How to Make Your Own Wooden Photo Ornaments

germ DIY ornament
Picture of Jennifer Niven and me

The holidays are upon us, and one of my favorite holiday traditions is the decorations. I love to make my own ornaments. Wood photo transfer ornaments are my favorite to make because they combine my love of photos with a rustic, homemade look.

I love looking through all the pictures I have taken this year and printing out my favorites to make ornaments. If you make a lot, they sort of turn your tree into a mini scrapbook, which is fun. They also make great gifts to a friend, either hanging on the outside of a package or just being a gift all by themselves.

What you’ll need:

DIY What you need

  • Log slices: You can thinly slice a branch using a table saw like I did, or you can buy the wood slices at your local craft store. If you are going to hang the ornaments on your tree, you don’t want them to be too big or heavy, so pick out a good size. The dark spots on the wood, or the darker heart of the slices, will show through the image that you transfer; so, pick some logs with fewer spots or place the photo you choose so that the spots are not on someone’s face.
  • Gloss Gel Medium: This is what transfers the image from your paper to the logs.
  • Mod Podge Gloss Finish: For a protectant coat at the end.
  • Paintbrush
  • Photos printed on normal printer paper
  • Drill: If logs don’t have holes in them already.
  • Twine/ Ribbon/ Yarn: To hang your ornaments.
  • Decorations of your choice: I used ribbons, lace, and bows. You can also use moss, fake snow spray, or any decor you like.
Lets get started:

1. First, print off the photos you want to use on normal white computer printing paper. If you have any writing in your photos, you’ll want to flip the image on your computer before you print it; otherwise, when you transfer the image, the writing will be backwards. Make the photos small enough to fit on your log slices and cut them out to fit. The ornaments look really nice with a photo on each side, so I pick two photos that go together for every log slice.

cut pictures DIY

After you have cut out your pictures to fit, dip your paint brush into the gloss gel medium and coat your picture with it. Make sure the whole photo is covered and then place the photo directly onto the wood. It might feel a little strange, like you are gluing the photo to the log the wrong way, but it is correct because we are transferring the image, not gluing it. Make sure that it is nicely pressed onto the wood, and do the same with another image on the other side of the slice.

gloss gel 1

gloss gel 2

When you have done all of your log slices that way, I like to use a tupperware container to stand them up so that they can dry on both sides. You will need to let them sit and dry a while. Overnight is best.

4. When the logs are dry, use a damp cloth rub off paperto wet the paper, and gently rub it until the paper starts to come off and you can see your photo underneath. Be very gentle with this step because if you rub too hard, you can rub your image right off. Do this to both sides of your logs. This is always really fun because  I have usually forgotten what pictures I chose by this time, and it’s a nice surprise to see how they came out. Remember to be slow and gentle with this step so that only the paper comes off.

Don’t be stressed if they don’t come out flawless. The charm of doing these transfers to wood is that they come out perfectly imperfect. The grain of the wood will assure that no two ornaments will ever come out the same.

mod podge5. Next, paint a thin layer of Mod Podge over your images to keep them nice and to keep them from coming off further. I like to paint the year on the log before I Mod Podge; so, if you would like to add anything with paint, do that first. Then, place them back in the tupperware again to dry once more.

6. After the logs are dry on both sides, drill a small hole in each of them that is large enough for your twine to go through. You can do this by placing them on a cardboard box as you drill so that you do not drill through your table.

Now it’s time to decorate them however you wish. I’ve added some different ribbons to the twine. You could also glue moss to the tops and then use some fake snow spray to make them look wintery. Here is where you can let your creative juices flow. Decorate them however you like. If you use glitter, make sure you Mod Podge over the glitter so that it will last over the years.

finished DIY


Finally, hang your ornaments on the tree or wrap them up as presents. You can even use the ornaments as a present tag. If you tie them on the bow of a present you wrap, you won’t need to say who it’s to or from. The picture of you two on the ornament says it all.

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