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DIYdiy projectsDorm

DIY Tape Picture Frames

by Maxwell Tielman


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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Comments

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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?

    • You can buy copper tape from stained glass supply places. There are shops on ebay where I bought mine. One brand is VerntureTape. Hope that helps (years after you posted the question, lol!)

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

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

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

  • 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!

  • 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.

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

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

  • 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!

  • 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?

    • 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

  • 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).

  • 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. :)

  • 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!

  • 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!

  • Love this! I know that washi tape comes off super easily, but what about that copper tape. Isn’t that just copper snail tape? How easily does that come off the wall?

  • Haha, I can totally relate. I have also spent hours and hours cutting out my favorite pictures and phrases from magazines. Now, I can put them up on my walls and add a little sophistication too. Thanks for the awesome idea!

  • Love this simple and easy DIY! We’re going to feature it as a part of our Friday Faves this week :) Thanks for sharing!

    xo,
    Always Me

  • These are such coool DIY tips and easy too. I am definitely thinking of trying these soon. Thanks for sharing.
    Dana

  • Creative use of design tape! Great for a fun relaxed room, especially for a kids bedroom, and you won’t have to worry about having your frames broken!

  • We are renting and were not allowed to put anything up… So when i saw this I was thrilled, but doesn’t it leave stains/grease marks like bluetack does??

      • Please remember with anything prep of the wall can become an issue.Different types of paint and prep of the paint on the wall can change everything.Test sections should be done.Put wasi tape on a small section and let sit for a while then remove.

  • Love it! Thanks :) I get bored easily with my wall art and I was looking for something to do with all these post cards and newspaper clippings I have. Brilliant.

  • What kind of tape did you use to actually tape the pictures to the wall?! Did you put it on the back of the picture and press it onto the wall to stick?! Thanks!

  • Luv it!! I put family pictures down my hall, but I like to switch it up w/ new pics of wedding and new babies , to honor luved who have passed.
    Now I have a way to do it w/o leaving a bunch of nail holes :-)

  • Same question as before.. What kind of tape so you use to attach picture to the wall and do you put it on the back of the picture and press to the wall? When you go to remove the picture doesn’t the tape keep part of the picture with it?

  • Love this post and the idea. I am currently writing a blog post for our rental house database, and I would love the permission to use this photos in the blog and provide the link to the article.

  • I get bored easily with my wall art and I was looking for something to do with all these post cards and newspaper clippings I have. Brilliant.

  • Great post and the idea. I am currently writing a blog post for our rental house database, and I would love the permission to use this photos in the blog and provide the link to the article. If you want to Pocket Morty Recipe List So you Get here….

  • Luv it!! I put family pictures down my hall, but I like to switch it up w/ new pics of wedding and new babies , to honor luved who have passed.
    Now I have a way to do it w/o leaving a bunch of nail holes :-)

  • I get bored easily with my wall art and I was looking for something to do with all these post cards and newspaper clippings I have. Excellent