Creating your own digital art frame to showcase your work is not at all that hard and is a lot cheaper than commercial alternatives. In this article, I’ll show how I made my own digital art frame from and old IPS LED display and Raspberry Pi 3 and I’ll tell you how much it cost.
I have long wanted to get a cool digital art frame like Meural or Memento, but I really really can’t justify their very high prices. After receiving a Raspberry Pi 3 as a Christmas gift, I decided to create my own digital art frame.
The aspect ratio matters
One thing I don’t like about the commercial options is the aspect ratio 16:9, which is too screen-like ratio for me. My photos are shot in 4:3 or 3:2 aspect ratios, so I wanted something where I wouldn’t have to crop the photos as much. After a quick browsing of second hand marketplace, I decided on a 16:10 Lenovo ThinkVision IPS Led 24″ monitor. A used monitor with a maximum resolution of 1920×1200 dating back to 2014 cost me 40 euros.
Now a proper digital art frame needs something that isolates the picture from the wall, like a passepartout and frames. The Lenovo monitor has about 2 cm wide besels around the screen. The besel part was easy to take off, I just removed two screws and gently pried the besel frame off. I took the besel frame to a professional art framer and for 100 euros, my screen received this massive passepartout and frame. I then ordered a slim VESA wall mount for 19,90 euros and two white power cords for Pi and monitor and a cable sleeve. The default Raspberry Pi 3 power cord was really short and the cord was fixed to the charger so I had to order a new USB-charger and micro usb cable for it.
What about the software?
I simply followed the instructions found on Openframe.io and after maybe 3 hours, the setup was ready to go. One thing to note though, I had to increase the shared amount of graphic processing memory from bios. Otherwise the Openframe wouldn’t work very well, but it was a simple thing to do. After installing you connect the smart frame to your home wifi and use Openframe’s online service to cast art to your frame. Openframe requires you to upload your art to an image hosting site. The uploaded image must be uploaded twice, once in thumbnail-sized version and the second time in proper resolution (1920×1200 in my case). Google Drive didn’t work as an image hosting site, but I used Imgur, where I am able to get a direct url to the photo.
After everything is set up and the images are loaded to the service, I can just log on to Openframe’s website with my mobile phone and click what pictures I want to show on my screen. You can even install a script on Raspberry Pi which creates a slideshow of all the uploaded photos.
There were quite a few purchases I needed to make my frame work and look neat. Here’s a breakdown of the costs:
- Raspberry Pi 3 – about 50 euros (got as a christmas gift)
- Used 24″ IPS Led display with VESA wall mount compatibility – 40 euros
- USB charger for PI – 12,90 euros
- 3 meter long white power cord for display – 9,90 euros
- 3 meter long white Grateq micro usb to usb cable – 11,95 euros
- Cable sleeve – 9,90 euros
- Framing for the display – 100 euros
- Slim VESA wall mount – 19,90 euros
TOTAL 254,55 euros
Meural Art Frame costs 521 € plus international shipping 83 € plus 148,11 € taxes when importing to Finland, making a grand total of 752,11 €. Meural is bigger and with nice functionalies, but on the downsize, it is 16:9 aspect ratio.
Memento Smart Frame 25″ is 533 euros plus similar shipping and tax prices. Meural and Memento both cost around 750 euros, making my setup about 500 euros cheaper. Plus you can save money if you build the frame yourself and use your old monitor.
If I were to do this all over again, I would order a swivel VESA wall mount so I could pivot the screen on the wall. Although the power cording would have to be done differently then. There are two power cords in this setup (Pi and display), whereas the commercial options have only one. The commercial options also adjust their brightness automatically according to the room brightness. They can also be set to turn off automatically during night or when no one is at home. So you do get a lot more functionality with the more expensive screens. But I do think DIY solution is good enough in many ways.