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DIY Letterbox Picture or Mirror Frame

Here's how to make your own letterbox picture or mirror frame - without using a mitre saw or router. We offer 3 different paint techniques for making a letterbox picture or mirror frame.


At a recent DIY Divas workshop we combined how to make a simple letterbox frame with paint techniques. At the workshop we looked at how to make a Shabby Chic style letterbox frame, a frame using a dry-brush technique, and a letterbox frame using Rust-Oleum metallic gold spray paint.

What's nice about the letterbox frame itself, is that you don't need a mitre saw or special tools to make the frame - only a jigsaw and a mitre box. That's great news if you don't want to have to fork out anywhere from R2500 and upwards on a mitre saw. Plus, you can still make great looking frames for art or mirrors.


12mm Supawood to make the frame (cut to any size you want)

Moulding to embellish the frame

Paint, depending on the technique you prefer



Drill/Driver plus 10mm wood bit

Quick clamps


120- and 240-grit sandpaper

Tape measure and pencil



1. Making  picture frame without using a mitre saw is easy. Have your local Builders cut 12mm or 16mm SupaWood to the size that you want the frame. Mark the width of the frame, drill 10mm holes on the inside of your mark, and use a jigsaw to cut out the centre rectangle or square.

GOOD TO KNOW: Not all Builders stores keep stock of 12mm SupaWood, so you may have to substitute with 16mm SupaWood. Ask your store if you can buy half a sheet of 12mm or 16mm Supawood, or if they have any offcuts you can buy. You will get quite a few frames from half a sheet and you can make frames for your home, or give them to friends or family.

2. Sand the cut edges of the frame and wipe clean.

3. Measure and cut the moulding for the inside of the frame. You want this to overlap the edge about 5mm to provide a ledge for the glass or mirror to sit on (at the back), so allow for this when marking and cutting.

4. The moulding is glued onto the frame. Use a tape measure or steel ruler to make sure the moulding is perfectly even all round. Press the moulding firmly onto the frame and then let the glue dry for a couple of hours.

5. If there are any gaps at the corners where the moulding is not perfectly flush, apply a little wood filler.

GOOD TO KNOW: Have a damp rag on hand to wipe away excess wood filler. Doing this means you won't have any sanding to do and won't spoil the moulding.

6. For the paint techniques shown, excluding the Shabby Chic or distressed technique, apply a primer coat. Prominent UltraPrime is perfect for almost all your priming projects and dries quickly. Use if for all your furniture painting jobs.

GOOD TO KNOW: When brushing on the paint, try to brush in one direction to keep the strokes flowing smoothly. Brush from left to right, or right to left, over the surface.

Letterbox Frame with Dry-Brushing Technique

1. After applying the primer you can apply any colour over the top of this - we used Prominent UltraMatt in a pale teal colour. This ultra matt paint gives an almost chalk paint finish and is perfect for projects, interior trim, walls and ceilings, or anywhere that you want a luxurious matt finish that is easy to keep clean. Alternatively you can use Prominent Select Matt. Apply two light coats, allowing drying time between each coat.

2. For the dry-brush finish put down some newspaper. Dip your paintbrush into your white paint, dab the brush on the newspaper to remove most of the paint and then lightly brush over the frame - working from one side to the other in long, light, even strokes.

GOOD TO KNOW: If you haven't done dry-brushing before, have some scrap board on hand to practice your technique.

3. Once the paint on the frame is dry, mask off to paint the centre moulding.

4. We wanted to have a bold contrast on the moulding and used Rust-Oleum Chalked spray paint in Tidal Pond to do this. We had Chalked paint left over from a previous project, but you can use any matt paint on the moulding. Apply a light coat to avoid drips and runs.

5. Once dry, carefully peel off the masking tape.

Shabby Chic Distressed Letterbox Frame

Shabby Chic, or distressed finish, will always be popular with those that love this type of look. This is also one of the easiest paint techniques to do.

1. When you are working with two materials such as SupaWood (frame) and pine (moulding), applying a stain to the two gives a consistent finish that shows through after distressing. We applied Woodoc Gel Stain in Imbuia.

2. An easy way to distress, and one that can be done to give a light or heavy distressed finish, is to use a wax candle. Rub the candle over the edges or any raised areas. Wipe clean.

3. Apply 2 to 3 coats of Prominent UltraMatt or Select Matt, allowing drying time between coats.

GOOD TO KNOW: When applying the first coat you literally need to slap on a quick coat. If you brush too much, you will end up pulling the stain into the paint and will need to apply more coats.

4. When the paint is completely dry, use 180-grit sandpaper to scuff over the areas where wax was applied. This will remove the paint and reveal the wood stain below. 

Letterbox Frame with Gold (bagging) Technique

For the gold letterbox frame we experimented with different Rust-Oleum metallic spray paints. The best effect was achieved with Rust-Oleum Mirror Effect (or Rust-Oleum Specialty Metallic) in gold. Find the full range of Rust-Oleum products at your local Builders.

1. Mask off the moulding in the centre of the frame.

2. Spray a coat of Rust-Oleum Mirror Effect over the moulding. Carefully remove the masking tape before the paint dries completely.

3. For this project you will need Cling Wrap. Working small areas at a time, liberally spray a small area and immediately dab this with scrunched up Cling Wrap to remove the paint. Repeat this process until the entire frame is painted.

GOOD TO KNOW: Wear rubber or disposable gloves to keep your hands paint-free.

4. To add an antique effect we used Woodoc Gel Stain in Ebony and rubbed this over the detailed moulding. Before it dries, rub off with a cloth until you achieve the desired effect. As an alternative you can use acrylic craft or oil paint to achieve the same effect.


To finish off your frame, particularly if you used Rust-Oleum Mirror Effect, you need to apply a sealer. There are several choices here, but the best is either Rust-Oleum Chalked Matte clear (super matt finish that is perfect for matt or chalk paint), or clear Acrylic Sealer, which is our local equivalent of ModPodge and great for finishing painted projects and leaves a sheen finish.

Measure up the opening at the back to have glass or mirror cut to size at Builders, and also cut a piece of thick cardboard as a filler. Attach 2 or 4 glass clips to hold everything firmly in place - you can buy these at and then add a picture hanger.


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