diy: tortoise shell photo frame

diy photo frame tortoise shell
diy photo frame tortoise shell
This boring, worn out frame was headed for the trash when I decided to take it home and give it some new life. I wanted to try out a faux-tortoise shell finish since it’s my favorite animal-inspired pattern. It’s a really easy process and only takes a couple hours to make.



Things You’ll Need:
– old picture frame
– sandpaper (optional)
– acrylic paint (I used yellow ochre, cadmium red, burnt umber, and mars black)
– sheer, iridescent, gold acrylic paint (I used fabric paint!)
– gloss varnish for acrylic
– medium-sized, round paintbrush
– variety of sea sponges

diy photo frame tortoise shell

Before. Wipe the frame with a damp rag to remove any dust or dirt. If your frame is plastic, you can scuff up the surface with some sandpaper, or spray it with a plastic primer.

These are the colors I used. I went with artist acrylic instead of craft paint since it’s more pigmented and adheres better. I did, however, use iridescent gold fabric paint by Scribbles since I already had it, and because it adds a very subtle gold sheen to the frame. For this project, you’ll want to mix these colors together to create a variety of natural-looking tones.

diy photo frame tortoise shell

Paint one coat of yellow ochre mixed with a little red. Wait a few minutes, then apply a thin coat of the gold paint.

Mix together some red and brown paint, and add a small amount of water to make a slightly transparent glaze. Paint random splotches across the frame. You can use a damp sea sponge or brush dipped in water to soften the splotches and make them blend into the yellow. If you cover up too much of the gold, just use a damp sponge to wipe off the frame.

diy photo frame tortoise shell

Going over the spots with a damp sponge or brush dipped in water softens the effect.

diy photo frame tortoise shell

Add layers of brown, then black paint, letting the frame dry in between coats. I let the frame dry overnight, then came back to see if I needed to make any changes.

diy photo frame tortoise shell

There’s not as much variation as I wanted, so I painted over several areas with more yellow and gold paint.

diy photo frame tortoise shell
I was kind of worried I’d ruined the effect at this point, but then I decided to coat the entire frame with a thin layer of gold, and not just where I painted the new yellow spots. The shimmery paint helps to tie in the different colors.
diy photo frame tortoise shell

Carefully add in more brown and red-brown paint splotches. You can see the frame looks more mottled and blended than it did earlier. Now all it needs is a layer of black spots for definition. You can also dip the sea sponge in black paint mixed with a little water, and stamp a few tiny, random spots across the frame. Let your frame dry, then apply 1-2 coats of varnish.

diy photo frame tortoise shell
The gold paint along with the glossy finish add so much depth and shine to the frame.