Saturday, December 19, 2020

Photobombing your Christmas tree with photo balls...

Ho ho ho!  Here we go go go!

I've been making some ornaments for my sisters using photos of their kids (they range from 5 to almost 9 years old).

I got the idea for these balls many years ago from a Martha Stewart magazine.  She was suggesting a small ball using recycled Christmas cards or heavy scrapbooking papers.  I had to try it immediately!  Of course, mine are not nearly as elegant as hers.

I made the following ornament featuring circles cut from various recycled cards containing Santas.  For many years my friends tore the front part of the cards off after the holidays and saved them for me.  There's a lot you can make from recycled greeting cards!

Also fun with foil cards.  I just cut those circles randomly.

I made a smaller-sized photo ball several years ago for my folks, featuring us seven kids and the then current crop of grandkids.  The smaller ball worked OK for greeting card Santa's, but I wished I had made the photo ball bigger at the time.

I didn't learn a darn thing...I then made a couple with my daughter Riley's pictures in the same small size.  

I start out with old photos, often rejects due to bad backgrounds, someone else's weird face, accidental photobombing, or just my inability to take good pictures.  I am a much better photographer when I can just cut an isolated circle out of a disaster of a photo.  

Now I print some of the photos my sisters send me by email or text (or I snatch them off their Facebook pages).

Using Riley as my guinea pig, I choose a circle size that I want, the larger the circle the larger the ornament.  A good paper punch is very handy, but this ornament can be made without one.

I then draft an equilateral triangle that fits inside of the circle.  Your final picture will be the size of the flat triangular surface, with the rest of the face/hair on the folded up tabs.  It is OK not to get the entire face, but try not to just get the nose, unless, of course, you want a nose gay ball.

See?  The picture below was tossed due to the horse having a bad hangover (red eyes).  Riley had no hangover, so the shot was acceptable.

I should have cut a circle of just the horse's nose and bristly hairs...that would be funny and Riley would laugh over that for the next 60-70 years.

Ahh, those special Christmas memories of a nutty mutter...

I use the triangle to audition and choose or refuse the photos.  Then I center the face in the middle of my circle punch and cut away.  You can trace around a plastic template with a long straight pin or awl and cut out with good, small paper scissors (just on the inside of the scratched line).  The scratched line is not as noticeable as a fine Sharpie marker if your paper cutting skills are like mine.  If you want to make a circle in a size not available in a paper punch, that is the way you will have to do it.

Before you mark and fold, figure out what part of the picture needs a 'pointy tip' of the triangle for a good fit.

Then I DO use my fine tip Sharpie to trace the plastic triangle on the back of each circle and make a sharp crease.  I just couldn't see a pencil mark; again, that darn slippery photo paper!

It is a trick of the camera flash that the close ups of the creased pictures look a little 'glittery.'  It doesn't look like that in real life.

Each ball has one larger middle 'band' and two 'caps.'  The caps requires five photo circles each and the middle band uses ten, so you need 20 photo circles for one ball.

The three folded, flanged edges on each circle will be the surfaces for the glue.  

Photos are a little trickier than just using circles cut from old Christmas cards.  Cardstock is more absorbent (and forgiving) than the slick backs of photos so you don't have to be as careful with the amount of glue.  

And they dry faster.  

With slick photo paper, there is no place for extra glue to go but out, like ketchup (or down on your blouse if you are eating a glue sandwich).  

So I have a little trick with clips.  (Ha, Martha!  It's a good thing.)

I use the Roxanne's Glue Baste for photos rather than school paste, old-fashioned Elmer's, or glue sticks.  Roxanne's is thicker and dries a little faster and harder.  The needle applicator delivers the right amount for me.  

Use just a few small dots applied on one folded back surface, smear with a finger or toothpick, and adhere to a DRY back surface on the next circle.  Don't use too much glue or it will squirt out the edge and be messy, but cover as well as possible.

