Now that Christmas is over I can start sharing the things I made for Christmas gifts with you! Do you want to know a secret… I didn’t make much. Rather, I didn’t make much that isn’t already all over Pinterest. But this one… I’m pretty proud of. I’ve been waiting patiently to share it with you guys until after the holidays (it’s hard to keep it to myself!). I’m thinking if you love personalized things as much as I do, you’ll love this fun family game. Shane and I love concentration or memory. We bought a set from Starbucks years ago and have spent many, many evenings battling. Some of our nieces and nephews are getting old enough to play real games (not toddler stuff) and I was so excited to try making a game for their family. Since they live out of town, we thought it would be fun to create a memory game that had photos of all their cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Now that we’ve seen how awesome it is- we’ve decided we need one of our own. Maybe in a year or two when our kiddos are old enough to play along with us.
You could make this game as a gift (like we did) or keep it for yourself (like we wanted to), you could use family photos for your kiddos to learn faces, or you could use pretty pictures of landscapes or… well, anything. This could be done 1000 ways- this is how we did it!
- Thin birch plywood (found at the craft store)
- Large Square, pencil and Utility Knife
- Fine grit sandpaper (100 is what we used)
- Gel Medium (in the painters aisle at the craft store- acrylic is good) and foam brush
- Photos printed on a laser printer
- Spray bottle of water
- Spray on Clear Coat
The hardest part of this DIY is gathering the photos. Poaching from Facebook, emailing the non-Facebook users, and deciding which of the 1000s of photos to use. When you’re selecting photos- keep in mind a couple of things. When you transfer the photos- it’s kind of like upping the ‘clarity’ on your photo drastically. Like to the point that dark eyes are too dark and really bright faces don’t have any colour. Try choose clear photos that aren’t too dark- they’re not going to get any better when you transfer them, so plan for that. When you’ve gathered all your digital photos, put them into a word document and size them all down to 3×3″. This is easily done with the crop tool in Microsoft Word or Pages. Then print them on a laser printer. Make sure it’s a laser printer and not an inkjet- this is what makes them transfer! Regular old printer paper (NOT cardstock) works best. Cut out your picture squares before prepping your wood.
Okay, so you have all these beautiful faces that need to be transferred to your wood memory pieces. But you need to make those pieces! We chose to use a thin (1/8) birch plywood from Michaels to make ours. I like how sturdy it is compared to balsa, but with some elbow grease, you can still cut it using just a utility knife. If you have a table saw… obviously use that (you lucky duck, you). Before sweet talking some help cutting the squares out- use a square to measure out 3×3 squares. Ours were actually a little under 3″ to fit the most possible. We made 36 pieces total (which means 18 unique images). You’ll want to have a couple extra blades for your utility knife when you’re doing this much cutting. And can I just say that this is my favourite utility knife? I know it’s a little thing- but my dad had this one and I always took it when he wasn’t looking, it’s so much easier for me to handle and apply proper pressure (without holding that spring loaded button). I finally went out to track one down for myself. But honestly, any old knife should work. When your squares are all cut, sand the edges until smooth- we used a 100 grit sandpaper.
When it comes time to transfer the pictures, I found a million and one tutorials on how to do this and none of them were exactly the same. I played around with a few techniques and this is the one that worked the BEST. There’s some of the pieces that rubbed off not so great when I tried different techniques. Use a foam brush to apply a gel medium directly on to your wood (not your photo). The layer should be liberal enough to cover the surface, but thin enough that there’s no lumps or bumps. Think of how you might modge podge. Then, using a spray bottle full of water, mist your photo lightly with water and place face down on the gel medium. Use your fingers to smooth out any of the air bubbles, but be gentle because between the water and the gel, it can slide around quite a bit if you press too hard. Let them dry completely before the next step! This is the gel medium I used and found it worked great! I love the matte look- but you could go glossy if you like super shiny.
When they’re 100% dry, use your spray bottle full of water and working one at a time, give them a good spray. use your fingers and very gently rub until the paper starts peeling off. I found starting at the corners easiest. If you’re not gentle enough you might pull the image up (I had that happen once or twice when I got impatient). You’ll need to do this a few times for each piece to completely remove the paper. I found that letting them dry when I thought they were ‘good’ would reveal more white patches that I’d go back to and spray/rub again. For your sanity you should probably do this while watching some good TV. It’s time consuming- but not difficult. When you’re happy with how they look (when they’re dry from spraying), you’re ready to seal them. I used a gloss finish spray sealer (like a clear spray paint… this one to be exact) and love the sheen it gave them. I tried to capture the finish in a photo for you (did it work?).
Now they’re ready for gifting or playing! Wrap ’em up with some bakers twine, or store yours in a little basket for little fingers to easily play. I’m not going to lie to you… this project is a LOT more elbow grease than I expected. But boy, the payoff is handsome. But don’t let me fool you into thinking this will be a saturday afternoon project that and you’ll still have time to cook dinner. We cut and sanded the and applied the pictures one day, then removed them and sealed the next. But if you do put the time in… I promise you’ll love it just as much as I do. And that’s a lot :)
What do you think of photo gifts? Cheesy or personal? I think it depends, but I really love this photo memory!
PSST… have you gotten your free printable calendar yet? It’s 2015 now, so you should get on it!