Here’s how to upcycle photographs into useful and decorative items that you’ll love.
Do you, too, have a stack of old photos hiding somewhere in your home? For me, it was a years-ago flirtation with scrapbooking that left me, in the end, with a drawer full of cute embellishments and a stash of even cuter photographs languishing away in a hidden corner of my closet.
I’ve long incorporated the embellishments into other projects, but those old photos remain! At 4″x6″, they’re too small to frame (unless as a collage, so stay tuned for that!), but they’re big on happy memories that I can’t stand to throw away. My babies are nearly grown now, but they used to be so SMALL!!!
Here, then, are my favorite ways to upcycle photographs. I love turning these old photos that I never look at into all-new decorations and utilitarian items, giving them new lives and incorporating those happy memories into even more parts of my home.
Dig out your own stack of old photos, pick a favorite tutorial, and make some of YOUR memories all-new, as well!
Useful Ways to Upcycle Photographs
photo card. If you’ve got cardstock, an old photo, and some double-sided tape or pretty much any kind of glue, you’ve got everything you need to make custom photo cards. These photo cards make lovely thank-you cards (pro tip: it’s not exactly “upcycling,” but for the BEST thank-you card from a kid, use a photo of the kid enjoying their present on the front of the card), and super simple holiday cards. That stack of Christmas photos from ten years ago is going to make ADORABLE Christmas cards for this year!
coasters. Decoupage photos to wood cuts or ceramic tiles for a simple and easy coaster. Glue felt to the bottom, coat the top with polyurethane, and you’re done!
photo blocks. Decoupage wooden cubes (or upcycle real wooden building blocks!) with your favorite old photos. Don’t give these to kids who still mouth things, but they make perfectly suitable toys to add to a preschool kid’s building block collection. They’re also fun coffee table decor!
photo tray. Whether it’s for breakfast in bed or a flat surface to set my drinks while I’m blanket burritoing on the couch, I ALWAYS need more trays! This tray, embellished with family photos, is beautiful AND useful!
Decorative Ways to Upcycle Photographs
magnets. Magnets are a quick and easy way to upcycle photographs. They’re perfect for a college student’s mini fridge!
DIY “Polaroid” picture banner. DIY faux Polaroid pictures in any size you like. The tutorial calls for custom-printed photos, but you can get the same look simply by cropping any of your existing photos square.
stickers. Stickers are an even quicker and easier way to upcycle photographs than magnets are, and they’re even more versatile! My own teenagers are all about the laptop stickers these days, and so far this school year I have yet to see a high schooler’s water bottle that is not covered in stickers, as well.
decoupaged monogram. Buy a papier mache monogram letter (or DIY one yourself from corrugated cardboard!), paint it a base coat, then collage the front with old photos. This also works as holiday decor–collage a papier mache “HALLOWEEN” with all your old trick-or-treating photos!
Mason jar lid photo frames. Okay, this isn’t actually “upcycling” the photos, just displaying them, but how cute are these photo frames made from Mason jar lid rings wrapped with embroidery floss? Crop your photo to the size of the matching lid, then glue the photo to the lid and the lid to the back of the wrapped ring. These are especially nice displayed gallery-style.
photo pendant. Keep your favorite photo close to you by upcycling it into a pendant! The tutorial calls for Mod Podge, which is more eco-friendly, but Diamond Glaze or water-based polyurethane would be sturdier and more long-lasting. I especially enjoy cropping a small detail or unexpected element from a larger photo to make these pendants.
picture frame wreath. It’s not unheard of to score something wild, such as a whole stash of 2″x3″ picture frames, from a garage sale, local thrift shop, or Buy Nothing group. A teeny-tiny size like that is perfect for making a wreath like this! It’s very cute when the photos are themed, like from a single wonderful vacation or all your family pets.
Do you have a favorite way to upcycle your old photos? Tell us about it in the Comments!