DIY Photo Collage

On July 22nd 2012 I married my best friend (I know that is cheesy but it’s true).  We had a small intimate wedding with only 30 family and friends in attendance at the Wawona Hotel at Yosemite, CA.  I wanted to create some type of wall collage to show off our amazing pictures, but I hated all the pre-made collage frames I found, so I decided to create my own.  I love the final result and it was super easy to make and a fraction of the price of some of the other “collage kits” I found out there.  You can do something like this with your own wedding photos, family photos, or even a collection of photographs or artwork (nature, city scape, etc).


First, I saw the idea of getting a frame mat you could sign and thought it was a great idea.  Michaels only had one advertised as a “signing mat” but it was ugly so I just bought a pretty frame and a mat big enough to write on.  We set it out at our wedding as our “guest book” and had everyone at the wedding write us well wishes.  I liked this idea so much better than some book you store in your garage and never look at.  Because this is on my wall, I get to re-read the sweet and funny comments on a regular basis.  I bought a Cornflower Blue (to match my color scheme) Extra Fine Tipped Sharpie and set it next to the frame.  Everyone followed instructions and wrote cute little notes in the blue Sharpie, except my husbands grandfather of course who wrote in a normal pen…and upside down!!  At first I was a little upset, but now it is a cute and funny story to tell our children and it makes me laugh and think of my grandfather-in-law fondly every time. The guests didn’t write as much as I had anticipated and so there was a lot of awkward empty space left on the frame mat, so I decided to fill in the blank spaces with quotes (written in black Sharpie this time for a nice contrast) from songs and poems about love. (cheesy, I know!!)  I wrote down quotes from our “First Dance” song (Crazy Girl by Eli Young Band), my favorite romantic comedies (hello, A Walk to Remember), and of course it would not be complete without quotes from my favorite songs (thanks Taylor Swift, Train, and Blake Sheldon).  Important note, the frame will overlap some of the mat your guests will write on.  In order to make sure the frame doesn’t cover up half of your guest’s special note, I put the frame on the mat and removed the glass.  Then in very light pencil I traced the inside edge of the frame and angled it a little into the frame itself so you couldn’t actually see it behind the frame.  This gave me about a half inch gap around my mat and I wrote inside the gap, “Please do not write in this section.”  Worked perfectly!


I also wanted to create a little shadow box to hang a few of the special trinkets from our wedding.  I purchased a shadow box from Michaels that I made sure fit the dimensions of our wedding invitation.  I then framed the invitation with Nathan’s bow-tie he wore, the flower clips I wore in my hair, and the most special part, my “Something Old,” which is my late grandmother’s locket from when she was a  young girl with her name inscribed and my late grandfather’s dog tags from when he was in the Navy.  I tacked them all on there with sewing pins that match the same color of the objects so they would blend in.


After we got the pictures back from the photographer, I narrowed down the top pictures that I wanted to display.  Then I decided which sizes I wanted each picture (the picture of our family is one of the biggest to see everyone’s faces, I wanted the individual pictures to be the same size, etc.) and sent them to the local CVS to print.  Most pharmacies (and also some Targets and those kind of stores) have a photography area where you can upload your pictures, choose the sizes, and then pick them up the next day or later that same day (usually for an added cost).  If you have a professional printer you can also print them yourself, the photographer would have printed them (for an arm and a leg) and there are also a million websites out there that will print them and mail them.  Pick what works best for you!  The best part was when I went down to pick them up they accidentally printed two copies of everything.  The guy apologized and was about to throw the copies in the trash when I asked, “Well since they are going in the trash anyway, do you mind if I keep them?”  He thought it was a great idea and then I was able to give extra copies of pictures to our parents.

Then I went to Michaels Arts and Crafts Store to buy the frames.  They generally have a great frame selection, plus they give a discount to teachers.  A few other stores will also give teacher discounts, however most of them have a complicated process where you have to show your current pay stub and then register through their company, where with Michaels all you have to do is show them any proof, ID, pay stub, etc and they will give you the discount on the spot.  This process took me a VERY long time, mostly because I am indecisive (I like to think of it as uber creative with too many ideas in my head).  I went with a dark wood and black theme which goes with the rest of our house.  I wanted the collection to look eclectic, like I didn’t buy them all at Michaels and instead spent years picking up random frames from around the world (funny, I know).  I obviously had to keep in mind the size of pictures I needed and which frames I wanted to be the “statement” frames.  I decided to have the individual pictures of Nathan and me, and then the two pictures of our wedding party be the more unique frames, while keeping the rest of them simpler so I didn’t overwhelm the collage.  I also chose two rounded frames to add to the uniqueness of the collection and add a little pop.  You can also do this with a statement colored frame or a standout pattern.  If you choose to do this, however, make sure you do two or three of them so they don’t look like an accident.  Also, a huge thing to think about when you are doing this, make sure you choose frames that already have the hanging hardware on them!  All of mine did but one and that one frame was the biggest pain in the world because I had to go out, buy the hanging hardware, and then nail it on myself.  Save yourself the headache! (Unless the frame is worth it, of course)

Then once I was satisfied with my collection of frames I came home and did the painstaking process of picking which pictures went in each frame and then setting them.  I can’t believe how many different ways there are to take a back off of a frame!  Before you start hanging, I highly suggest you lay out the frames and create the collage you want on the floor.  All things to keep in mind:  Do you want a formal look? (stick with even numbers and straight lines) Do you want a casual look? (stick with odd numbers and the scattered approach, which is what I did)  Do you have a long wall you want to cover or a tall thin wall?  All of these will be factors as to how you want to lay them out.  A good rule of thumb: put the big statement pieces in the middle and then branch out in all directions going from largest to smallest.  Once you think you are done, take a step back, walk away, even take a picture of it and look at it on the screen.  These will all help you make sure you love the layout.

Frankie “helping” me organize the frames

Hanging them all was super tricky.  I had to enlist the help of my husband for this part.  Again, I started with my biggest center pieces and worked my way out.  Make sure you keep in mind how the picture will sit once it is properly hanging.  Does it hang from the top?  middle? two facets on the side? one big one in the middle?  Trust me, we made plenty of mistakes and our wall ended up looking like Swiss Cheese when we were finished, but the great part is the pictures cover up all of our mistakes so no one knows! (except you of course, but keep it between us)

And there you go, your own unique photo collage!!  What do you think?  Have you done something similar?  Let me know!

Pros:  Completely unique,  you get to pick the frames, the pictures, and the layout.  You can also change it whenever you want.  You can add updated photos or rearrange the pictures and create a new layout.  If you go bargain shopping, it can be cheaper than buying those pre-made collage frames or a collage “kit.”

Cons: Takes way more time to find the frames and create the layout than it does to buy a pre-made collage and sticking photos in it.  It could be more expensive than the very cheap collage frames I have seen in Michaels.  The amount of possible holes in your walls from all the different nails.



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