After a couple of tries, you will get a feel for how much glue is the perfect amount.  You could just cut a few circles out of an index card or a really bad photo for practice if you like.

It's hard to tell from the above picture, but I laid out my pieces for each section ahead and made the faces go every which way, which is the style I like. 

Here's the outside...

...and the inside.

Now for my trick for photos.  Since the slick photo backing is not absorbent, I use the smallest office clips to gently hold the edges together for a bit.  You can also use the cool plastic Wonder Clips (which I didn't own yet when I made these) or wooden clothespins.  

I clip them on carefully so I don't mar the photo surface.  The optimal number of clips needed depends on how big the circle with which you started.

It can get confusing as to what surface to glue to what on the next photo.  

The clips are helpful to just clip without glue until you get your bearings again.

Just look at the back and see how one triangle is 'fat side down' next to one that is 'fat side up,' etc.  They alternate.

It should look kind of like an unwieldly straight snake, consisting of ten photos.  One good thing about the slick photo paper...if you get confused and glue the wrong two flanged edges together, they are easily pulled apart and repositioned. 

Cardstock is not so forgiving unless you catch your mistake quickly.

I am making the middle band that takes ten pictures first.  Due to the even number (10), it will make a band like a donut swim float.  

When I get to the two caps (top and bottom), they take an odd number (5).  They will be closed like a shallow beanie hat.

I've never made an ornament leaving out the middle band and just sticking two caps together.  Might look cool and be a good exit point if you wish you had never started this project.

The metal clips do make it a little heavy, but also provides little legs!  I'm sure the Wonder Clips are much better for this.

Now I am up to nine.

Then I glue number one to number ten to make my band.

(from another angle)

To make the caps, all the pointy tops of the five triangles come together...a little less confusing, I think.

There's always a little hole when gluing the triangles together (or maybe not when Martha is making them).  As I am making a cap, I go ahead and insert a ribbon with a knotted end.  I glue, although maybe not necessary.

When I forget to insert, I use my tiny hole punch followed by a needle threaded with #8 spooled embroidery thread.  I forget a lot.

'Some people' like a little tassel sticking out the bottom, if you want to be fancy 'like them.'  You go girl, Martha!

Now the bottom cap.

Since this is slippery photo backing, I slip away for a while to work a quick crossword and enjoy a glass of wine...or I start another ball.  When dry, I remove the clips from each section.

Now it's just a matter of putting the three sections together, which seems much more straight forward.

Now repeat on the other end.

TA DA!  Asa, Eliza, and Mills...frozen in time.  If the white edges but you, very carefully, a Pigma or fine Sharpie pen could be used.  Trust me, no one will ever look at your edges as close as you are looking at mine.

I just thought of something!  Using the needle tip of the Roxanne's, you could put a tiny line or little controlled dots of glue on the edges and dredge through some glitter or glitter snow.

(Did you know that glitter is the 'Herpes of the craft universe?'  It never goes away...ever!)

But it would like elegant.

I want to make some of these balls with music cardstock for my music-themed Christmas tree.  Maybe I can secretly slip a couple of photos of Riley playing her French Horn or blue ukulele.


  1. OMG what a lot of work that is but they look so good when done

  2. Use to make these as a kid and even with my kids when they were little.

  3. Darling ornaments, Teresa! Thanks for the tutorial. I know you mentioned that you've used 2 different sizes for your circles. Larger and smaller. Did I miss the part about how big the circles were or what size the finished ornaments turn out?


  4. Those are the most fantastic ornaments!! Never in the world would I have patience to do anything with glue. Coming from a photography family these would make the most wonderful gifts but, no, I can't use glue, never could.

  5. Oh girl, you and your fiddley projects. Now I see how you have the patience to do your prep for applique. Stay safe.

  6. Seems to me there is a paint pen thingy that has gold colored paint that you could use on those edges of the circles after they are glued together.

  7. You tutorial is amazing with all sorts of tips....... !!!!!

  8. I have wanted to make these for years, thank you for the great tutorial! I think I can do this!


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