How to Use Photos for Crafts
Use Photos to Make Personalized Gift Wrap
Don't Let Those Old Photos Just Collect Dust
If you listen carefully, you can hear the sound of your old photos calling your name. Muffled, from the back of your closet or (the innards of your computer) where you haven't touched them in years, they beckon to be enjoyed once more.
There's the old photo of your little brother dressed up as Batman, pictures that tout your '80s "big hair," snapshots of that trip to Disney World, and the ones of dear relatives and treasured pets who have long since passed. Those photos yearn to be rediscovered. What are you waiting for?
Dig them out from the closet and print the newer ones off from your computer. Don't let them sit any longer, neglected and unused. Let's do something fun with them!
A Collage of Family Memories
Project Idea #1: Photo Gift Wrap
What better way to celebrate a loved one's birthday, Mother's Day, or another personal milestone than to cover a gift in photo-themed wrapping paper? It's so easy to create, and it will lovingly remind them of their life's journey.
Use All Those Great Cat Photos!Click thumbnail to view full-size
Here are two creative ways that I've used the photo gift wrap:
Mother's Day Gift Wrap
I selected family photos of my mom's three kids at different stages, plus those of her grandchildren, several other relatives, and snapshots of her and my dad over the years.
I then wrapped her Mother's Day gifts in sheets of gift wrap that featured all of her favorite people and memories. What more appropriate way to recognize her?
"Older Than Dirt" Box of Gag Gifts
I also used the photo gift wrap when my brother turned 40. However, I added a twist. I selected photos of my brother at various stages of his life. I then wrapped both a shoe box lid and its bottom separately.
The box was filled with "Lordy, Lordy, Look Who's 40" gag gifts. Examples included a
- magnifying glass
- a package of prunes
- men's hair dye, and
- an ear/nose hair trimmer.
I also composed a little rhyme about my brother being "older than dirt" and enclosed a ziploc bag of crushed Oreos (minus the creme middle) with gummy worms. I don't know who loved it more -- his kids or him!
Materials Needed for Photo Gift Wrap
Photos (10-15 photos per 11"x17" sheet)
Clear Scotch Tape
11"x17" piece of white paper
Instructions for Making Gift Wrap
Making photo gift wrap is easy. Here's how:
- Gather older and more recent photos of various sizes. Steer clear of images larger than 5"x7". Also avoid photos with a copyright, unless you've obtained proper permissions. Mix candid and posed shots, and include both color and black and white, if you have them. As long as the photos are personally meaningful and of reasonably good quality, differences in film quality over the years simply add to the effect.
- Arrange the images on an 11"x17" (or other large) piece of white paper, creating a collage effect. There is no need to cut photos. Simply overlap them strategically. Temporarily secure your photos to the paper using small pieces of double-sided tape or backward-rolled Scotch tape.
- Have a copy center run off several color copies of your collage using regular white 11"x17" copy paper. (Important: Make sure they do not use photo paper. You want wrapping paper that is easy to fold.) Order more copies than you think you might need due to the custom nature of your project.
- Piece together several 11"x17" photocopied sheets. Make sure to line up the patterns at an appropriate point before taping. Secure sheets on both sides with a long strand of clear tape.
- Wrap your gift as you normally would.
Project #2: Photo-Embellished Journal
Transform a basic composition book into a prized personal keepsake with your photos. These hardcover notebooks (9 3/4" x 7 1/2") are inexpensive and contain blank pages. You can find them in ruled, unruled, or even grid-lined varieties. (If you're lucky, you can pick them up for $1 or less during back-to-school sales.) Use your finished creation as a travel journal, diary, or one-of-a-kind school notebook.
A One-Of-A-Kind Composition Notebook
Adopting this as a weekend craft idea, I found it to be an enjoyable way to connect with my teen. While I embellished my composition book with family photos, she designed one of her own, using photos of school friends and selfies. She also incorporated a few photo magazine clippings of her favorite sports stars and singers. Finally, she added her name using large text cut from assorted magazines.
Ideas for how you could use this journal:
A "Welcome to the World" Pregnancy/Early Childhood Journal
Fill the pages with your experiences during pregnancy while you wait for your bundle of joy. Include special messages about what you wish for your child. Document
- family traditions
- current trends and world events
- memories of your own childhood, and
- important lessons learned from your own life.
