Monday, July 16, 2012

Photo Flower Pots

My journey in the SYTYC competition continues! This week's them is Ombre- I hope you'll pop over to check out the projects and vote for your favorite! Voting closes on Thursday, July 16th. 

This was my project for last week's theme (Summer Bounty) in the SYTYC competition. I used pictures that to me, represented the bounties of summer. A tractor at my farm share, bee collecting pollen from wild flowers, and strawberries ready to be picked. I love the way the pots look grouped together- it kind of tells a story. Not to mention that adding your own photos is the ultimate way to personalize something!

The trick of this project is to seal everything correctly so the photos survive the plants being watered. Oh, and getting the photos to look like they're straight, despite being on the curved and tapered surface of the pot. But no worries... I'll show you how to get around all that.

Here's what you'll need:

  • Clay Pots of various sizes.
  • Photo's of your choice (Note: they must be printed out on a laser printer...more on that below)
  • Pot Sealer
  • Outdoor Mod Podge
  • Clear Sealer
  • Painter's Tape
  • Piece of String or yarn (long enough to go across your photo)
  • Craft Knife 
  • Cutting Mat 
  • Ruler 
  • Scissors 
  • Pencil

Photos: Since you'll be Mod Podging over the photos the very first thing you need to do for this project is get some laser printouts of the pictures you'd like to use.

If you use an inkjet printer the photos will bleed (unless you prep them first, but really it's just easier to get laser printouts). Amy from Mod Podge Rocks! has a wonderful post about Podging different types of materials, not only does she thoroughly explain the inkjet vs laser printer thing, but the post is a wonderful general reference for podging.

Anyway, since I don't have a color laser printer I took my digital files to an office supply store. It wasn't expensive, just a few dollars for 3 pages (I put two photos on each page so I would have an extra copy of each picture incase I needed a backup) and the quality of the print was much better than my home printer could have produced on regular copy paper. Yes- you read that right, use regular copy paper. You don't want to try and podge photo paper or card stock onto the pots, just use regular old copy paper for this project!

Since I didn't want to have to make two trips to the store, the only thing I used my inkjet printer for was checking the photos. I printed each picture out and taped them to the pots to get an idea of how they looked and at what size each one needed to be.

Preparing the Pots: Sealing the pots to prevent water from seeping into the clay and behind the picture is absolutely vital to this project's success. I sprayed the inside of my clean, dry planters with a product made especially to seal clay pots. (I found it right next to the pots in the craft store).

Cutting the Photos to Fool the Eye: I cut each of my photos out as I normally would, with a ruler and craft knife. Even though the edges were straight, I noticed right away when I put them on the surface of the pot they looked curved.

That's because the pot is a curved and tapered surface, to fix this distortion you actually have to cut the edges of the photo into curves and angles that will fool the eye into thinking the picture looks straight.

It can be difficult to determine the correct curves and angles... but I figured out an easy way.

Tape your picture to the pot. Starting at the top edge of the picture stretch the fingers of one hand so that they hold a piece of string or yarn taught across the photo. Let the string curve up like an arch (a convex line) until the border of the picture looks straight. It can be awkward but just play with the curve of the string until the photo's top edge looks straight. When you get the string positioned right draw a line with your pencil that follows the path of the string.

Now do the same thing for the bottom border.

For the sides to appear straight the edges need to be cut at angles. Place your string at the top corner of the photo, angle it in towards the center a little as it goes to the bottom. Adjust the angle until the photo's edge looks straight and when you're happy, mark a line with the pencil. Then repeat on the other side.

Once the angles and curves have been marked on all four sides of the picture use scissors to cut the top and bottom curves, and a craft knife and ruler to cut the angles on each side.

Now when you place the photo on the pot it'll appear to be straight... when really, the edges aren't straight at all. (Incidentally the same thing usually happens on bottle labels- if you peel them off the bottle and lay them flat you'll see they aren't really straight.)

Podging: The next step was to stick the photos the pots with Mod Podge. Since the pots will be outside and obviously coming onto contact with water I used the outdoor formula. I decoupaged the typical way-  applying Podge to the back of the photo, then sticking it to the pot, being careful to smooth out any wrinkles. Once it was dry I applied a total of four coats on top, letting each coat dry in between applications.

The only thing I had to worry about was the edges of the photos. I wanted to be sure the edges of the photo were sealed well so I'd need to podge over the edge of the photo to get a good seal. But the MP dries kind of shiny and I didn't want the entire pot to look shiny, so I taped a border around each picture with painters tape, giving me a nice clean edge.

Final Sealing: After all the Mod Podge had dried I blocked off the rest of the pot's surface with some paper and gave the photos a coat of clear sealer.

Not only does this help to protect the photos even more from water (outdoor MP is water resistant, not water proof) but it also gets rid of the tacky feeling MP can leave behind.

I had a lot of fun with this project and can definitely see adding more pots with photos to my collection!


  1. Now this is a really nifty idea! Gotta remember this one!

  2. I'm two for two guessing which craft was yours! This is a really cute way to decorate clay pots & your tip for cutting the photos is priceless!

    Off to vote in the next one!

  3. I will buy the photos once I'm satisfied I have the best photo or the right combination of photos for the header

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