12 DIY Ideas for Creating Inexpensive Art


People get intimidated by art and I’m not sure why. I’ve always thought that art should be engaging, fun, experimental, and personal — the perfect thing to create for ourselves. Whether you’re on a budget or not, creating art can be an inexpensive and exciting way to decorate and personalize your environment. If your walls are bare and your hands are willing, here are twelve ideas to get your creative juices flowing. (See also: But Is it ART?)

1. Repurpose Wallpaper

Intricate or bold wallpaper designs can become modern art statements when framed and hung. Make sure to use enough paper to clearly show large or repeating patterns. Frame one large piece or use several smaller frames to repeat the same design in a cluster.

2. Press Some Flora

Single large pressed leaves or groupings of flowers make great subject matter for homemade art displays. Press and dry, mount on a white background, and frame simply. Experiment with off-center arrangements and mix plant types for visual interest.

3. Make a Collage

If you’re feeling creative, try your hand at collage. Use photographs, text, scrap wallpaper, and other media to create an original piece of art. Collage is a forgiving medium; just cover up what you don’t like and try again.

4. Snap in Black and White

Use a digital camera and printer to experiment with black and white photography. Snap images of faces, landscapes, architectural details, or close-ups of unique design features of almost anything. Manipulate and refine your photos using photo-editing software. Group together or create a mini-gallery in a long hallway.

5. Channel Warhol

Product labels with bold or classic graphics make excellent subjects for artwork. Labels from canned food, vintage perfume bottles, bars of soap, or fruit crates are particularly good places to start. Carefully remove labels (soak stubborn labels in warm water and then press dry), mount, and frame.

6. Frame Your Frames

Sometimes frames can be the art. Collect interesting frames in graduated sizes and “nest” them together for a bold and unexpected twist on traditional artwork.

7. Get Graphic

Old magazine covers or vintage ads are an inexpensive and easy way to make an elegant artistic statement. Look for subject matter that clearly represents an era — vintage fashion, cars, appliances, or travel destinations are great places to start.

8. Thumb Through a Catalog

It’s getting harder and harder to find old store catalogues, but if you can, consider framing their pages. Vintage catalogue listings that feature camping equipment, clothing, or bicycles can make interesting displays.

9. Frame Postcards or Greeting Cards

Arrange multiple postcards or vintage greeting cards in a single frame or frame cluster. Group cards of similar color, style, or subject matter together for a more curated and striking look.

10. Display Your Collections

Use an inexpensive shadowbox to display collections you would otherwise store in a cabinet or on a shelf. Silverware, political buttons, jewelry, perfume bottles, found objects, or antique keys can be grouped and displayed as artistic collections.

11. Unbind a Book

Vintage book covers or illustrations are ready-made art just waiting to be seen in a new context. I once found an old copy of the children’s book, "The Little Prince," by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Most of the volume was badly damaged, but I managed to pull one pristine illustration from it. I mounted and framed it for a baby shower gift to a dear friend.

12. Wax Poetic

Have a favorite poem, story, or quote? Print and frame it. Experiment with font, text size, and composition to create a piece that’s visually bold.

Here’s one important tip that will help keep your art on a budget: buy your frames first. Creating a piece that you’re really proud of and then not being able to frame it properly is disheartening. Scout thrift stores and yard sales for solid wood frames that can be rehabbed with a bit of stain or paint, then create based upon the sizes of your frames. It’ll help motivate your creative efforts and prevent you from breaking the bank at custom frame shops.

Do you decorate with your own artwork? What ideas, tips, and tricks do you have for beginners?

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Guest's picture

Great ideas...I am inspired to try several of these suggestions. Children's picture books often have great illustrations for their rooms. What a nice idea for a baby gift. Scrapbook papers make beautiful backgrounds instead of matting. Thanks for all the ideas!

Guest's picture

Some of my favorite art in my house are antique sheet music--some of them have really great covers. I paid for standard frames but museum-quality glass and custom mats.

Guest's picture

I love the wax poetic idea! I'm going to find a really good poem and play with the font now!

Guest's picture

Not sure about number 2's pressed fauna. A smashed bunny rabbit doesn't seem to have a wide appeal.

Amy Lu's picture
Amy Lu

Oh dear, that's a very good point, Mitchell! I've deleted that part of the heading.

Lars Peterson's picture

Heh. Well I read it as "Butterflies".

Guest's picture

I enjoy the artwork of Pauline Paquin, an artist from Montreal. Each year Ravensburger uses one of her pictures to make a puzzle. I do these puzzles and frame them in clip frames from Ikea. Although I haven't done so, the puzzles do not have to be glued down and are therefore still doable in years to come!

Guest's picture

Those were great ideas but if would have had posted some pictures of these ideas, it would have been greater!