Making a Custom Illusion Frame

Part One

For an artist, custom framing is wonderful and can add to the beauty of ones art, but it can also add to the upfront expenses in a hurry. Additionally it adds to the weight when shipping to galleries or shows. So while being stuck at home for several days due to an ice storm I began wondering how could I make a painting ready for presentation with the look of a custom frame that I could use in conjunction with my larger sized “Byron” impressionist art works at minimal cost.

The solution is what I call a Custom Illusion Frame.

Below I will detail the process of making a Custom Illusion Frame which entails my using faux painting techniques which I enjoy doing on other surfaces, but never have time for, so this was a perfect time to put to use those underused skills.

First here is the finished piece minus the painting. I’ll demonstrate that another time so you can see the final result. You can click on the image for a larger view.


Here are some of the materials I assembled and some of which I already had on hand.

  1.  18×24 ready made canvas with staple free edges
  2.  8 foot length of moulding from Lowes Home Improvement for less than $5
  3.  Artist Acrylic Gesso ( had that already )
  4. Modeling Paste ( had that )
  5. Sponge brushes
  6. Two small bottles in a lighter and darker gold from Modern Masters paint which is great because it’s acrylic based. No messy fumes. Found this from a local paint supplier. Google it to find a resource near you. ( had that already as well )
  7. Small decorative fleur de lis stencil which is a stylized lily or iris flower. (had this one also)
  8. Three days of icy weather unable to leave the house and with nothing else to do. (got this one even though I didn’t want it)
  9. Inexpensive Miter Box and Saw.
  10. Elmer’s Glue (got it)
  11. Blue Painters Tape in both a smaller and larger size.
  12. Acrylic antiquing liquid which is a translucent paint found at my local Hobby Lobby store along with the other small plastic bottled acrylic paints. ( Had this one too )
Custom Illusion frame step 1
Custom Illusion frame step 1

What you see above is my first abstract called blue tape on white background. Not really. I took my inexpensive wood moulding and cut two pieces at 45 degree angles measuring 18″ on the long side and another two 24″ pieces on the long side. If you measure wrong you’ll end up short. By the way, this was my first time to do this, but I remember the saying of measure twice cut once.

Next using Elmer’s glue I glued the wood frame directly on top of the canvas making sure the pieces were lined up properly. Short on clamps I used my collection of art books to weight the moulding down on the edge of the canvas so that I’d get a good bond.

The next day I was able to apply modeling paste to fill in the cracks where the moulding joins in the corners and the small gap where the moulding and canvas are glued together on the side. Then I measured two inches inward and all around and applied my two inch blue painters tape onto the canvas.

Custom Illusion Frame Step 2

Custom Illusion Frame Step 2

Custom Illusion Frame Step 3

Custom Illusion Frame Step 3

Using a sponge brush I applied acrylic Gesso to the wood moulding as well as on the canvas overlapping the painters tape and along the sides. For the area between the moulding and painters tape I applied the gesso rather thickly and smoothed it off with a palette knife. Now I let it dry. After drying I sanded the areas lightly to provide a smoother finish. I then vacuumed up the sanding dust.

Next using my darker shade of Modern Masters acrylic paint and a sponge brush I apply my first layer to the wood frame and on the canvas followed by subsequent layers until I had a nice opaque even finish.

Custom Illusion Frame Step 4

Custom Illusion Frame Step 4

I then followed this up with painting the side edges of the canvas a solid black. To make that task easier I took two long screw eyes and put them into the back of the canvas and using a larger sheet of corrugated card board I marked where the screw eyes would be, punched a hole and inserted the screw eyes through them holding the canvas in place. This made it easier to paint the sides turning the cardboard instead of the canvas.

Custom Illusion Frame Step 5

Custom Illusion Frame Step 5

Here’s another view of the painted sides.

Custom Illusion Frame detail side view.

Custom Illusion Frame detail side view.

For now I’ll take a break. Follow me next time in Part Two where I’ll show the next step of painting the fleur di lis design in the four corners.

Thanks for following along!





4 thoughts on “Making a Custom Illusion Frame

  1. Kathy Adkins

    Love this idea!!! I will be making my own frames for my paintings and this just gives me wonderful idea’s
    to make even fancier frames. Thank you so much for the little tutorial William! You are a true inspiration to the arts!!

  2. Sandy Wegmann

    Thank you so much for the wonderful idea. I love the “illusion frame”. I may have to try this one! Love your paintings so much. I am a Bluebonnet lover. Your paintings are all amazing but those bluebonnets really make me smile.
    God bless you and your mother while you are going through this rough patch. Hoping all works out for you both.


    1. whartist Post author

      Thank you Sandy. I think this framing idea allows for some additional creativity. Let me know how it turns out if you try one yourself. I’ll be sure to share mine when I do others. Glad the bluebonnet paintings make you smile!


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