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Project

Photo Cubes

Introduction

Black-and-white images of nature form photo cubes, which can also be used as bookends. The photographs aren't glued to the cube. Instead, a special gel is used to transfer the images onto blocks. Transfers last longer than paper photographs, so this decoration can remain a fixture for years.

Plain wooden cubes are available at crafts stores, as is the soft-gel transfer medium needed for this project. Bear in mind that the blocks require a fair amount of drying time as each transferred photograph sets.

Materials

  • Laser printer
  • 4- or 6-inch wooden cube
  • Scissors
  • Small craft brush
  • Acrylic craft paint in white
  • Small glass bowl
  • Soft-gel transfer medium
  • Freezer paper
  • 1-inch foam brush
  • Spatula or burnisher
  • Paper towel

Steps

  1. Step 1

    On a computer, resize six photographs to the size of the cube, and convert each to black and white. (The image will be reversed when printed on the cube, so choose or adjust accordingly.) Maximize the contrast and adjust the brightness to make the black in the pictures as strong and sharp as possible. Print them onto regular printer paper, and trim to fit the sides of the cube.

  2. Step 2

    Using the small craft brush and the acrylic paint, paint the cube. Let dry.

  3. Step 3

    Fill the small glass bowl with transfer gel. Lay one image faceup on a sheet of freezer paper. Using the foam brush, apply a smooth, even layer of transfer gel; avoid letting ridges and bubbles form. Repeat, applying gel to each of the six images. Let dry (about 1 hour).

  4. Step 4

    Using the foam brush, apply gel to one side of the cube. Lay one picture facedown on that side. (The white side of the paper should face you.) Press the spatula or burnisher across the paper, applying light pressure to squeeze out excess gel and to make sure paper is flush with edges. Let dry 1 hour.

  5. Step 5

    Repeat step 4 on remaining sides, working on opposite sides as you go.

  6. Step 6

    Dampen a paper towel in cool water. Applying a bit of pressure and working in a circular motion, use the paper towel to rub off the paper. (Rewet paper towel as needed.) The transferred images will remain as the paper comes off.

Source
Martha Stewart Living, January 2008

Reviews (37)

  • teresafahey 11 Sep, 2011

    Would this work with color photos, as long as they were printed with a color Laser printer?

  • Isis23 29 Apr, 2010

    Hi! I would like to know what tone of orange or code of paint on this project is, please!

  • socogo 28 Apr, 2010

    Wooden block source: http://www.craftparts.com/
    Transfer gel and arcylic paint: http://www.dickblick.com/products/golden-acrylic-gel-mediums/

  • lovtobcrafty1120 23 Dec, 2009

    Can we use an inkjet printer instead of a laser printer? Will the photo cubes end up the same?
    Please help ASAP!

  • PaperJewelsJulieGriffit 16 Jun, 2009

    These are fun! I did a how to video on making a photo cube out of four recycled CD cases here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TC04_IQNKmc
    Jewels

  • Willow01 13 Jun, 2009

    A photo cube isn't very crafty but I am sure it would be nice too. I would love to try this technique one day.

  • pathaber 13 Jun, 2009

    why not just buy an empty photo cube? wouldn't that work as well?

  • CraftyKitty 9 Feb, 2009

    Can someone tell me where to find the soft gel transfer medium? Is there a brand name or a vendors web link?

  • lanner 18 Jan, 2009

    I recommend coating the image twice w/ the gel medium (I prefer matte)

  • lanner 18 Jan, 2009

    Some tipsn n n n n n This can be done in color! However, do NOT use an inkjet image as the colors will run just enough to make the image blur. You must use a color photocopier image only. Mod Podge - this is too thin/wet

  • vjheckel 16 Jan, 2009

    These would make cute graduation gifts with highlights from their senior year depicted on the cubes. I can think of several ways to use this photo cube for small gifts. Nice idea.

  • Rachel12 14 Nov, 2008

    Archivers and Hobby Lobby usually have mostly all of the stuff you are looking for from wooden cubes to glue to special details. Usually I am able to find my stuff at either of those places! Good luck to everyone! Oh Archivers also has these photo tiles that you can turn your favorite three photo into ceramic tiles to put anywhere (even in the kitchen under that cabinets!) :) Happy Scrapbooking!

  • apaintedhouse 22 Sep, 2008

    4 x 4 posts cut to 4 inches at a home improvement store is the idea way to get the correc size cubes at an economical price.

