How to Create a Crusty Rusty Picture Frame (Or Anything Else)

It used to be, things with rust were for the garbage. Why would I intentionally rust a picture frame? I’m not the only one seduced by rust. There’s a mass of Pinterest boards titled “Rust” with collections of crusty images. What’s up? Trends! They have the power to infect us all.

And this is what happens when we’re infected: As soon as I got my hands on this wood printing block from India, I saw it mounted in a square rusty frame:

Yes, I took a new frame and rusted the heck out of it. Here’s the before and after, from black plastic to rusty patina:

Where did this idea come from? I got “infected” way back last year, when I saw a square metal rusty frame at HomeGoods. When I returned the next day — after it handily passed the thinking-about-it-all-night-can’t-forget-about-it-must-get-it test — it was gone. When HomeGoods says its merchandise changes every day, they mean it! You gotta grab while the gettin’s good.

So I will make one. Make that two. Because frames should have buddies.

I found the right shape frame at Michaels: square, with straight deep sides.* If the sides are not plain and straight, the finished product won’t look so much like real metal. To give the frame a slightly rough finish appropriate for a rusty surface,  I spray painted it with Krylon Make It Stone textured paint. There was a can of beige color in our basement:

You don’t need to perfectly cover the whole frame. Spray just enough to make a rough surface. This stuff stinks, so I sprayed it outside on the patio, on a plastic dropcloth:

Yeah not very good-lookin’ yet, but you just wait and see. I’m going for something like this rusty look, found on Pinterest in one of those boards that celebrate corrosion and decay:

To create rust, I used this Sophisticated Finishes Rust Antiquing Set, available at craft stores such as Michaels and Blick:

Be sure to read and follow the directions for this stuff. It can corrode surfaces because it really creates real rust. Really!

First I painted the metallic surfacer that contains iron particles over the Krylon textured paint. I painted two coats** and this resulted in a frame that looked like slightly pebbly iron:

The directions with the kit tell you to let the iron paint dry before painting the antiquing solution. However in the company’s online FAQs, they tell you to not let the iron paint dry for more than 24-36 hours. Because it may not rust if you wait this long. They say you could start painting the antiquing solution after 2 hours or even 8-10 hours, and you may get different rust effects and colors at different drying times. The warning that rust may not develop if you wait too long was *not* in the instructions in the kit’s package.

Thus, my frame sat for two days before I had a moment to apply the antiquing solution to create the rusty surface. Despite this, I still got rust. Here it is developing:

Be patient. I had to hold back from checking it all the time. Go on and live your life while the solution does its work.

The next evening, I painted a second coat of antiquing solution and the rust bloomed before my eyes. Like you could watch the rust grow! Very cool. Here’s the frame after the second coat:

The company’s FAQs and bloggers who used this product warn it may take 24 hours for rust to show, and you may need to paint 2-3 coats of the antiquing solution, each 24 hours apart. If you don’t get any rust, you can try again by starting over and painting both solutions over everything. If this process seems too long, your other option is to expose metal to the elements, and how long would that take! Makes this seem fast.

Also, you will not have full control over the rusty result. Rust has a mind of its own. The variation below looks passable from one angle:

But when the light hits it, very smeary, not so good:

So I applied a third coat of the antiquing solution to even this out, but that didn’t get the sides looking the way I wanted. I still need to figure this out. Maybe I’ll repaint both the iron and antique solutions on some of the sides.

Enough of the rust. Now let’s move to the inside of the frame …

Years ago I saw a tjap (an Indonesian copper batik printing block) for sale on eBay, mounted on a rough fabric for the background. Liked it so much, I saved the picture. Here it is:

I wanted the same contrast of surfaces and textures for the Indian wood printing block. So I covered the back of my frame with burlap. I “shopped” the hobby supplies in our basement for this rug hooking linen burlap, purchased not because I hook any rugs (I do not) but because I wanted the thicker rough weave:

I wound up cutting the burlap with little snippy things I use to cut matted fur off my Maine Coon’s butt! Ugh. Why? Because there are a dozen good scissors in the house, but can they ever be found when needed? Of course not. Tomorrow, I’ll trip over three scissors. Does this happen to anyone else?

After that, I pried the wood handle off the printing block (with the correct tool!):

Then attached the block to the frame backing.

Here’s the finished product!

Because I feel like this needs a buddy, I’m seeking another wood printing block to mount in a second rusty frame. Then both will hang on a wall together.


* NOTE: I ran into a big problem during this project. Don’t use this t-shirt display frame if you don’t want glass in the frame. I thought I’d simply remove the glass. Not so! The glass is sandwiched between plastic sides molded to permanently hold it in place. I had to break the glass to get it out of the frame! (Always dispose of broken glass safely, both for you and the garbage truck guys.)  For this project, I should have used a shadowbox frame without glass.

** ANOTHER NOTE: This solution contains iron particles. The bottle is heavy like metal. The directions tell you to shake it up — shake it up real good! Which I did. But it didn’t mix well. Because the first coat was the consistency of gray water. The second coat was dry and crumbly and I sort of smeared and pressed it on. The solution in the bottle seemed nearly solid. I wasn’t sure how to dilute it — I didn’t want to mess up the interaction of iron solution and antiquing solution chemicals. I honestly did not pay much attention in high school chemistry class and don’t want to create any combustion problems involving the fire department. Has anyone else used this product? What happened for you?

FOLLOW-UP: The company says any high-quality acrylic paint can be mixed with the iron paint solution, which may help improve the consistency if it gets too dry and crumbly. “Any high quality acrylic paint can be mixed with the Metallic Surfacers. Mixing the paints can alter the reactive nature of the coatings and change the color and patina finish that develops when an Antiquing Solution is applied.”

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See this project and more DIY ideas at:

Cherished TreasuresChic on a Shoestring Decorating | Craft Junkie Too | Craft-O-Maniac | Crafty Confessions | DIY Home Sweet Home | DIY Showoff Project Parade | Flamingo Toes Think Pink Sunday | Home Stories A2ZI {Heart} Nap Time | Ivy and Elephants | Ladybird Ln Weekend Show Off | Redoux Interiors | Show & Share with Southern Lovely | Sugar Bee Crafts | The DIY DreamerThe Kurtz Corner | Thrifty Decor Chick | Very Merry Vintage Style

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5 Replies to “How to Create a Crusty Rusty Picture Frame (Or Anything Else)”

  1. I have never heard of this kit to create rust! Great idea adding the texture to the frame first — the whole project is beautiful and the way you framed the block really sets it all off and ties it all together!

    1. Thank you Lauren! Your blog post about money tree pods and stamping on them, I never thought about that and that’s a really cool idea! I love the one with old script stamped on it. Maybe they could be strung like garland. Hmmm … feel a project coming on …

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