How to Turn Inexpensive Framed Art Into Custom Artwork

Over the weekend, I stopped by TJ Maxx HomeGoods for a couple last minute items for our basement media room. I’m hoping to photograph that later this week and I’ve been procrastinating one key element… artwork to hang above the mantel. I’ve been hunting for vintage pieces with no luck on the size I needed, so I decided to make my own. We’re also nearing the end of the project and at this point- the budget is depleted. I wanted to share one of my go-to easy hacks on how to turn inexpensive framed art (think lower end TJ Maxx art) into custom artwork that has a designer or vintage feel. Click through for my easy tutorial and for some inspiration!

How to Turn Inexpensive Framed Art Into Custom Artwork -

This is an excellent way to produce affordable large scale artwork… or if you’re looking for a specific frame style, and don’t want to splurge for custom framing– this is one to try! Here’s how to get started…

Where to Shop and What To Look For

You’ll want to search retailers that have affordable, readymade artwork. Some of my favorites for this project include: TJ Maxx HomeGoods, Target, Tuesday Morning, World Market, and At Home. Go to the store knowing your dimensions- or a rough idea of what size works best for your wall. My three parameters are always: frame style, size, and material. It doesn’t matter what the actual artwork looks like, as long as it fits my criteria. I landed on this oversized canvas print below… the size worked well, the frame is beautiful, and it’s canvas- which is easy to cover with basic paint.

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Decide on the Content (Inspiration for Each Style)

Next, you’ll want to decide on the subject matter or content. This time around, I knew I wanted something a bit more modern… an abstract landscape with loose, painterly brushwork. Some of my other easy content ideas?

  • Anything abstract
  • Anything textural
  • Landscape paintings
  • Portraits
  • Geometric works
  • Figure drawings
  • Floral painting
  • Coastal

You can click on any of the works above to be redirected… I just thought it would be nice to give you some visuals to encourage the brainstorming process! You could paint anything- whatever feels inspiring.


I used supplies I already had to keep it simple: painter’s tape, my handy brush set, matte medium (for texture and extending paint), and acrylic paints.

How to Turn Inexpensive Framed Art Into Custom Artwork -

Tape the Frame

First, you’ll want to tape the frame. Unless you’re able to detach the art from the frame- this is the easiest way to ensure the frame stays clean.

How to Turn Inexpensive Framed Art Into Custom Artwork -

Prime the Canvas

Next, you’ll want to prime or gesso your canvas. I was totally out of gesso- so my plan was to either use white, gray, or black paint… depending on the color palette. My painting is on the moody side, with a mostly dark surface area, so I used black. You could use any color to cover the existing art though. If you have gesso, use that for surface prep.

How to Turn Inexpensive Framed Art Into Custom Artwork -

Begin Painting & Layering

This painting took me an hour or so- it was fun and fast! I cracked open a beer, cranked my music, and enjoyed some me time. I began by blocking out the basic shape and landscape, then layered on the paint as I mixed up different colors… not being too precious about anything.

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Apply Texture

How to Turn Inexpensive Framed Art Into Custom Artwork -

One of my biggest secrets for making acrylic paintings look higher end (without literally falling flat) is to use a matte or gel gloss medium. This adds a giclée type texture to the surface, giving it an artist enhanced look and dimension. You can even add this to your existing painting prints that you’d like to look more like an original! You can use a brush or palette knife to apply it.

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Before & After

Here’s a quick before and after. While the original print wasn’t bad… it simply didn’t fit the color palette or aesthetic I was going for in this space- but the size and frame were ideal. It was the perfect budget-friendly way to create custom art that feels more cohesive in this space.


How did you land on the color palette?

I’m a big fan of pulling colors from the room. Since my room is pretty much finished, I mixed colors based on the vintage rug that anchors the space. This is a great way to provide cohesion!

What was your inspiration behind this art- the content?

This is actually an abstract of my Nan’s barn. She passed away earlier this month and I’ve been going through stacks of photos- I’ve honestly been in my feels. The way it’s situated in the frame looks like a photo I have of it. Of course the colors are different because I wanted to pull the palette from our rug, but the composition is nearly identical to my photograph. This reminds me of the many hours I spent with her in this special place.

Any tips for painting something abstract with heavy brushwork like you did here?

I think it’s easiest to achieve a painterly look (loose brush marks) while the paint is still wet… it’s easier to move around. Rather than waiting for each layer to dry, I try to work quickly- blending as I go. I also keep my mattie medium (extender) handy, along with a cup of water to dunk my brush into if it begins to dry too quickly. My best advice for this type of abstract piece- don’t overthink it! Perfection is not the goal, so just have fun with it and know when to stop (sometimes less is more). Put on music or a podcast and get creative!

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If you’re looking for more art-related posts, I’ve shared quite a few of these over the years! I’ll link some of my favorites for you below…

How to Turn Inexpensive Framed Art Into Custom Artwork -

I’m looking forward to sharing the basement media room reveal with you soon- we’re just waiting on one last thing to arrive and I’ll be ready to photograph it…. hopefully later this week. In the meantime, can you believe this darling electric fireplace built-in came from Amazon?! We use it all the time, though I haven’t finished styling it yet. Anyway, consider this a little sneak peek. What do you think the art? Would you try this one? It ended up being a cathartic project for me. Here’s to a good week ahead, friends!

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  1. I love the painting, and I am curious to try the matte medium. The sneak peek is fabulous!! Can’t wait for the reveal!

