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May 2009
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Topics: art,crafts,Girl Scouts,holidays,how to,photographs

How to: Make an Artistic Tiled Photo Present

Zoe Art Photograph Tile Final
Teagan Art Photograph Tile Final

This tiled black & white photograph project is a perfect gift for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or just any time you want to give a truly unique (yet inexpensive) present to someone you love.

Total time to make one: about 90 minutes, longer if it is your first one (less if you are doing a bunch all at once).

Total cost: About $3 each, more if you are only making one and don’t already have some of the basic craft supplies.

I made a few of these on my own, and then I took the idea to my Girl Scout troop for them to make Mother’s Day presents.  The girls loved it and after explaining what parts I had trouble with, most were able to do this with very little assistance (ages 10-13) — I preglued the tiles onto the wood and the preprinted the photographs onto the tissue.  The girls picked their photographs at a previous meeting.


  • Nine 4.25″ tiles — any size would do and any grid would be fine
  • Gorilla Glue — I used 4 bottles worth for 25 projects
  • Spray paint or stain — I needed just over 2 cans worth
  • 13.25″ square piece of plywood, or other wood
  • White tissue paper — I used one large pack of plain white tissue
  • 9+ plain sheets of paper — I used one pack of plain
  • Tape, inexpensive is fine — I used 2.5 rolls for 25 total artistic tile projects
  • Mod Podge (matte or glossy, your choice)
  • Hanging hardware of your choice


  • Saw to cut the wood
  • Inkjet Printer, B&W only is fine if you print in B&W
  • Scissors
  • Hammer
  • Spray bottle for water (you could do this with your fingers)
  • Cup for water
  • Paint brush or foam brush
  • Patience 🙂


(1) Find or take a new crisp face photograph of your favorite subject(s).  I made a couple tile projects with two people — these were harder to line up on the tile grid.  Here is the original photo of Teagan (see the final art tile project above). Teagan with Grassy background original

(2) In your favorite photo editing program (I used Gimp), make a 3×3 grid where each tile is 4.25″ large.  Keep the grid lines on, since they are very useful!!!  Put your photograph into the grid and line up the photo so that you like the results.  Be sure there is no line on the eyes, or anywhere else you might not want a line.  This is the time to add any words or special effects you want your photograph to have.  You might want to put the person’s name, the year, a special quote, or other special features (I put sparkles into one).  This is when you should turn the photograph into a Black & White image.

Copy each section of the grid into a new file that is 4.25″x4.25″.  Crop .25″ off of all the sides and put this into a new file — save this as a jpg if there are layers, so that it prints all the layers.  You are cutting off the edges in order to compensate for the area in between the tiles.  If your tiles are not going to be touching, be sure to take this into account in your final image squares.

Making the right sized photo tiles 01
Making the right sized photo tiles 02
Making the right sized photo tiles 03
Making the right sized photo tiles 04

(3) Cut the wood into 13.25″ squares.

Wood cut for photo art tiles

(4) If using plywood, spray paint the wood in an airy place — I always do this outside far away from my windows and doors.  If using a high quality wood, stain as you desire.  Be sure to do the whole top and sides — spaces will peek through between the tiles.

Wood painted for photo art tiles

(5) Attach the hanging hardware.  Do this before you put the tiles on so that you don’t break the tiles.  Remember which way is up later as you attach the photograph. 🙂  If you want to sign the back, now would be a good time.

(6) Once the wood is dry, spray the wood with water.  Use a SMALL amount of Gorilla Glue on the tiles — this glue expands 3-4 times, so don’t use much — a few of mine had glue coming out the sides!  Carefully place the tiles onto the damp wood (don’t get it on your skin — it is really hard to get off).  You’ll have a good ten minutes to get them positioned correctly.  Put something heavy on them for a few hours as they set — I piled them on top of each other…  Allow them to sit for at least a couple of hours — I waited over a day.

Glueing Tiles onto boards
Stack of wood with tiles waiting for the tissue paper photographs

(7) Prepare the tissue paper to be printed on.  This is the tricky part.  🙂  Each printer has its own quirks.  I found that I had to make sure that my tissue paper didn’t start on the page until about 1/3 of the way up from the bottom (so that the printer could grab the plain paper).  Because of this I was only able to print one tile per page of paper.  Put at least three small pieces of tape on the bottom, and two on each side, none on the top.  Use scrap paper if you can!

Taping the tissue paper to the paper before printing photograph

(8) Print!  Be sure to have patience with this step.  It took me at least ten tries to get it right, and then it was a snap.  🙂  Make sure your borders are the correct size for what you are printing and where you are printing on the page.  I wrote on each page which tile it was, so that they wouldn’t get mixed up when it came time to place them.  Depending on your image, this might not be an issue.

Tissue paper photographs ready to be put on tiles

(9) Now that your tiles are firmly attached to the wood and your photograph is printed into tile sized images onto tissue paper, it is now time for the fun part!  Get a glass of water (don’t accidentally drink it — my cat tried to!), your Mod Podge, and your paint brush.  Cut one tile out (leave a very small white border around the edge — you do not have to cut perfectly if you leave this edge).  Cut the paper underneath, too, so that it is easier to cut (if you try to cut just the tissue, it might tear).  Wet the correct tile with a mixture of water and Mod Podge.  Carefully lay the tissue on the tile.  Cover it with a thin layer of Mod Podge.  Don’t worry about wrinkles or small tears, they give it an authentic tile look.  Smooth out large bubbles/wrinkles very carefully.

First photograph tissue put onto tile squares

(10) Repeat for all tiles and allow them to dry for at least 30 minutes.

Putting water and Mod Podge on tiles with brush for tissue photo

(11) Once dry, put a second layer of straight Mod Podge on top.  Be sure your brush strokes are all going the same direction, or blot using a foam brush.  It’ll look a bit white, but it will dry completely clear.  Coat a third time, if necessary.  You could also spray the whole thing with a protective clear coat.

Putting on the second coat of Mod Podge - photo tiles

(12) Hang on the wall and enjoy, or give as a gift and see how much the recipient loves the gift!  🙂

Art Photograph Tiles hanging on wall final