Last fall I found this incredible bird book at one of my favorite flea markets.




There is page after page of gorgeous bird illustrations, each of which would make a fantastic wall print.  From what I can remember, I think I only paid $6 for the book–not too bad for over 100 pages of artwork!

I’ve been wanting to frame one of the pages to make some art for my home, but didn’t want to pay an arm and a leg to have it custom framed.  Have you ever had anything custom framed? I am sure there is a good reason why it costs so much, but I’m really too frugal (or you can say *cheap*) to pay a crazy amount to frame a picture that cost me about 1 cent.

So what’s a girl to do? Well, I decided to work with what I had and make my own custom frame job for one of these beautiful bird prints.

I checked online for some inspiration, and found this set of prints from Ballard Designs.



Gorgeous, aren’t they?  I really like the layered, metallic colors on the frames and also that the illustrations are similar to a book page print.  But, these cost $179 to $279 each–yikes!! I was pretty sure with a little paint and craft paper I could duplicate this look for much, much less.

The first step was to find a frame that I could paint. It would be even better if I could find a frame with a matte and glass already included.




Voila!  A little digging around my local thrift store’s bargain basement, and here is what I found, for only 25 cents!  Really, picture frames and art is often in abundance at thrift stores.  And the uglier it is, the cheaper it is!

Don’t judge a book by the cover though–I promise we can turn this not-so-pretty artwork into something fantastic!






Voila!  A little digging around my local thrift store’s bargain basement, and here is what I found, for only 25 cents!  Really, picture frames and art is often in abundance at thrift stores.  And the uglier it is, the cheaper it is!  Don’t judge a book by the cover though–I promise we can turn this not-so-pretty artwork into something fantastic!


print 2


I disassembled the frame and was glad to see that all the parts were sturdy and in great shape.  Really, this was a steal for 25 cents!  I gave the frame and glass a good cleaning, then wiped off the matte well.

My plan was to re-use all of these parts, so I made sure to keep all of the screws together and take care of the glass and backing while I was working on my project.

The next step was to pick out which bird picture I wanted.  Once I found the specific page I wanted to use, I took apart that section of the book very carefully.


book pages


Books are bound in sections, so when taking apart a book you want to remove the pages section by section. Most often (in newer books), each section is sewn onto the binding, so all you need to do is find the center of the section and carefully snip the threads.


book pages 2


Then you can pull the pages off without damaging the edges. I wasn’t sure if I was going to trim the page or use it full size, so it was important to try and get my page out without damaging any of the edges.

With my frame disassembled and my print out and ready, it was time to start painting.  To copy the Ballard print, I painted over the pink and blue matte with a creamy white, using Fusion Champlain. This was SO easy!  I just painted right over the matte with my regular brush and I had an instant update.


matte 1


Turned out my bird page was a little smaller than the matte so I needed some way to help cover up the original angel print (which I just kept in the matte). I cut strips of craft paper and glued them down to the angel picture, and then glued down my bird print on top.


matte 2


The craft paper winds up looking almost like another matte beside the print, and adds a little more visual interest.  I made sure to measure and cut with a straight edge ruler, to try and get the craft paper as straight as possible.

Next job was to paint the frame.  Turns out this frame was actually plastic, which doesn’t typically paint well.  A base coat of Fusion Ultra Grip took care of the problem though–Ultra Grip will help your paint stick to even the trickiest surfaces.


frame 1


The Ballard inspiration frame has layers of different colors and metallic accents, so I painted several different colors on different parts of the frame.  I painted the outside and inside rim brown, then white on the inset, then layered several different Fusion Metallics over the brown and white sections to add depth and shine.

It was a process of playing around until I got the look I wanted–with projects like this, don’t give up if it looks yucky at the start!  Just keep working with it and layering colors until it works.

So with the frame  and matte painted and my new bird print inside, here it is:


Ballard Designs Hack 2


I am so glad to finally have one of these beautiful pictures framed to enjoy in my home!  And it cost me pennies.


bird print 2


Layering the Fusion brown, white, gold, and silver paint gave me a whole new frame.  No more plastic, blue frame with pink angels!


bird print 1


Painting the matte to make it a neutral white was such an easy fix too.  In fact now that I know that will work, I am about to go on a matte-painting spree throughout my house!




And it doesn’t look exactly like the Ballard inspiration print, but it has and has the same look.


Ballard Designs Hack 4


And remember the $179 cost of the Ballard Print?  Here is the cost breakdown of mine picture:

  • Thrift store frame– $.25
  • Bird book– $6 (but I only used one page, this book can make a lot more pieces of art!)
  • Paint– $30
  • Craft paper– $1

A note on the paint cost– Yes, I am a Fusion Retailer so I have lots of paint lying around to use for little cost.

I used 4 different paint colors for this frame, and buying the brown and white testers and 2 metallic paints would cost right around $30.

But, especially with the silver and gold metallic paint, I have been using the same little bottles for almost a year now and for several different projects.  So there may be an initial investment in buying the paint you need to get this look, but you will have lots of paint leftover that you can use for lots of other things.

When you divide up the percentage of the bird book and paint that I used just on this project, I think you get about $2 worth of product.  So with that considered, this was a $3.25 project. Not too shabby 🙂


Ballard Designs Hack 1


If you like these bird prints, I have great news for you!!  You can get a copy of this book on Amazon for almost nothing, just click here

 to see the listings.

So why pay a fortune for custom framing or boutique store art?  I say make your own 🙂


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