Using Postcards and Vintage Prints to Create Wall Art

Using vintage post cards and advertisements to make DIY custom wall art

Today’s post is an easy take on traditional print and photo framing. We’re using postcards, vintage prints, and other bought/salvaged images to create simple and inexpensive custom DIY wall art. It’s a great way to make your own custom look without breaking the bank. The DIY collage above features old ads for cleaning products and domestic help, and hangs (aptly) in our laundry. 

Sources for Vintage Style Images and Artwork

Vintage Reproduction Prints and Digital Files

You can obtain vintage digitals (or reproduction prints and posters) via historical groups, museums, as well as various online shops and suppliers. Some are free for general, personal, or conditional usage. Some are for purchase or licence. Be respectful of any applicable copyright or usage restrictions if self-printing for display.  
 
The museum method is a feel-good way to get a desirable print or image file while supporting the agencies who protect and promote history.  I have an awesome reproduction poster advertising for settlers to the part of Canada where I grew up. We bought a personal-use digital copy of a local museum photo which shows our current house in 1901. I love having those little slices of history. Money well invested. 

Vintage (and Vintage Style) Postcards

Postcards are one of my favourite options for inexpensive art. You can often find vintage or retro style postcards featuring landmarks, art reproductions, travel poster images, and other old advertisements. They mount well in different formats and have the advantage of being well-suited for groupings of common sizes and styles.  Greeting cards and note cards work too, if you can find ones you like.

Calendars

Calendars (new or outdated) are another favourite.  They are inexpensive, especially if out of date and you can cut them up guilt-free. In most cases, there are 12+ images in a similar style/genre and shape/size per calendar.  They are usually larger than collage frames, but work wonderfully for a gallery wall.

Old Book and Magazines

I feel more guilty about slicing into an old book than a calendar, but it’s also an option. They can be a great source for interesting images, art, ads, and more. Old magazines are good ad sources as well, although paper quality can be an issue.  Sift through a rummage sale or used book shop for suitable scrappy sources.

New Artworks in a Vintage Style

New artworks in a vintage-style may be more readily available than actual vintage pieces. These are commonly available on-line for download, purchase as prints/posters, or can be salvaged in the same ways listed above.  Try your favourite art site, Etsy, or check out a large-scale supplier like Amazon. Be respectful of any applicable copyright or usage restrictions if self-printing for display.  
 
Another very affordable option for vintage artwork is vintage-style sheet wrapping paper. There are some awesome patterns/designs and they are very affordable for large sheets.  Fabrics work too!  Vintage-style creations blend well with real reproductions if you are trying to create a common-look. They’re also handy if you are having difficulty sourcing the style of image you’re looking for or if the real vintage prints are too pricey.

Options for Framing and Display

Standard Framing

The easiest way to frame print images is just popping them into a frame. You can do this with or without matting, just like a normal photograph.

It might be tricky to find the shape or size of frame to suit an existing print. Depending on what you’re framing, you might not mind losing visibility of some of the image at the sides. If that’s not an option, you can buy a custom sized frame and/or mat, make your own custom frame, cut your own custom mat, or consider exposed edge mounting.

Exposed Edge Mounting

Alternatively, you can display the image on top of a solid backing. It’s an easy cheat for difficult shapes or sizes. It also looks great when you want to showcase the edges or display multiple images within a single frame. 

If you’d like to protect your images or perhaps change their display in the future, consider using scrapbook corners or other removable attachments. I used bulldog clips instead of adhesive on some items when making our wedding shadow boxes. If you don’t mind the risk of fixing, you can use spray adhesive or adhesive squares/tape (acid free is best) to mount your image on the mat. 

I’ve used this technique to mount and display different art over the years, including these souvenir vintage-style postcards. They were a gift with our touristy Singapore Slings at Raffles (but of course!) during a visit to Singapore years ago.  Their edges were too pretty to cover and this technique allows me to display both sides of the cards in a single frame.

DIY exposed edge mounted wall art from vintage postcards

Printing on Canvas (and More)

If you have obtained a digital image with the rights to print, you can have a photo company or print service put it onto a stretched canvas. These are ready to hang without any additional framing required.  They can also print onto a wide variety of other products, so your imagination (plus budget and wall space) are the limits on what you can do. Get creative!

Display Galleries and Collages

Larger or mixed images work well for a single, multi, or gallery arrangement. Small images work well when grouped together in either a collage style frame (like my vintage New Zealand ads) or arranged into as a gallery wall using separate but well-coordinating frames and (if used) mats.

You can buy collage frames pre-made, make your own collage frame from scratch, or join inexpensive single frames to customise your collage frame shape, size, and style. I’ve seen this done with adhesive and glue in some DIY posts, but personally I would recommend screwing them together for a secure and sturdy collage frame. Depending on the type of frames, the could be fixed directly or with metal plate joiners on the back sides of the frames.

Using Postcards and Vintage Prints to Create Wall Art


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