still move it if you don't like it's placement.

Place the double sided tape on the back side of the matte board surrounding the inner smaller square.

Place your photo face up on the table and gently place the matte board on the picture as desired.  When you are happy flip the whole thing over and make sure the picture is firmly placed.

Flip back over and enjoy!!!

Creating your own custom picture frame to complete the picture is to come......