Decorating your walls inexpensively doesn’t have to mean boring or mass marketed. Read on for ten unique and inexpensive art ideas!
Left: Prom dress illustration from my mom’s yearbook Middle: Grammar letterpress card from Sapling Press Right: Beauty Queens photo from Found Retail
1. Letterpress Cards
More commonly used for wedding invitations and such, letterpress cards make excellent artwork for your tabletops and walls! Not your standard sappy greeting cards, they are hand printed with all manner of clever sayings or themed with your favorite pop culture references. Since the text and images are actually pressed into the paper, you get a depth of texture that you can’t get from your home printer.
Etsy is my favorite source for inexpensive letterpress cards, which usually run about $4 to $5 each. Check out Etsy sellers Sapling Press for their “not a slut” grammar card (in picture above, center) and Chasing Type for a Dr. Who, “Fezzes are Cool” card. The card sizes vary and are often not standard frame sizes, so you simply trim to size and frame! Cheap and easy!
2. Raid Your Parents’ Old Stuff
You can find free art for your home just by raiding your dad and mom’s stuff! From my mom’s yearbook, I scanned a prom dress illustration and printed it out at home (top photo, left).
Digging through my dad’s junk, I found this interesting schematic in a machine manual he was going to throw out. I love the color, typography and graphics, even though I have no idea what a hydraulic machine does!
3. Vintage Photos
Vintage photos are another unique and inexpensive art option for your home! You can find them at yard sales, thrift stores, antique stores, Etsy, Ebay. I purchased the trio of New York beauty queens from Found Retail (top picture, right).
Old family photos make a more sentimental option that is also free. The older and wackier the better! Check out this photo of my great grandmother and her sister from the 1960s. I’m not sure whose birthday was being celebrated, but I’m thankful this moment was captured on film so it can decorate my apartment.
4. Artwork by Kids
I sincerely hope you know a kid or two, as they are excellent purveyors of free art for your walls. If not, you must befriend one immediately. Kids tend to either overwhelm you with their artistic offerings or they can be temperamental artists. For your less prolific child artists, you may need to be persistent about your need for art. This effort will pay off, and I present to you, “Day at the Carpet Store” by Jackie (age 9), as an example:
Shorpy is one of the most fabulous websites ever. It’s a vintage photo blog featuring tons of images from the 1850s to the 1950s. You can browse by decade, subject, and location. The variety is enormous and you can order high quality prints for as low as $15 for an 8″ X 10″. The people who run Shorpy carefully restore each image so you get high quality prints.
Check out this department store photo from 1941:
Flickr is more than just a place to upload your photos! It’s a great source for free art for your home. Use Flickr’s advanced search to find photos that are shared with a Creative Commons license, which allows you download the photos for printing without any copyright issues.
Also, be sure to check out Flickr’s “The Commons“, which is a collection of copyright free images shared by public photography archives. You can download and print at home.
I love this weird beach scene from 1955, from Margaret Barr’s ballet “Strange Children”.
I ordered this fabric swatch from Tonic Living for $1.50 as a possible option for a sewing project. While it didn’t work for the purpose I needed, it will make a great framed piece of art. Now, I just need to get to Ikea to get one of their square frames.
Another framable fabric swatch idea, Gray Line Linen sells swatch cards for their various lines of linen. This is their Warsa collection and the swatch card is $9.75:
8. Vintage Advertising
Vintage advertising images look splendid on your walls. You can purchase vintage magazines and cut out individual images or shop for individual advertisement images at antique stores, Etsy or Ebay. You can find advertising for pretty much any category you want, such as cars, decor, fashion, travel and so much more. I love vintage fashion and lingerie ads:
Also check out Plan 59 for midcentury advertising that you can order online. My personal favorite is this Magnavox ad.
9. Sewing Patterns
You can find sewing patterns at thrift stores, antique stores and online inexpensively. I found these at an antique store in Los Angeles. It was my best negotiation ever, particularly since I’m terrible at negotiating. I would almost rather give the person more money than they originally asked rather than negotiate.
The patterns were priced at $5 each, but I guess the guy at the antique store REALLY wanted to get rid of them. While I was looking at them he started lowering the price, and somehow, without any hard bargaining on my end, they ended up at $0.25 each! Score! I bought a bazillion. I framed the best using some basic frames from Aaron Brothers.
10. Google Images
I loved the Dr. Who Dalek Victory poster, but since I’m not 12 years old, I didn’t need a 24 X 36 inch poster size! I simply used the Google search to find the same image, which I printed out on 5″ X 7″ photo paper at home.
In case you’ve never done it, It’s super easy to search using Google Images:
- Enter your search terms.
- Make sure you select Image search.
- Click on “Search Tools” to open more search options.
- Under the size drop down menu, select “Large” to ensure the image resolution will be sufficient for printing.
May you cover your walls with unique and inexpensive art! Do you have any inexpensive inexpensive art ideas to share?