diy by 50

Dorm DIY: Tape Picture Frames


When I moved into my dorm room for my freshman year of college, the first thing I did was unpack a gigantic envelope filled with magazine clippings. I had spent the entire summer going through various fashion magazines, cutting out pages with an X-Acto knife and saving them so that in the near future, I could wallpaper my entire dorm with them. I made a point of arriving early on move-in day so that I could stake out my space in the room and begin what amounted to an extreme makeover. It goes without saying that, upon finding me knee-deep in fashion photos with hands blue from sticky tac, my new roommate was none too pleased. I could tell that he, a quiet skater dude who brought just a single poster with him, was horrified by my shameless takeover of the wall space. At the time, I was quite convinced that I was something of a fashionista and could not be swayed from the belief that my decorating antics were at the absolute pinnacle of taste. In retrospect, I could have toned it down a bit.

When I moved into my first apartment a year and a half later, I had mostly abandoned this style of decorating. Instead, I was determined to make my new living space as adult as possible. After all, this was a real apartment. Equipped with cheap frames from the dollar store, I arranged several of my own photographs on my bedroom walls. Even if they weren’t expensive custom frames, they made me feel infinitely more grown up.

Indeed, there is something inherently sophisticated about hanging picture frames on one’s walls. Perhaps it’s because they lend a space some semblance of intent, rather than the feeling that random bits have been thrown together. Unfortunately, many rentals and dorms restrict frame use because of rules forbidding nails or tacks. Additionally, frames can be cumbersome to move and ones that aren’t from the dollar store can be quite costly.

As a cheap, easy and surprisingly chic alternative, consider framing magazine clippings, photographs and postcards with different colored tapes. The supplies travel lightly, can be changed frequently and can be purchased for very little. For more tips and directions on achieving this look, continue after the jump! — Max

(Image above: desk lamp from Schoolhouse Electric)


To make these fun and stylish tape picture frames, all you’ll need are a few images to frame, one or more kinds of decorative tape, scissors and an X-Acto knife or similar blade. For tape, we used Japanese washi tape (available at many craft stores or online here), black masking tape and copper foil tape. Tape comes in all shapes, sizes, colors and textures, so do some browsing and find what you like best!

When you have your materials assembled, begin by taping up a single image. It’s important to tape up and frame your images one at a time so you can be sure of how much surrounding wall space you’ll have left. Once your image is up, take a roll of tape and make a frame around your image, adjusting the size and amount of interior space to your liking. As illustrated in the first image, you can go far beyond a simple rectangular frame. Mix it up! If there are bits of tape that are longer than others or overlapping in awkward ways, use your X-Acto blade to carefully trim off the excess. Move the blade lightly over the tape to avoid putting marks on the actual wall. This technique is especially useful when making non-rectangular frames.

Ta-da! That’s it! Easy peasy. Now gather some tape and some pictures, and make yourself some snazzy frames. I guarantee you’ll feel instantly fancier.

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diy / diy projects / Dorm

50 Comments

Liz

Forget the dorm. I’d use this in my house to display current photos of family that I could swap out easily as they become dated. Love this!

Holly-Anne Rolfe

This is a brilliant idea. I hate not being able to hang as many frames as I want because I rent! Problem solved. So weird how everything looks better framed!

marie

wish i’d thought of this when i was in college. great for a kid’s room too

Erin

where is that copper tape from? Is it the same stuff used for electronics or slug control or is it (hopefully a little cheaper and) intended for crafting?

Maxwell Tielman

Erin- I believe we got the copper tape on Amazon. If you search for copper tape, there are a number of options with different prices.

Jenny

I like alot! A typical me kind of design thing. Will go and buy tape instantly and plan with my daughter where to put her wall of tape frames, and mine. Thank you!

Genevieve

Love this series so much. Living in a new room every year while studying always makes me reluctant to spend money or much time on the interior as I know I’ll be moving, so it’s very inspiring to read such simple and instant ways to improve your living space! Max, if you have any tips for student kitchens I would love to hear them!