Have other family members add their own messages. Embellish the cover with photos of family, pets, your home, the ultrasound, etc. Continue the journal with memories of your child's early development.
A Grandparenting Journal
Add images of old family snapshots to the cover, including small ones and larger ones, those in color as well as snapshots in sepia or black and white. Then ask a grandparent to document his or her life story in the journal. Consider providing Grandpa a written list of questions as writing prompts. For example: "Describe your religious life as a child," and "How did you first meet Grandma, and how did you know she was 'the one?'"
A One-Of-A-Kind School Notebook
Get crafty alongside your tween or teen and let them design their own notebook for school.
Materials Needed for Photo-Embellished Composition Notebook
color photocopies of photographs
black & write marbled composition book
1" wide foam paint brush
patterned Duct Tape
glitter glue (optional)
Instructions for Making the Photo-Embellished Composition Notebook
To create your photo-covered journal, follow these easy steps:
- Select a variety of personal photos. Also consider cutting out a few images and text from magazines. For example, clip out letters of different sizes, fonts, and colors to spell out your name or "Journal."
- Obtain color photocopies of your images on white copy paper. Do not overlap your images when you copy them. I chose to photocopy any magazine clippings I used, too, so their look and feel would be similar to my snapshots.
- Cut out the photocopied images and arrange them as desired on the front cover of the composition book. Overlap them slightly. Use TM glue to secure each photo to the composition book in a collage arrangement. Make sure the photos entirely cover the composition book and extend precisely to its borders, with the exception of the left-hand side. Do not extend the photos past the composition book's black binding tape. Ensure that the images have no loose edges or wrinkles. Allow the glue to dry. Mod Podge
- Apply several coats of ModPodgeTMon top of your collage, allowing the glue to dry between coats. The glue can appear opaque when first applied, but it becomes transparent when dried. If you want to get truly fancy, before applying the last layer of ModPodgeTM, use glitter glue to accent small portions of your collage. Permit your work to completely dry before adding a final sealing layer of ModPodgeTM.
- When the front side is complete, repeat the process with the back cover.
- When both sides of the composition book have been embellished, cut a piece of patterned duct tape the length of the binding. Apply the duct tape to the completed notebook, placing it on top of the black binding. It will overlap with your photos slightly. (See the photos above for the great zebra print that I used.)
Memories Outside, Treasures Inside
Project 3: Keepsake Box
Store treasured mementos in a one-of-a-kind keepsake box. Add your photos to a kraft plain paper mache box and you have a customized work of art. Paper mache boxes come in a variety of sizes and shapes, including round, oval, hexagon, rectangle, square, and heart-shaped.
Stroll through the aisle of your local craft store or search Amazon.com. You'll find that paper mache boxes have been specially designed to meet a variety of functional purposes: recipe boxes, tissue boxes, jewelry boxes, and a even a box purse.
Think of all the possibilities!
color photocopies of photographs
kraft paper mache box
1" wide foam paint brush
Instructions for the Keepsake Box
- Choose a variety of personal photos based on the size of your box. I have found that using square and are easiest to work with, especially for beginners. rectangular paper mache boxes
- Obtain color photocopies of your images on regular white copy paper.
- Cut out your photocopied images. Use ModPodgeTM glue to secure them to the surface of the box in a collage formation. Make sure there are no rough edges. Allow the ModPodgeTM to dry. Work on the base and lid separately. For the lid, gently fold the photos over the edge of the box and glue the loose edge to the inside. If you are using a box with curved edges (e.g., round, oval), reduce the chance of creases in your final product by working with smaller images and avoiding the use of excess glue under the photos.
- Apply several protective coats of ModPodgeTMon top of your collage. Allow the glue to dry between coats. (Note: The glue can appear opaque when first applied, but it dries clear.)
- When the sides are dry, repeat the process with the bottom of the box.
I gave this photo-embellished keepsake box to my grandmother when she was recovering from heart surgery, filling it with small snacks, tissues, an emergy board, hand cream, and other items she needed in the hospital. Even years later, she still keeps it handy.
Another favorite use of this box is for care packages for college students or military members away from home.
Now, Tell Us How You Did
Hopefully these projects have inspired you to make practical use of your photos. Photos were meant to be seen and enjoyed, so don't hide them.
Let us hear from you if you've been able to use these ideas. We'd love to learn about
- your experience with the project(s),
- others' reactions to your work of art, and
- any fun twists that you added.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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