DIY "Polaroid" Open Back Photo Frame

I'm not a flower person. Flowers are lovely, but when it comes down to priorities and budgets, I'd much rather spend money on something like great food or a band versus décor. Especially décor with such a short life span.

I quickly discarded the idea of making my own arrangements for two reasons - lack of time and the fact that all of my flower arranging attempts produce at least one side that's better off facing a wall.

Our venue prohibits flame, so candles were out. Fake battery candles were an option, but are obviously just not the same as the real deal. I wanted something that could be done well in advance and that would be easy to set up.

We finally settled on making our history together and our friends and family our centerpieces. For the tables we've purchased a bunch of these modern Umbra frames that will each have a theme - college friends, family, wedding party, childhood, trips we've taken, etc. The idea is to have something people will actually feel connected to and that celebrates all our loved ones.

This is the other photo project I undertook. I can't claim that the idea is mine, but here's how I went about it.

Side note: Putting this project together revealed two things about us. 1. When taking a selfie, I am nearly always on the right. 2. When someone else takes our picture, I am almost always on the left. Weird.


  • Open back frame
  • Paint and brush or spray paint
  • String, twine, wire, etc.
  • Clips
  • Photos (either ones you already have, or buy good quality photo paper and print your own)
  • Tacks
  • Ruler

1. Find your open back frame. There are a bunch of great ready-to-go open back frames on Etsy. They range from rustic reclaimed wood to antique ornate affairs. I chose to save money by taking advantage of a two-for-one deal at Michaels. I got four of these 16" x 20" unfinished frames. They also have quite a few finished ones to choose from. Alternatively, if you have a frame you already like you could take the back and glass out yourself.

2. Pick your color. I went with a silver metallic multi-surface craft paint (Craft Smart brand). Painting works best if you use a fine sandpaper to rough up the surface before you begin. After I finished putting two coats on each frame, spray paint came to mind. If you have a well ventilated outdoor space, then that would be much quicker.

3. String and clips. I bought gray Divine Twine. Available online all over the place, including on Etsy. For clips I chose mini purple clothes pins that I found on Etsy. You could dye your own, but this was much easier.

4. Photos. Keep it super simple and use photos you already have. The majority of the photos of the fiancé and I were digital so I had to print them out. I also plan to scan our older family photos as there are no backups of those and I do not relish explaining to my mother why I lost or damaged my grandmother's wedding photo. If you're less paranoid than me, then by all means skip this step.

I like the look of Polaroids and I wanted space to write a little about each picture. If you have access to Photoshop, then here's what you can do. Just skip all this if you're OK with scanning and printing out your photos as they are.

Download a frame. You can Google "Polaroid template" or here's the link to the one I used. Polaroid itself actually offers a service that will turn photos into real Polaroids. However, I really wasn't interested in spending $1 per photo.

Open your frame in Photoshop and create a clipping mask. It sounds technical, but it's very easy.

First, duplicate the image. Click layer > Duplicate Layer. Name your layer and press OK. Or just use the shortcut Control + J.

Using the Rectangular Marquee Tool, carefully draw a square around the black portion of the Polaroid. Make sure that all the black is included so you don’t end up with an ugly black outline around your picture.

Now click the Add Layer Mask icon, found on the bottom right of the screen.

After you make the mask, name and save the file as a PSD so you can use it over and over.

Open the photo you’d like to use. File > Place. If your photo doesn’t cover the black area, stretch or move it to fit. Double click the photo to place it when you’re done.

Right click the photo layer and select Create Clipping Mask. This will clip the photo to fit just the black area of the Polaroid.

Adjust the photo to center it if needed.

Resize each file to your desired dimensions (mine are 3”x 3.5”) using the Image Menu > Image Size. Just change the Document Size to inches and then put in your desired width or height. It will automatically resize proportionally.

If you want, use the Type Tool to add a text box at the bottom of the picture and add a line or two describing the location or why this photo is significant to you. Either print it out as is or use Save As to make each file a .jpeg or .tiff. That way you can save photo paper by placing multiple photos on one 8.5"x11" sheet (I had four per sheet).

Once you have whatever photos you're using, here are the rest of the steps.

5. String your frames. Depending on the size of the frame you choose and your photos, your string placement and number will vary. Put the frame on a table and lay out the photos within the frame to get an idea of how much space you need between each line. Once you've determined placement, turn the frame over so the back is facing up and put a tack on either side, leaving a little space between the tack head and the frame. By doing this on the back the tacks won't be visible. Measure from the top or bottom of the frame to make sure these are exactly straight across from each other. Wrap the string around one tack, tie it off and then stretch the string tightly to the other side, tying that end to the other tack. Try to make the string as tight as possible to avoid sag when you clip the photos on to it.

6. Clip on your photos.

7. Impress everyone with your mad DIY skills.

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About This Blog

New Hampshire Magazine's Bride associate editor Erica Thoits was recently married on September 13, 2014.

Throughout the planning process she tried to stay as calm and sane as possible, setting her sights on throwing what she and her now husband called "The Big Party."

See how she planned a fun wedding without going overboard.



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