Transform a few everyday objects into custom keepsakes brimming with history and happy memories.

By Roxanna Coldiron
May 13, 2020
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family photos and jewelry-making supplies
Credit: Joyce Lee

Photographs tell stories, and your family's photographs share the stories of the people and places you knew, so these memories can be passed from generation to generation. Most of today's photos are already digitized since we take photos on our smartphones or use digital cameras, but you can still turn old printed photographs into a keepsake. You may want to start by combing through old scrapbooks, yearbooks, albums, framed portraits, and Polaroid candids—you can save an archival copy of the original before restoring it with a photo editing program and have them safely re-printed for your project.

When reproducing a picture—especially if you're enlarging it—you want to start with a good-quality, or high-resolution, image. Many photo-printing websites have guidelines on reproducing images. As an example, one recommends a minimum resolution of 540 by 360 pixels for a four-by-six-inch photo, and a minimum of 2,100 by 1,400 for a 20-by-30inch poster. Many of the projects here can be printed at home on most inkjet printers, such as the Epson Expression Premium XP-6100 Wireless All-In-One Inkjet Printer ($150, bestbuy.com).

Turn your family photos into heirlooms so that the stories that make you and your family unique are never forgotten.

Scrapbook Albums

Family photo albums never go out of style, but instead of just including your immediate family, you can also add photos of grandparents and great-grandparents. Compile a scrapbook including elements that showcase the era in which the photos were taken and add note cards with stories that explain some of the images.

Quilts, Pillows, and Home Décor

Personalize your home décor with printed photo fabric that can be sewn into pillows, blankets and quilts, and even upholstered furniture. Printing your own fabric works well for some projects, but there are benefits to having your designs printed professionally. You can create larger pieces, choose from a wider range of textiles, and usually get sturdier results (with fabrics that are machine-washable, for example). We like Spoonflower, which is easy to use—you upload your image, and they do the rest.

Prints, Murals, Calendars, and Wall-Art

Change up any room in the house—long-term or just temporarily—with durable but removable vinyl decals that make a bold statement. They're often used on walls but can also be trimmed to fit a piece of furniture; use them to upgrade vintage pieces.

Have your photos printed onto adhesive vinyl in virtually any size. Its decals are sticky enough to adhere well but are also removable and reusable, and won't damage walls or wood. A custom calendar of your family photos can include spaces for people to write events and memories on the upcoming dates. A set of framed photographs makes for an impressive gallery wall. And a family tree print can incorporate portraits of every member.

Charms, Lockets, and Jewelry

Create instant heirlooms for all your loved ones with favorite family photos inside inexpensive lockets (and present them on cards made from snapshots). Start by making a template for the photo: Press a piece of paper into the locket opening, and score around the edge with a pencil. Cut it out, slide it in, and resize it as needed. Print the desired photo on heavyweight printer paper. Use template to cut photo to size, then slide into locket. Add a jump ring, and thread with cord.

Alternatively, a seashell pendant also makes a lovely natural backing for landscape photos. The images take on a dreamy, painterly quality when printed on decal film and smoothed onto the shells; thread them with leather cord for necklaces that are far more stylish than your average seaside souvenir.

Holiday Keepsakes

Choose photos that tell a story of a particular moment, like a vacation, graduation, or a birthday party. Have your photos printed onto ornaments that you can give during the holidays to hang on Christmas trees or the mantel, or Easter eggs in the spring. These can be stored in boxes and brought out every year.

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