The Art of Darkness

Tutorial: Goth Picture Frame

I got the basic guidelines for this project from Voltaire’s Paint It Black, a fun little volume (although a bit pricey for its size and contents). It’s fast–an hour or two from start to finish–and the results are surprisingly effective.


  • A cheap picture frame with a wide border (to give you room to decorate)
  • Spooky things to glue to the frame
  • A hot glue gun
  • Ultra flat matte black spray paint
  • Silver metallic or grey acrylic paint for accent (optional)
  • Spooky wrapping paper or scrapbooking paper for picture mat (optional)
Click the thumbnails for larger images.


I used a wooden frame (the color doesn’t matter, since you’ll be painting it), for an 8″x10″ picture. The overall measurements were 12″x14″.


Decorations included a novelty plastic bat (I was going to use the spiders but decided against it)…


Several rubber insects, lizards, and snakes from an assorted bag I got from Oriental Trading Company


And some styrofoam skulls I got from a decorative garland, also from Oriental Trading.


I used a box knife to cut the skulls in half. One of those heated-wire cutters designed for cutting styrofoam would have worked even better.

Toys arranged on frame

Remove the glass and backing from the frame, then arrange the items on the frame. Play with the placement until you’re happy with the finished appearance. (Remember that color doesn’t matter, since this will all be painted black.)

Hot glue on the frame

Use a hot glue gun to glue everything down. It doesn’t matter if you get a little messy, since you’re about to drip glue all over everything anyway.

Prop the frame upright, then drip hot glue all over so it resembles candle wax. (You might want to practice on a piece of cardboard until you’re comfortable with the technique.)

Painted frame

When you’re happy with the result (or when you can’t stand to deal with any more of those annoying little hot-glue threads, whichever comes first), let the glue dry thoroughly and then spray everything with ultra flat matte black paint. It’s best to use a brand that will stick to plastic, since many of the toys on the frame are plastic or rubber. Let dry overnight.

Accented frame

You can stop at this point if you like, or use acrylic paint as an accent. Dip a natural sponge or a wadded-up paper towel in grey or metallic silver paint, then dab on newspaper until almost dry. Dab on the frame.


If you want to add a mat, cut a piece of spooky wrapping paper, scrapbooking paper (there are a number of Halloween-themed designs) or stiff fabric to fit and then glue to the mat.

The finished frame

Put everything together, add an appropriately spooky picture, and display in a prominent location. Easy!

These go together so quickly and inexpensively (particularly if you can get second-hand frames from Goodwill) that you could create an entire gallery of spooky frames.