Why a DIY photo ornament? Every year between Thanksgiving and the second week in December, our Christmas Tree goes up and I get to unpack the storage boxes of Christmas ornaments I have collected over the years. I’ll be the first to admit that the balls and broken figures can be tiresome but when I unwrap the packaging surrounding a photo ornament I always take pause and smile.
Since having my first child, every year I have ordered a photo Christmas Tree ornament and typically give one to my parents and in-laws as well. My go-to spot for ordering them has been Shutterfly and I get the glass ornaments ($29.99). Last year I wanted to attempt a DIY photo ornament and this tutorial became one of the most popular posts on my photography website. So since pivoting away from my photography career, I decided to share the tutorial here on this space as well.
These wood block ornaments are super easy to make and really inexpensive as well. They definitely aren’t limited to Christmas Ornaments and I could totally see someone making alphabet or name ornaments coordinated with a baby’s nursery colors or theme as a super cute decor accent piece.
2” Wood Cubes
Screws with Loops for Hanging
To start with, determine what you are going to use for decorative papers. For my first block, I downloaded a free trial of PicMonkey and used their holiday backgrounds but I personally found it to be a bit of a learning curve to use. If you go this route, select “Collage” from the top bar, and then “Square Deal” for the layout. I recommend the template that has a grid of 3 x 3 squres. They will print a little bigger than your 2”x 2” needs so make sure you have space to crop down when you trim them. If you use the grid of squares that has 4 x4, they print a bit too small for your blocks.
Once you have your layout selected, you can easily drag and drop from swatches (I used “Santaland” for mine), upload your images and add text to each square. You will need six squares per block (four sides, a top and a bottom).
If PicMonkey isn’t for you but you are somewhat comfortable with Photoshop, I created a template that worked great for me! You can access this template for free as well as a video tutorial about how you can easily use a Microsoft Word document to quickly size your images to fit the blocks right here .
For my Photoshop template, I used digital patterns and illustrations that I purchased from Creative Market. There are TONS of options here, just search for something like “holiday patterns” and you’ll see what I mean. There are literally endless possibilities for customizing your DIY photo ornament.
A final option would be to simply use wrapping paper or scrapbook paper for your ornament. I didn’t attempt this and am not sure if it would matter or not if the papers were various weights (thickness). In my case, I found it worked well to have all sides of the ornament printed out on one piece of the same paper but who knows if that is truly necessary or not.
In any event, once you have the “paper” portions of your ornament determined and printed out, the next step is to trim them down to fit your block. A paper trimmer makes this super easy but there is no reason why using simple scissors wouldn’t work as well.
Now comes the fun part….using a sponge brush, coat one side your block with a generous amount of Mod Podge. Place one of your sides onto the coated area and press down to get all of the ripples and wrinkles out. Put a very light coat of the Mod Podge over the top of the paper square. I use a second larger sponge brush to brush off the excess goop. Repeat this process around the other three sides of the block and then complete the bottom. Let it dry for at least 30 minutes.
If you have a Cricut or similar paper cutter system, you could add some fun layered paper designs on your block either over a papered background or straight onto the wood. As I mentioned earlier, the possibilities are endless!
Once the sides and bottom are dry, you can work on the top. If you draw an “x” from corner to corner on the top of your block, it will give you the center point for screwing in your hanging loop. You should be able to easily screw it in by hand but try not to over screw it so that the wood at the top of the cube doesn’t warp. Once it is is in, make a straight cut to the center of the square you were saving for the top of the ornament. Coat the top of the ornament with Mod Podge and slide the paper on past the screw finishing up with a final coat of Mod Podge. Let it dry for at least 30 minutes.
The final step is to tie a ribbon on and hang it on the tree!
You have all of the basics for here for creating your own DIY Photo Ornament but if you would like the additional perks including the Photoshop template I designed for the printing the squares or additional video tutorials I’ve created specific to this project, you can access those by joining my email list right here:
Did you try out this DIY photo ornament tutorial? Please leave a comment below and let me know how it went for you! Or if you know anyone who might be interesting in creating one too be sure to share this post!