Free or Cheap Wall Art

by Camilla Cheung on 17 August 2011 8 comments
Photo: jawcey

Most of us would love to have beautiful art decorating the walls of our homes, but we can't always afford to buy expensive prints and canvases. Fortunately, there is a wealth of ways to decorate the walls of your home that will have your friends admiring the beauty of your décor — and are cheap or entirely free! From art that you print off the Internet to simple paintings that you create yourself, here's a roundup of great ideas for free and cheap wall art. (See also: 15 Home Decorating Ideas for Under $5)

Print Art From the Internet

The web is a great resource for beautiful and free art that can easily be printed if you have a printer, and framed in cheap frames from IKEA or upcycled from the thrift store. Feed Your Soul — The Free Art Project is an excellent source for beautiful illustrations by bona-fide artists that this website makes available for free download. The Graphics Fairy is a website that provides free vintage graphics for download. Print off a few of these color or black-and-white beauties, frame them, and create a gallery cluster of the pretty images. Taidye Original and MissKrissie both have some pretty typographical images that you can download and print.

Also, did you know that you can download digital images of vintage magazines from Google Books? Print off some full-color covers from Life Magazine, or some of the vintage advertisements you'll find within its pages, and frame them to immortalize some of the biggest events of the last century.

Frame Fabric and Other Patterns

Got a few vintage embroidered handkerchiefs from your granny? Or a piece of silk from that trip to Asia? A bit of lace from your mother's wedding dress? Or how about a few leftover scraps of fabric from your last curtain or upholstery project? Use the fabric you've got lying around the house, or buy a few inexpensive remnants from the fabric store, and set them in frames to showcase the textures, patterns, and colors of the cloth.

Along the same lines, you aren't limited to fabric when it comes to framing pretty prints and textures. Try framing a few pieces of sheet music for a classic, cultured look. Or show off some pretty wrapping paper, which looks great under glass, but is also cheap and easy to swap out when you want to change things up.

Pressed Botanicals

Save flowers and pretty leaves from your garden by pressing them between the pages of a few heavy books, and then framing them once they're dry. Create a grouping with similar botanicals for a more focused effect.

Thrifted Art

Thrift stores, estate sales, and garage sales are great sources for cheap original art. True, many of the paintings are from unknown or amateur artists, but they can still be charming and more interesting than some of the generic art you can buy at the home décor store. I have found acrylic paintings of flowers, fruit, and local landscapes, and my sister and I have both picked up lovely framed botanical prints.

Buy Art While Traveling

My travels abroad have been a rich source for affordable but unique art that never fails to ignite a conversation. In Egypt, I picked up a couple of Eastern Orthodox prints that were printed on real papyrus, and an oil painting I bought in Vietnam hangs above my bed. In Laos and Thailand, I saw hundreds of beautiful prints of trees and elephants printed on thin rice paper. In China, scrolls of ink calligraphy and landscapes went for a few dollars each. Roll up your art securely in a paper tube and it will survive the trip home without problems, and will serve as both a souvenir of your trip and a unique conversation-starter.

Make Your Own Art

Whether it's a collage of all the beer labels you've collected over the years or a spectacular painting on canvas, art that you make yourself can be memorable and meaningful. Try creating your own twist on Rothko's abstract paintings by painting blocks of color on a large canvas. Or create a drip painting à la Jackson Pollock. If you're not up to creating a painting, what about simple wall art made up of toilet paper rolls? There are all sorts of crafty solutions to an empty wall, and your imagination is the limit.

Buy It

There are lots of budding artists that sell limited edition prints on Etsy for very affordable prices, and eBay can also be a good source for affordable art. For limited edition prints by up-and-coming artists, check out the website 20x200, which carries many prints for just $20, making fine art accessible to more and more people.

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Guest's picture
Andrew

Definitely some nice ideas for stuff to do with your walls. But honestly, I feel the premise of the article is based more in myth then reality. The idea that 'art' is expensive and out of most people's price range, just isn't really true.

Of course if you want a print of a Van Gogh, or some other household name, than you will have to pay for it. But every community across the country has some outstanding local artists in it that are just dying to sell a small print, or even an original work for a price not too different from what it would take to do one of the ideas you have listed here.

And you would have the added benefit of participating in the community, engaging with a local artist and making someone's day.

Camilla Cheung's picture

Really? Buying local art in my community runs a few hundred dollars for a medium size canvas. Maybe it's cheaper where you are. Of course, some people can definitely afford that kind of splurge once in a while.

Camilla Cheung's picture

Oh, and I did list a few sources for affordable art that you can buy (such as Etsy and 20x200). If you know of more, please share!

Andrea Karim's picture

I bought a painting of a dog that looks JUST LIKE MINE (down to the guilty, persecuted expression) for $12 at Goodwill - while that was kind of steep for an amateur painting, it remains one of my favorite pieces of art.

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Diana

I used to purchase postcards and calendars with no wording/lettering on them and frame them as cheap decorations.

Camilla Cheung's picture

Great idea, thanks!

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Tatiana

Thanks for posting this! I was just talking to my friends about how my bare bedroom walls need some life to them. I got a lot of great stuff off the Free Art Project website!

Camilla Cheung's picture

You're welcome! I LOVE that website!