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Use Your Photographs to Create Unique Christmas Gifts
by: Kelly Mann

Having a tough time coming up with creative Christmas gifts this year? The answer might be right in front of you -- in your photograph albums, boxes, or file folders. Don't just give the traditional framed photo though. Instead, give your recipients thoughtful, personalized gifts that are also functional. Here are my five favorite photograph gift ideas:

1. Photo transfer coasters: You can transfer photos onto many mediums, from fabric to wood. T-shirts and tote bags are popular, but why not try something really different? Purchase a set of stone coasters (You know, the super-absorbent kind with cork on the bottom.) Then, buy some photo transfer sheets at any craft store. Some transfer sheets allow you to print your digital photos directly onto the sheets, while others allow you to photocopy a printed photo.

2. Photo Mouse pad: This is an excellent, useful gift idea for all of the techies in your life. Many photo development stores (online and off) offer mouse pads printed with your favorite photograph. Another option is to buy mouse pads with an opening to add your own photo. These are nice because you can change out the picture over time and they generally look as good as or even better than the printed ones.

3. Photo Calendars: Photo development stores offer a variety of calendar designs where you specify your 12, or sometimes more, photos and they print and bind the calendars for you. However, these are some of the easiest gifts to make yourself if you have a computer and a photo quality printer. Most greeting card software offers calendar templates or you can purchase specific calendar-creating software. These make great gifts that your family will ask for year-after-year.

4. Photo Magnets: This is one of the easiest photo craft gifts to make and you can be fairly certain your recipients will have a place to put these. The easiest way to make photo magnets is to purchase small magnet frames from a craft store and add your own photos. A slightly more unique approach is to purchase magnet photo paper, print your photos directly onto the magnet paper, and cut them out.

We like to recycle all of those magnet advertisements we get all year by gluing photographs directly to the front and cutting around the magnet's shape. This gives you a nice assortment of shapes and sizes and generally looks a little nicer than the printable magnet sheets.

Our favorite photo magnet gift is to glue very small printed photos to the back of flattened clear glass beads. The glass beads found in craft stores for flower arranging work best and, if you're lucky, you can even find some that are about an inch across instead of the more common half inch size. Glue the picture to the back of the bead, with clear-drying glue, on the printed side of your photo. Once it dries, glue a small magnet to the back. Small, very strong magnets can also be found at most craft stores. These gifts look especially nice wrapped inside a small tin.

5. Photo Soap: "Consumable" gifts are in! Everyone's house is cluttered and gifts that don't need a permanent home are well appreciated. Imbed some photos into homemade soaps, and encourage your friends and family to actually use the soap, promising more next year. It's easier than you might think. First, you'll want to buy some melt and pour soap and some soap molds (plain rectangles or ovals work best.) Cut and laminate some photos so that they are slightly smaller than your soap molds. Melt a small amount of clear soap and pour into the bottom (which will end up being the top) of a mold. Once it dries, place your laminated photo on top (face down) and pour some more clear soap to cover. If you want, you can add a third, colorful soap layer behind that one, adding a framed look to your photograph.

These are just a few ideas of how to use your photos to make unique Christmas gifts this year.


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