  • jmgilman 12 Sep, 2008

    Tsk, tsk! Why don't you list resources on where to find this obscure stuff like transfer gel and big wooden cubes? It'd be best hyperlinked to the item in the materials list - but even a "resources" section somewhere would be helpful. There doesn't appear to be one? And I can't search for one - the only search feature is for recipes! What the heck?

    For users - After some googling, I found Omni Gel on Amazon through Jo-Ann Fabrics. $8.99/8oz. Probably in your local store, too.

  • KBmomma 11 Sep, 2008

    Freezer paper is found in the grocery store (inthe same isle as tin foil) and is used to package meat. It's similar to waxed paper but thicker.

    I've done a project similar to this using a purchased unfinished jewelry box. I printed a black and white picture of my kids and transferred it onto the top of the box. I gave it to their grandmother for her birthday...it's a nice gift Idea.

  • deedub 10 Sep, 2008

    What is freezer paper?

    Should the gel be matte or glossy?

  • Mandilicious 10 Sep, 2008

    Could you use this transfer gel to transfer photos to Canvas?

  • evaluna_69 10 Sep, 2008

    check out 'golden' online, they make the gel medium...you could also try this technique with 'lazertran transfer paper for inkjet printers', again you can find info on line...great project idea.

  • ChicaAndJo 9 Sep, 2008

    We'll have to try the transfer idea. We've made a similar photo cube but ours folds and unfolds to reveal more and more pictures.

  • ipaintchina 9 Sep, 2008

    Where do you find this gel?

  • hummingbirdhandler 9 Sep, 2008

    Will Modge Podge work instead of transfer media?

  • hummingbirdhandler 9 Sep, 2008

    Will ModgePodge work instead of transfer media?

  • pgrocky 9 Sep, 2008

    To horsecube: If you use color photos printed by an inkjet you will not achieve the same results. Personally, I would stick to b

  • pgrocky 9 Sep, 2008

    To horsecube: If you use color photos printed by an inkjet you will not achieve the same results. Personally, I would stick to b

  • poormartha 9 Sep, 2008

    Where are the rest of the comments? You show 3 of 3 comments - last comment added 8/25. Today is 9/8/8 and this morning I added a comment and so did several other people. There is absolutely no email address available on the website (that I could find) to ask technical questions such as this!! The contact us link appears to be FAQs only. Ease of navigation on this site is not well done.

  • jodimercier 9 Sep, 2008

    You can flip the photo prior to printing also if you want it to show up right on the cube.

  • poormartha 9 Sep, 2008

    I think this idea could also be adjusted for children and would make a great gift for grandparents or friends. Instead of using a transfer gel and transferring images, photos printed on paper (b/w, sepia, color) and trimmed to size could be applied to the wooden cube using a foam brush and a dish of watered down elmer's glue. Use a popsicle stick to to smooth out wrinkles. Then use the watery glue to apply a top seal (for a matte finish).

  • craftykris 9 Sep, 2008

    AND WHERE WOULD YOU FIND A WOODEN CUBE????????

  • helen_in_rupert 9 Sep, 2008

    It would help if the cubes could be seen better. Why not add the capability to "click on" to enlarge.

  • YiaYiaZ 9 Sep, 2008

    I am a wanna-be pro photographer, looking for creative, unique ideas for holiday gift giving that won't break the bank. Am also living the "starving artist" scenario until I'm able to sell some pieces :-)....
    Would be interested to hear if anyone actually tries these as they seem a little tricky to get "Martha perfect" results. I would think that the black and white would work best as you want ultra contrast against the white.

  • boonedesigns 9 Sep, 2008

    This would be great in a child's room or as a baby gift type in the baby's name birth date and weight with photos of baby and add to a book shelf. I wonder where you buy transfer medium sound like a great product.
    -Sandy Boone mural artist www.boonedesigns.com

  • jnapier 9 Sep, 2008

    I wonder why an inkjet printer wouldn't work. Any one know?

  • giudicek 9 Sep, 2008

    You wouldn't have to have the photos reversed if you printed them using your computer's "Iron on Transfer" Print setting. It automatically creates the image as a mirror image when it prints. My daughter is a high school senior this year. I may try this with her senior pictures.

  • lbuser 9 Sep, 2008

    This looks like fun. I can hardly wait to try it out. I love photos, they cover my house. This technique is subtle and I can use the photos of landscapes and surroundings in place of family.

  • jdslholland 25 Aug, 2008

    I think sepia would also look nice because of the warm brown tones

  • julchik 15 Jul, 2008

    i think you could use colored photos to
    it would look nice with som complimenting colors

  • horsecube 14 Jul, 2008

    Do the pictures have to be in black and white or can they be in color too?