How to Make a Custom Picture Frame (for a Star Wars Picture)

Introduction: How to Make a Custom Picture Frame (for a Star Wars Picture)

It's easy to make a customer picture frame bezel using matboard (that thick picture framing bezel board) and a laser cutter.  This will create a much presentable souvenir for your Star Wars (or other themed) photo opportunity.

I made it at TechShop. So, I had access to laser cutters and other cool tools.

See my video for the steps in action.

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Step 1: Materials

You'll need the following materials and tools to get started:

* Picture: I got a souvenir picture from the DisneyWorld ‘Star Tours’ (Star Wars) ride.  It was about 8x9 inches.
* Frame: Measure your picture and get a frame that allows for 1-½ to 2 inches of bezel around your visible photo. This will allow room for the design. (Tip: hobby/craft stores always have sales and coupons!)
* Matboard: Thick paper/cardstock used in picture framing.  Get the same size or larger as your picture frame.  Also, found at the big hobby/craft stores (e.g., Michael's, Hobby Lobby).
* Laser cutter
* Computer with Vector Drawing/Design Software (e.g., Corel Draw or Adobe Illustrator)
* Themed vector artwork - in my case I’m using Star Wars and DinseyWorld artwork

Step 2: Create Your Design

Layout your design in Corel Draw or Adobe Illustrator.

Key tips:
* Create new document with dimensions of your frame (not the picture). For example, I used a 12x12 inches frame, so I set up the document to be 12x12 inches.
* Copy your photo in actual size to the document.  (Mine was printed by Disney, so I scanned it in for layout purposes.)  This helped layout the designs and let me preview how everything worked together.
* Copy in and lay out artwork.  (Tip: search web for free-to-use vector artwork.)
  - This artwork will be etched into the matboard bezel, so you will likely make this black (or the color that tells the laser printer to etch vs. cut).
* Create cut line.  This is the inner line that will reveal your picture within the bezel.  Note: I had to shape it around my artwork that intentionally overlapped into the picture.  If your matboard is larger than your frame, also create an outer cut line.
  - should be a vector line/path.  Corel Draw and Adobe Illustrator automatically draw vector shapes.
  - depending on your laser cutter's instructions, the stroke line will likely need to thin ("hairline" or "0.25 inches") and red (R=255, G=0, B=0)

Step 3: Make Your Customer Bezel

Following your laser cutter's directions, you’re ready to etch and cut your custom bezel out of matboard.  You may need to use trial-and-error to get the power settings optimized for your laser cutter.

I used a Trotec laser cutter with the following settings for matboard:

Cut (red):
PWR= 68

Etch (black):
PWR= 50

I recommend doing some test runs of a small vector image until you like your laser settings. I often tweak the settings slightly each time depending on the exact matboard.  (You can test a piece you plan to use by etching in the center that you’ll discard anyway.)

Step 4: Assemble

Put together your picture, bezel, and frame.  As seen in video, I tape my picture to the matboard bezel and then put in the frame.

Hang it up and enjoy!

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