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Make Your Own Photo Coasters | Tutorial

Are you feeling a little crafty? Want a fun way to display your favorite photos? Looking for a unique and personalized gift idea, or a great coffee table conversation piece? I have a weekend project for you! I have received countless compliments on these photo coasters. Seriously, everybody that comes to our house comments on them, and wants to know where I bought them. Well, it is actually a fun craft, and is pretty simple even for the craft challenged. Even better, many of the supplies you may already have. (If you don’t already have many of these supplies, get together with a friend to make these, and share your supply costs!)

You will need

  • 4 inch tiles (the cheapest ones at Home Depot or Lowe’s). They sell for around $0.15 each.
  • Mod Podge Glossy (You can find this at Michael’s or Walmart, with craft glues.)
  • A decent color printer, and regular paper OR printed pictures.
  • White paint and a small paint brush. The paint type doesn’t really matter, as long as it is water based. I have used water based trim paint and acrylic.
  • Ruler and scissors
  • A sheet of felt or fun foam (to add to the back of the coasters)
  • Polyurethane, and an applicator (or spray polyurethane)
  • Glue gun

Step 1: Paint the edges of your tiles white.

Your tiles will likely come with a tan colored edge. I painted my edges white, so that it is seamless with the white on the top of the tile. While you are painting the edges, extend the paint to the underside of the tile, approximately 1/2″ around. The bottom is going to be covered, but this just gives it a more finished look since the covering will not go all the way to the edge. Allow to dry.

Step 2: Choose and Print Your Photos

In brief, you will need one photo for each coaster, that will look nice when cut approximately 4″x4″. You can either use a regular 4×6″ photo, or print your own if you have a decent color printer. You don’t even have to print on photo paper, since the Mod Podge will give it a nice finish. I printed my own, and I am somewhat of a picture snob. This is one case where print quality is not going to make a huge difference.

If you are going to print your own photos, print it to a 4×6″ size.

Optional Extras: If you have Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, it allows you to add a border and text. This can get really fun and creative! Crop the photo just slightly smaller than the top of the tile. Mine was cropped 4.2″ x 4.2″ and it fit just to the edge…double check my measurements, as brands may vary slightly! You don’t want the edge to go over the tile. Next, you can add a simple border. To do this, add a “duplicate layer”, then “Stroke” that layer. I used 15px, “location inside”. The stroke outline serves a two-fold purpose. It adds an attractive border, and it gives you a detailed line to follow, when cutting your image. Of course, you can also add text, quotes, etc. if you like! When you are happy with the way it looks, flatten the layers, and it is ready for print!

These are a few of the finished images I’ve used.

Step 3: Cut Your Photos

Measure and cut your photo into a perfect square. You can use the top of the tile as a template, or you can measure. It is up to you, but be precise! You don’t want it lopsided. If you used a stroke outline in Photoshop, you just follow the outside of the line.

Step 4: Base Layer of Mod Podge, Attach Your Image

Spread a thin and even layer of Mod Podge onto the top of your tile. Extend it to the corners. I like to use my finger for spreading it. Then, place your pre-cut image on top of the square, being careful to center it as you place it on top of the wet Mod Podge. Once you have it placed, gently smooth the photo, pushing down all the edges, and applying gentle pressure to adhere it to the tile. If you see small bubbles form, smooth them out to the edge, as best as possible. Below, you will see how much Mod Podge I use on my base layer…thin coat!

Step 5: Apply Top Coats of Mod Podge

Once your image is attached to the coaster, you may begin adding coats of Mod Podge on top. You don’t have to wait for the base layer to dry. The key here is smooth, even layers. Make sure that you cover the corners and edges of the tile in Mod Podge, helping to secure and protect the photo edges. Allow the Mod Podge to dry, then add a second coat. (If you are eager to have it finished, you can use a hair dryer on low.)

Step 6: Polyurethane (kinda optional, but definitely more durable to the moisture on glasses if you follow this step!)

Similar to the Mod Podge, the key is to apply a couple thin coats. Since Mod Podge is water soluble, the Polyurethane is a protectant. Apply 2 thin coats to the top and sides of the coaster, allowing to dry between coats.

Step 7: Attach the Backing

The tiles can be rough on furniture, so I like to apply either foam or felt to the back of my coasters. It also gives it a nice, finished look. Simply cut a square for each coaster, slightly smaller than the footprint of the coaster. Apply a liberal amount of hot glue (or regular glue) to the felt or foam square. Attach it to the coaster.

You are finished! Now, sit back and admire your beautiful new coasters!! There are so many fun variations to these. I originally saw these done with decorative dinner napkins, and they are beautiful. You could also make and print your own designs in photoshop. The possibilities are endless!

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Frankie Gilliland - February 4, 2011 - 3:30 pm

Thanks Kelly!! Can’t wait to make them!

tracey - February 4, 2011 - 3:40 pm

This is a super fun idea! Would be good for Christmas gifts or Mother’s Day. Thanks for sharing!

