DIY Copper Frame & Engineering Print Photo

I’m really excited to share this photo project with you guys. I love any excuse to get my pictures off the computer, and up in our home! I’m lucky enough to be a part of our friend Kristen’s Decorating with Pictures Series, and if you haven’t been following along you must check it out. There are over 50 blogs sharing great ideas for how to incorporate pictures into your home decor, plus 2 giveaways every day!

Today I am showing you how to make a big impact in a space with a simple project you can finish in an afternoon. I created this gorgeous copper-leafed frame and huge photo print of my kids for less than $20!

I had some pictures taken of my kids for Valentine’s Day and really wanted to get one of them up in our family room so we can actually enjoy it! I just didn’t want to spend a lot of money to do it, so I worked with what I had at home. I started with this gigantic frame (3 ft. x 3ft.) that I got at my local GAP store when it closed… for only $5! Retail stores are constantly changing out their signage and displays, so don’t be afraid to ask if they would be willing to give/sell you some of their old items.

As you can see, the frame was pretty scratched up in some spots. I’ve been dying to bring some of my current color crush –COPPER– into my decor, so I decided to cover up the imperfections with some copper gilding. (Also known as copper leaf.)

I used the Martha Stewart gilding adhesive and brush set, and ArtMinds copper leaf (pack of 25 sheets.) It didn’t even take the entire pack to complete this huge frame, so it goes a long way!

Before applying the copper leaf, make sure the surface of the frame is clean and dry. Start by applying the adhesive in a thin coat. Make sure it covers the entire surface where you want the gilding to adhere. Let it dry (about 5 minutes). It will be clear and tacky when it’s ready!

Then apply your copper leaf sheets, section by section, brushing the surface as you go. The leafing is pretty forgiving, I made lots of sloppy mistakes but the brush smooths everything out! If you have a few cracks or holes, just take a small piece of the leafing and rub it in the crack gently. I left a few imperfections so the frame would look more used. Here is the final result:

A closeup…
I really love the contrast of the shiny copper with the textured black and white photo.
Here’s how I got a HUGE black and white photo of my kids (for less than $8…)

This is the color version of my kids’ picture, and this is what it looked like after I applied the “Old Photo” Effect in Photoshop Elements. You can find tons of free black and white Photoshop actions for free if you do a search online. This one happened to come with my version of Photoshop Elements 9.

I’ve talked quite a bit about the Engineering Prints available at Staples, (and most copy & print centers), but I had never tried printing a photo before. Usually I use them for chalkboard prints. One of the reasons I chose this Old Photo effect, is because it adds lines and texture to different areas in the photo and I knew that the engineering prints are not always consistent in the color throughout (depending how much black ink they use.) You might want to experiment with a few different black and white edits on a smaller scale, but I just went for it! I ordered the largest size of engineering print available at, which is a 36×48″ print. I always order my prints online, and then pick them up same day in the store.

If you have questions about the online ordering process, how to upload your files, fit to the correct print size, etc. please let me know. I may do another tutorial on that process if you guys need one (let me know!)

It’s hard to tell from my final photos because there is a glare, but the texture and quality of the photo are great! This adds such a light, happy feeling to our family room/study area. We spend most of our time here when the kids are home during the day, and I love being able to look up at these cute faces when I’m at my desk.

Let me know if you try this out in your home. And don’t forget to head back over to Kristen’s blog to check out the rest of the series and enter today’s giveaways!

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  1. Kristan says

    Ms. Holly, I loved this idea with the giant engineering print! You mentioned, “If you have questions about the online ordering process, how to upload your files, fit to the correct print size, etc. please let me know. I may do another tutorial on that process if you guys need one (let me know!)”. Do you have a tutorial for this somewhere on your blog? I tried ordering prints of artwork at a local pharmacy print center, and it was a disaster. If you could give some advice, it would be much appreciated!


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