DIY Project: 3D photo collage

I’m no crafty lady. Not with yarn, not with needles and thread, not with paint…not with anything. My crafting capabilities include:


That’s it. I’m good at cutting out stuff I like and then glueing it onto other stuff I like. Pretty much anyone who has received a home-made gift from me knows that my skill set lies in decoupage and not much else. This wouldn’t be a problem except that I truly love making people gifts (even if no one really likes to receive them). If there is an upcoming wedding, birthday or other reason for gift giving, I bust out the scissors and glue like it’s nobody’s business. Seeing as how most of my pals are probably tired of opening present after present of cut-up creations, I got a little ambitious and opted to try something new…the 3D photo collage!

Why I like it:
You don’t need any real skill set to make it happen. Just a beloved photo, some scissors and a shadow box frame. Total cost for everything was less than $20, including cost of frame and copies. (Optional materials include Fiona Apple’s Shadowboxer song, which I sang the entire time I worked on this. Shadow box, Shadowboxer…Come on, that’s fun.)

What you need:

  • 3 copies (or 5 if you’re like me and mess things up a lot) of your favorite photo, preferably one with a clear foreground, middle ground and background. (I actually used PhotoShop to create a collage with distinctive layers, but by no means is this necessary, just a fun way to make it super customized if you so choose.)
  • Scissors
  • Shadow box frame (make sure it’s one with adjustable backing)
  • Tape (super clear scotch is best)
How to do it:

  • Tape the background (complete, whole, uncut) photo to the backing of the frame. (Step one is done. See? Super easy. Even a dummy like me can do it.)
  • Cut out the image you want to use for your foreground (in this case, the loving couple playing with a puppy). Then tape it up against the glass of the frame. To do it this way, the front layer has to have some attachment or association to the top, bottom or sides of the frame. This method won’t really work if it’s a “floating” foreground image. Sorry.
  • Now the background and foreground are done. You can call it quits here if you’re happy with the look, but if you’re super hardcore intense (which you are if you’re reading this blog) you are going to want a middle layer. Cut out the middle ground that will be the second image you see popping out of the frame between the foreground and background.
  • Once you’ve cut out the part of the image you want to be used in the middle you are going to need to decide on the best way to separate it from the other two layers. What supplies you use will really depend on the shape of your middle ground. You don’t want it too close to either the front of the back or it will disappear and lose the super cool “I’m a photo and I’m popping out at your face” effect. Some people use foam, some people use tooth pics, I used rolled up little tubes of paper because, well…I had paper on hand. Worked for me. I taped the tubes between the second and third layer along the bottom of the frame but hidden behind the second layer so you can’t see them when you’re staring (you will be starring, because the final product will be 100% fantastic) at the finished photo.
  • You can reinforce the second layer with more paper if it needs it. Fashion a support system similar to what you see in children’s pop up books. You only need paper and tape if you use this method. Use your best judgement on what’s appropriate.
  • Place the back of the frame onto the photo and you’re done!

It’s a no muss, no fuss project. There’s practically no clean up and it can be done in half an hour. Check out Instructables  to see an entire gallery of 3D frames that others have made. Hooray for projects so easy even a crafticap can do them.

2 Comments on “DIY Project: 3D photo collage”

  1. kmom says:

    I do photos collages with bits and pieces from different images, but never thought about 3D!

  2. jade says:

    thanks – love your easy to follow tips and it looks great!

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