Eliesa - February 4, 2011 - 5:52 pm

What a neat project, and so easy! Can’t wait to try it out! Thanks!

Jodi - February 5, 2011 - 8:21 am

How perfect! I’m in the process of adding a line of accessories to my photography/etsy shop-these are perfect!!

If I get some made I’ll link to you and let you know!

Erin - February 5, 2011 - 11:20 am

Thanks for the tutorial. I am definitely going to try to make these!

Diane - February 5, 2011 - 12:02 pm

That is so cool and seems easy as well. I love this project! In the next week or so I am going to mention your project on my blog and link back to you, sending my readers here. Great stuff.

[…] over at Carrot Top Mom blog has the instructions so you can Make Your Own Photo Coasters. Head over to check it out. I’m going to make some too! What a great gift idea. If you […]

[…] Photo Wreath 2. Photo Coasters 3. Baseboard Photo Display 4. Ladder Photo Display 5. Senior Portrait Photo Display 6. Chicken Wire […]

Amanda - May 30, 2011 - 6:55 pm

I’ve put together a round up of creative photo displays on Craft Gossip today and included your post. :) You can see it here

If you would like a Craft Gossip badge showing you’ve been featured, you can grab one here :)

[…] coasters are fun to make and quite versatile. I stumbled on this tutorial several weeks ago over at Chronicles of the Carrot Top Mom. She used really cute photos of her […]

Shannon - July 29, 2011 - 10:09 pm

Thank you for the wonderful idea. I may even use this as a Christmas gift idea for the family.

April - September 9, 2011 - 11:11 pm

Those are beautiful children in very beautiful photos. Lovely finished product, and great tut.

Kim - November 9, 2011 - 12:53 pm

I am going to make these for all of my nephews for Christmas (to go with their football-themed drinkware) and the coasters will have sports logos, funny sayings, etc. on them. My question is this: do you think it will work if I print my designs and/or photos on transparencies? I just want the design to show up on the coaster and not the background on which it will be printed. By the way, your pictures are ADORABLE!

Megan - December 9, 2011 - 9:30 am

I’ve been looking online for instructions to do this and most sites say to print your own pictures on regular or tissue paper. I know you did print your own, but it will work to use prints from the store?? I want to make sure before I make them for Christmas gifts. I like the clear, glossy look of your coasters more than any others I’ve found. You did a beautiful job! Thanks!

Mary DeArman - December 20, 2011 - 11:12 am

Can I use my inkjet printer for this project? Thank you, Mary

admin - December 22, 2011 - 2:02 pm

I have done this with inkjet before. Occasionally the picture may smear a bit, but you can reprint if needed. To prevent smearing, apply the first coat of modpodge as smoothly as possible, without rubbing very hard (if that makes sense.) Once the first layer is applied, it will not be as likely to smear.

Jeana - January 12, 2012 - 11:59 am

On the Polyeurathane coats, did you buff and sand in between coats like it says on the directions? If not, do you know if there is a difference?
Thank you

Natalie - January 25, 2012 - 1:57 am

Oh I love these! I am going to make some for my sister this week. I just made some with scrapbook paper and they turned out beautiful. You can see them here:

Leave a comment to enter to win a set! =]

Liz - April 28, 2012 - 11:05 am

I just wanted to let you know I was linking to you from my blog about what the ladies and I did at our April Craft Day. Thanks for the great idea!

[…] all rage on Pinterest lately.  My inspiration for the coaster project this month came from “Carrot Top” Mom and the coasters we made in November following the tutorial at The Cottage Home.  It seems like a […]

Dani - July 15, 2012 - 5:14 pm

Hope you don’t mind, but I mentioned you and this post in my blog today! Great little “how to”- the coasters look so nice!

Barbara - December 8, 2012 - 9:43 pm

I am doing this for Christmas presents! It works great! Thank you!!!

Linda - January 13, 2013 - 3:26 pm

I made some and they were beautiful. I didn”t put polyurthene on it and they wanted to stick slightly so I went back and added the polyurthene. was great

Alicia - February 28, 2013 - 6:43 pm

Awesome tutorial! I saw the finished product by Betsy at Anna Nimmity and came over here to check out the instructions. It looks like a fairly easy project with an outstanding result. Can’t wait to try it out.

Karla - April 14, 2013 - 9:20 pm

I just made these for my friend’s birthday gift. Thanks so much, I know she’s going to love them!

Amy - April 15, 2013 - 1:41 am

These are great! I made some without the polyurethane (as a test before I do it with a group of kids) and the heat from a mug keeps making the coaster stick to the bottom of the mug. I’m really please with the way they’ve turned out and probably won’t have time to add the polyurethane when I do this with the kids – but would adding a layer polyurethane help stop this? If it will make a difference I might have to do some of the prep in advance so we’ll have time to add it…

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