Painted Glass Photo Mat




Introduction: Painted Glass Photo Mat

Create a great looking Photo Mat, without cutting Mat Board, or requiring any special tools.

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Step 1: Materials Needed

Here's the list of materials needed for this Instructable:

- A Photo to Frame (any size you wish)
- Picture Frame (with glass, precut photo mat not required)
--- NOTE: The picture frame MUST be at least 2-3 inches larger in all directions than the photo you are planning to put into this frame. The extra area will provide the space for you to paint, while still allowing your photo to be fully viewed.
- Acrylic Paint (buy individual paint tubes, or a set of many colors)
- Paint Brushes for Acrylic Paints (in whatever sizes/design you prefer)
- Poster board (or large piece of cardboard)

Misc items from around the house:

- Ruler
- Pen/Pencil
- Double-sided tape
- Scissors

Step 2: Creating the Template.

We will create a template, which will be drawn on poster board below our glass. This will allow you to have guidelines when painting... without having to draw on the glass, or guess where the edges of your photo will be.

The first thing we need to do is remove the glass from the frame. Once removed, place flat on your poster board.

NOTE: all green-shaded regions in the images are present to "highlight" the area that is being referred to in the corresponding notes.

Image #1: Just a summary image, showing all the lines drawn in the following steps.

Image #2: Place the glass onto the poster board and draw the 4 corners by simply following the edge with your pencil. all you need is the corners, so that you can easily line it again if you move the glass around.

Now that you have the external dimensions of the glass on your poster board, you can decide where the image will be in your frame. You can center it in the frame, or shift it off to one side, or place multiple images.. .whatever you wish.

For example purposes, here's how you'd place it in the center of the frame.

Measure the width and height of the glass. For this example, we'll say it's 14 inches high by 16 inches wide.
Now measure the dimensions of your photo. (Don't take it for granted that it's 8x10 or some standard size. Most photo centers usually end up cutting it slightly smaller than what it should be). For this example, the image is exactly 8 inches by 10 inches.

So, we now need to calculate how much border should be on all four sides.

Take the length of the glass, minus the length of the photo. eg: 16 in. - 10 in. = 6 inches.
This value is how much white space we have on the left and right sides of the image.
Divide this by 2 and you get the size of each end (3 inches).

Repeat this for the heighth of the image. eg: 14 in - 8 in. = 6 inches, divided by 2 = 3 inches, top and bottom.

So, for this example we'll have 3 inches all the way around the image.

Image #3: NOTE: the frame that I bought ended up having an extra inch of glass that is NOT viewable from the front of the frame. This means that I need to mark this area off, and just not worry about it, since it won't be visible in my final project anyways.

... Make sure and remove the glass from your poster board before continuing...

Image #4: For your frame, this area will actually be the same size as your glass. it is from this that we need to measure the 3 inches, to create an inner-box that should be the size of our photo.
Each red-dot represents a point that has been measured to be 3 inches from the corners.
Mark each of these on your poster board, then simply place a ruler that touches each dot, and draw a line between them.

Image #5: You will end up with a box that is the same size as the photo that you're placing in this frame.

Image #6: And finally, this image shows the area that will be painted, so that you create your border around the image, but also leave the center clear for the photo to be seen through.

Step 3: Now the Creative Part

Now that the template is complete, you may place the glass back on the poster board and begin the actual painting.

Things to remember:
- Clean the glass first. I've just used glass cleaner to get all finger-prints and dirt off of the glass.
- You are painting in reverse. The top-most layer of color needs to be the first layer you paint onto the glass. You will then continue with the next layer behind, and continuing until your bottom layer.
- Acrylic paints are pretty translucent when applied to glass. So, just remember that if you want some color, with a dark background, that you will have to apply many layers of the color, so that the black does not over power your colors.
- Be VERY careful when handling the glass. Acrylic and glass are not the best two surfaces to be bonded together, but as long as you are careful with it, the paint will stay nicely adhered to the glass surface.

The first image below shows how I applied the black cross-hatches first, and then allowed them to dry (30 minutes). Once dry, I then applied a layer of yellow on the outside of the crosshatches, which will be the portion that touches the edge of the frame. (I also ended up applying 2 coats of the yellow paint, so that it's a little more opaque and not washed out).

The second image shows how i applied the base coat. I used a lot of the White Acrylic to paint the entire area that is the "Area to be painted". make sure and actually cross over into the center area by about 1/4" or 1/2". This will ensure that the edge of the photo is not visible. I also applied 2 coats of the white for extra thickness.

Step 4: Front Side View of Painted Glass

And after allowing everything to dry very well, here's the completed Painted Glass Photo Mat, ready for framing.

The glass is laying on a piece of white paper, so, don't think that I painted the whole thing white.
I just used the white paper to protect the acrylic from the carpet below.

Step 5: Frame It Up!

The only step remaining is to frame everything up.

I used double-sided tape (the thin kind, not the thick stuff), to securely adhere my photo to a piece of cardboard that was cut to the same size as the glass. By adhering the photo to a support behind it, the photo will stay in place and never fall down into the frame while hanging on a wall.

Also perform one last cleaning of the front and back of the glass. Take care not to touch the acrylic.. only clean the clear glass areas.

OH, and make sure and set the glass into the frame, so that the paint is on the INSIDE, so that your design shows through to the front.

Now you see the dark-brown wood border that came with my frame, which shows why i needed to leave 1 inch of space that did not need to be painted.

Step 6: Final Thoughts....

This technique is made to be a permanent housing for the photo that you choose. I'm not sure I would ever attempt to remove the photo or disassemble the frame for any reason. I just wouldn't trust the acrylic to stay in place.. it might just peel off with the surface that it is touching.

But, as long as you leave it the way it is, the image and paint should remain as they are for years to come.

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    6 Discussions


    3 years ago

    I'm an artist and a frame shop owner - I've been using a similar technique for years and produced some really cool artwork as a result. You are exactly right about the acrylic paint not staying put. One of the solutions for this that has also given me the ability to add more depth is... plastic wrap. If you apply it carefully it prevents that acrylic from any accidental sticking to the photo and won't really show through. Mylar sheets are another great choice for putting a protective barrier between the paint and the photo so that you can do picture swap-outs in the future.

    Just a quick extra note for those of you who really want to get original... if your frame is deep enough, you can layer several sheets of glass, each with its own painted image. Doing so gives you the same effect as an animation cel, but with glass. There are just so many things you can do with this method to enhance the depth and dimension! You can also use paint pens, paint markers, and sharpie oil-based pens to draw, color, or add details.

    Great instructable! Thanks for sharing


    10 years ago on Step 5

     really like the idea!.. 


    11 years ago on Introduction

    If you follow this posters steps and substitute acrylic enamel paint (folkart sells a good one) then the results will be permanent without the risk of peeling or fading. The folkart acrylic enamels can also be heat cured in your oven for extra strength. Just a thought:)


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I like this; it's a good effect and simple. If I get around to printing out some of my photos I'll try this. At the moment they are all just sitting on my hardrive.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    This is a very nice and easy project...I love the simplicity and also the ideas and ways to display art. Thank you.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    This might be a great way to have an inexpensive (& fun for me!!) Christmas gift for one or two people! Thanks for the great ideas!