Stacey

Ahh those are Charley Harper’s! <3 <3 <3 I think the octagon one is my favorite but that copper tape rocks too!

sharon newsom

What do you suggest for walls that aren’t completely smooth? My walls are slightly textured and washi tape doesn’t stay on the walls for anything.

sara

What’s the best way to affix the art work to the wall? Does washi tape remove paint, or is it more like masking tape? Thanks would love to give this amazing idea a try though don’t wan’t to damage the paint job!

Cecillia

Great idea! Now I find the way to use these beautiful tapes.

Tina Ramchandani

The tape frames look gorgeous, much better than randomly hanging up cut outs. And they do feel intentional, which I think, adds to the look.

Juliette Gold

Such a lovely idea!
I have a question though: can you take the tape off without ruining the paint? What kind of tape would you recommend in this case?

Sue Erneta from Sue at Home

I love that you call this “dorm DIY” and this 40 year old suburban mom is wondering where I can put this into my home! Tee hee! I guess I have a young (and cheap and low-commitment) design sense.

MB@YarnUiPhoneApp

I love these…the tape “frames” have an Art Deco feel to them. Would be fun to do with a series of 1930s black and white Hollywood star photos ….for the knitter, simply photo copy some old knitting patterns from that era…not the instructions but the retro models….now that would be a great theme for a knitting shop.

LB @ Finanical Black Sheep

This is the perfect idea that I have been searching for! I have been trying to find frames for my hallway, but none of them fit what I am looking for and all are too expensive for what they are-boring. I love this idea so much I am definitely using it for my hallway makeover! Thank you for sharing.

Wendy Coral (Coral's Inspirations)

Oh my goodness, i love this idea! Im well beyond my college days and i’d consider doing this.

Erin

Great idea! I’m also in love with the desk lamp – can you tell me where it’s from?

kaity

Love, love, love this idea!! Would like to know if the tape you used is safe for painted walls. Thanks!

Felicia

This works so well I didn’t even realize at first the frames were tape! Could you tell me where the pretty agate book stands are from? Thanks!

Shivi

I’m in love. I’m at that in that weird zone of living abroad so not wanting to buy frames, but far too old to think that posters tacked up are acceptable. I’m so very pleased with you right now, you have no idea.

Aisha

What would be the best way to tape the actual pictures to the wall? And does this tape ruin paint at all?

Tiffani

My dorm room had pretty cheap paint on the walls and I was wondering if the tape removes paint from the wall?

Joan L.

I love this idea, esp. for a narrow hallway (so frames won’t get bumped). Would rubber cement be okay to fix the picture to the wall? Just along the backside border, about 1/4 in. wide. It should peel off the picture and the wall easily without leaving any residue or stain marks. I do believe you are onto something here! It is so versatile!

Krisse

Where is the multicolor layered diamond-shaped paperweight from? Must have!

Kimberly

I still don’t understand how you get the actual picture fixed to the wall. It just looks like the washi tape goes around the image. So what is actually holding the image on the wall? Do you spray the back of the image with an adhesive and then stick on the wall and then do your framing around it?

Grace Bonney

kim

i think max used tape on the back so i would be easy to remove. spray adhesive would be tough to take off… (but you could use the washi tape on the edges on the pictures, too)

grace

Kimberly

Thanks for the reply!! I just saw this comment when I came back from the AT post today and so happy to give this a try. You’re right, the spray adhesive would probably be very difficult and I don’t want to ruin the art. I wouldn’t care if it was just big box stuff but I’ve over the past year I actually took all the blogs advise and started purchasing art from sites that support artists. It feels good to have more unique pieces and supporting those with the talent to create (something I was not born with but have the ability to appreciate very much).

Darlene

Thanks so much for the hint re: washi tape. On the hunt for cheap and easy dorm decor and you totally hit the nail on the head with this one. :)

Becky - pretty dandy

Great idea! I have a few pictures simply taped up with washi tape behind my desk as a sort of ever-changing mood board, but I love the idea of doing something a little more permanent like this too. Lovely!

hannah

The flower painting is adorable! Where is it from?

nancy maranto

This is the best hint ever! I usually breeze right through the tips but I’ve read everything to do with today’s special hint, and I’m forwarding to lots of friends, but especially to our granddaughter who is decorating a precious little apartment in Brooklyn (just moved this weekend) and she has great taste. She’ll love your idea!
Thanks!

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