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      Thank you, Brenda! I can’t wait to share the media room reveal- hopefully next week if all goes as planned :)

  2. Happy April 1st!
    I love a great art project Sarah and your abstract is beautiful. Im so sorry to hear the loss of your Nan, losing someone so special in your life is heartbreaking. Going through photos and reminiscing all the moments shared is definitely a healthy part of the healing process. And your artwork of her barn is a beautiful way to honor those moments ❤️‍🩹 sending big hugs friend! It’s such a special piece and it looks so pretty over the fireplace. The frame you found is just perfect.
    The sneak peak of part 2 of your basement reveal is gorgeous 😍 the electric fireplace mantel unit is lovely. It adds such a wonderful ambiance while providing storage for your book collection. Amazing! Can’t wait to see the reveal 🤩 Exciting!
    We’ve had a busy month here in Florida, hosting back to back family and friends has so been fun. It’s been a whirlwind here ☺️
    Lots of exciting stuff happening on the blog. Congrats on your design collaboration with Big Chill appliances, wow! Your new stove is stunning and it works yay! The green in the lineup is so beautiful too! You selected such a gorgeous array of colors for the spring collection. I’ve never heard of this appliance brand before, just beautiful! You must be so happy to be baking again without the worry of the oven. Hurray for an appliance that works and looks gorgeous 🥳 😍 I hope they enter the Canadian market the green would be lovely in my kitchen and they have an induction which will be my next stove.
    Anyway job well done on the artwork and thanks for sharing such a meaningful and fun project with us as always. Have a super Monday!

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      Happy April, Colleen! I have to say- I’m envious of your sunny and bustling Florida time, ha. We’ve had so much rain & snow lately, the beach sounds divine. I hope you’ve had a fantastic time hosting friends & family! Thanks for all of your kind words- I’m thrilled about the Big Chill collar and am super proud to be partnering with them on those stunning appliances. I’ve been baking up a storm. The art was a really nice activity for me- I’m glad I took one of those rainy days to get creative and process. Hope you have a fun week ahead! xox

  3. Beautiful Sarah! I’d love to try this out, but I don’t know if I could get as good of a result (lacking artistic motor skills lol). I love the sneak peek of the basement!

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      Thank you, Ali! I definitely think something abstract would be a great place to start- I bet you’ll surprise yourself :) Can’t wait to share the basement soon!

  4. Good morning- this looks like a fun project! I’ve seen many people do similar things with affordable art, but none have looked quite as professional as yours. Your painting skills are out of this world. I doubt I could accomplish such a gorgeous piece. I love that you painted something to remind you of your gran, and hopefully it warms your heart to look at. The colors are stunning, fit your basement well, and the blue of the walls deepens the tones you’ve used. Such a fantastic idea to achieve a high end look! I’m smitten over your fireplace- I’ve actually been considering something similar for the front room. We’ll be loosing the fireplace when we swap, and with the high ceilings I know the winter months may not be as comfortable for lounging; plus I’ve been hard pressed to find a large enough tv stand for the wall- I’m taking that as the universe telling me to reroute. This electric fireplace has such a timeless design; I’m anxious to know how you like it. The sun is popping out to play after a stormy and cold weekend, but our Easter was lovely with a small gaggle of family. I hope you had a lovely weekend as well!

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      Such a fun project! I always enjoy these. You could definitely knock out something abstract pretty quickly. I’m confident yours would look equally as lovely, Lauren! I definitely need to share a proper review on our Amazon fireplace because WHOA- it has been fantastic and puts off a great amount of heat. I love the way it looks. I’ll probably work on that post this fall. For a preassembled situation, we’re impressed. I hope we get some sunny skies this week- we’ve had nothing but rain and snow. I’m ready for spring to stick! Hope you and the fam had a fun Easter weekend- it sounds eventful and perfect. xo

  5. Good morning! Happy Monday! Happy April! As a person gifted by the universe with preternatural self-confidence, I regularly undertake tasks beyond my capabilities. Ha. So, I have indeed attempted this project! I thrifted a giant piece of questionable art on canvas and dove in. Fairly certain I used Kilz primer as a base and Rothko as my inspiration. (Cue laugh track.) I could have benefited greatly from some of your tips, but my painting still graces the living room wall. Unsurprisingly, I learned that abstract art is *much* more difficult than it looks. I’m not sure I would attempt your lovely landscape scene (or anything that remotely needs to look like an actual person, place, or thing…). However! It was a hoot. And even if my results had been regrettable, I invested less than $20. That’s pretty reasonable for an afternoon’s creative diversion. Right? Thank you, as always, for your unwavering belief in our abilities and your helpful hints of encouragement! It’s birthday cake month over here, so that’s my imaginative pursuit this week. Cheers to sunny skies and flexing some maker muscles!💜
    PS Boy, I love those sconces and that fireplace looks fantastic!

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      Good morning, Peggi! Happy April! I love that you’ve already tackled this project and are still enjoying it in your living room. I always have fun painting! Reasonable for a creative afternoon that resulted in living room art, indeed… and for $20? You did great! Happy cake baking this month. It turns out 90% of my friends are Aries (weird?), so we’ve also got birthdays to celebrate and cake to eat this month. Cheers to sunny skies this week- fingers crossed. I can’t wait to share the rest of the basement media room- it’s looking good down there! xo

  6. My condolences on your loss.

  7. Karen Markham says:

    Love your ideas and can’t wait for future articles!

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      Thank you so much, Karen!

  8. “ I cracked open a beer” 😆 You are my kind of artist! I love the finished piece. It’s perfect for the space. Good job

    1. Sarah Gibson says:

      Haha!! I definitely leaned into the self care paint session. Thanks, Karen!