Painted Photo Mats

Posted by on Aug 15, 2014 in blog | 0 comments

Painted Photo Mats

Today I’m going to show you two variations of glass painted photo mats. This is a great way to create a more ornate design than you can find from store-bought mats. It’s also pretty inexpensive, especially if you plan on doing this with multiple pictures. I first saw a version of this project done by Martha Stewart. Her version used templates from her magazine. I’ll show you how to make symmetrical designs yourself.

For this project you’ll need a frame, contact paper, opaque paint suitable for glass, a paint brush, scissors, a pencil, a straight edge, an exacto knife, masking tape, glass cleaner and cloth, tracing paper, a toothpick, and a photo. I’m using copies of original photos and an art print.


There are lots of different options for paint on the market now. There are some enamel paints specifically for glass and there are multi-purpose craft paints that work on glass. Either option will work. Make sure you read the instructions on the paint before you buy; some paints are a part of multi-step systems which require you to purchase mulitple products.

First, remove the glass from the frame and clean it really well. You may want to run masking tape around the edges of the glass to protect your hands. It might look smooth, but it isn’t. Keep a majority of the tape on one side of the glass so it doesn’t get in your way when you start painting.


Next, take your glass and set it on top of the contact paper. Trace around the glass then cut out the contact paper. Now you have a piece that is exactly the same size as your glass. Fold the paper in half both horizontally and vertically to divide your contact paper into four equal quadrants. Using your straight edge, trace those fold lines with a pencil so they’re easier to see. Center your photo on the contact paper and trace it so you’ll know what size to make the opening of your mat. In one quadrant, draw what you’d like your mat to look like. Then cut out that section and use it as a template. Rotate your cut out piece as needed and trace around it in the remaining three corners. Cut out your design.


Very carefully, stick your cut out corner on the glass, making sure both edges line up perfectly with the sides of the glass. This will be your guide for placing your cut contact paper piece. Peel back a small portion of the back of the contact paper and fold it back, revealing the sticky side of the paper. Using the corner that you’ve already placed on the glass as a guide, carefully place your pattern piece on the glass. Once it’s lined up correctly, peel off the rest of the backing paper and smooth the contact paper onto the glass. If you make a mistake, it’s pretty easy to peel up the paper to reposition it. Don’t be too worried about bubbles in the middle.


Remove the corner piece. Make sure all the edges are thoroughly adhered and clean the exposed glass again. Paint the glass. You’ll probably need to apply multiple coats. Don’t let your coats dry completely before putting on the next one; it should still be a little tacky.


Even though it is a bit messy, remove the contact paper when your last coat is still wet. If you let the coats dry completely, you are more likely to seal in the contact paper to the glass which will risk you peeling off some of the paint when you remove that paper. Use a needle or straight pin to lift up the edge of the paper. Very slowly, work your way around to pull up the edges. You can also take an exacto knife and run it around the edge of the contact paper before you remove it so that you’re sure the paint won’t get peeled up.

Once your glass is completely dry, you can frame it. The unpainted side of the glass will face out. I’ve made several of these which you’ll see finished in my next post.


Next, I did a more complicated version which I did a little differently. Start by putting the picture in the frame. On the outside of the glass, mark with tape the space that the image takes up. Now you know how big the opening should be. Using that tape as a guide, decide the shape you want your mat to be and draw the shape of the mat with a simple design around the edge on tracing paper. Center the tracing paper pattern around that blue rectangle and tape it in place. The tracing paper is under the glass and the painter’s tape is on top.


Using paint and a toothpick, paint the design on the glass. If you prefer not to paint anything free hand, this would also be very pretty with a stencil. This time, make sure the paint is completely dry before continuing the project.


Remove the tracing paper and cut out the center – what will be the opening of the mat. Use it as a pattern to cut out the contact paper. This time, cut out two pieces of contact paper. One of them should be smaller than the other. One of mine is about ¼” smaller all the way around.


Reattach the tracing paper back to the underside of the glass. Use the painted dots on the glass to make sure everything was lined up correctly. The tracing paper is now a guide for placing the larger of the two pieces of contact paper.


Once the paper is in place, paint the back and remove the contact paper when finished. Again, you may need multiple coats.


Carefully place the smaller piece of contact paper on the glass once the paint is completely dry. Paint in a contrasting color. Then remove the contact paper.

2masked 2paint2

Through most of this project, the side you’re working on looks like a big mess, but the front looks great. Once everything is dry, frame your picture.


And there you have some very prettily matted pictures. This project did take quite a bit of time and took a bit of practice to get right, but I think they all look really nice.

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