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Photo Cubes

Photography: James Merrell

Source: Martha Stewart Living, January 2008


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.


  • 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


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

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

  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.

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