How to Make Acrylic Picture Frames


Most picture frames are a combination of wood and glass. Often the frames themselves take away from the image held within them. Glass is also fragile and can break when the frame is knocked over or falls from the wall. You could go to professional framers and have them create a "floating frame" (a frame without a noticeable border), but this is often expensive. With a few simple tools and inexpensive materials you can create an acrylic picture frame.

Things You'll Need

  • Heavy-duty utility knife
  • Metal straightedge
  • Measuring tape
  • Grease pencil
  • Clear sheet acrylic
  • Foam-Core or foamed PVC
  • Swiss clips
  • Double-sided tape
  • Measure the piece of art work you wish to frame. Decide whether or not you want a border around the object. If you decide you want a border, add the width of the border to your measurements. An 8- by 10-inch picture with a 1-inch border on all sides requires a 10- by 12-inch frame.

  • Take your measurements to a hardware store that sells sheet acrylic or order it online from a plastic retailer such as TAP Plastics. One-eighth of an inch is the standard thickness for frames up to 24 by 36 inches. Have them cut the acrylic to size. Purchase a piece of Foam-Core and a set of Swiss clips from an art supply/framing store. Foam-Core is a combination of Styrofoam and cardboard used for mounting art work. Swiss clips are a nearly invisible clip system used for this type of framing. Use your knife and straightedge to cut the Foam-Core down to the size of the acrylic.

  • Mark the location on the Foam-Core where you want the art work or photograph to go, with a grease pencil. Mount the art work or photograph on to the Foam-Core, using the double-sided tape to hold it in place. Make sure to position the item exactly where you want it since the double-sided tape will bond it to the backing material, making it difficult to remove.

  • Remove the paper or plastic backing from the acrylic and place the clear sheet on the art work or photograph. Avoid getting finger prints on the underside of the acrylic, since you won't be able to access it easily once the pieces are sandwiched together.

  • Open up the package of Swiss clips and apply them to the frame. The thin finger of each clip fits onto the surface of the acrylic, while the sharp tab goes into the backing material. It's easy to tell the difference: The part of the clip that touches the acrylic looks like an thin "L." Each package of clips comes with illustrated instructions if you get stuck. Apply the hanger that comes with the clips to the frame's back, and you're ready to hang your framed picture.

Tips & Warnings

  • Acrylic comes in a variety of thicknesses. However, most clip framing systems are designed for 1/8-inch-thick acrylic and 1/8-inch-thick backing material. Using thinner material can lead to sagging since acrylic bows under its own weight. For larger sized pictures, consider using 3/16- or 1/4-inch-thick acrylic. There are clips made for thicker materials, and you can find them in most art supply and framing shops.
  • Acrylic also comes with anti-glare coatings and UV protection that blocks up to 98 percent of UV (ultraviolet light) light. While UV-rated acrylic is more expensive, it will keep certain types of mediums (watercolors, charcoal drawings and photographs) from fading.
  • Acrylic must be cleaned with mild soap and water. Ammonia and alcohol, found in most window cleaners can damage acrylic over time. Acrylic, like most plastics, can scratch easily, so use a 100 percent cotton cloth for cleaning (or a microfiber cloth).
  • Acrylic, also known as Plexiglas, has sharp edges. While not as sharp as glass, it can still cut you if you're not careful. Using a utility knife with a straightedge as a guide also requires caution since the knife blade is extremely sharp.

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  • Photo Credit Isolated framing hands image by Paul Heasman from picture frame image by Adrian Hillman from
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