Need to create a meaningful project that is perfect for holidays, celebrations, centerpieces and more?  These Picture Frame Luminaries are your answer!  A wonderful handmade gift, keepsake or even decorations for receptions or showers!  Highly personal and highly customizable!  With the majority of supplies from the dollar store, they are inexpensive as well!

Easily make Picture Frame Luminaries with a few frames, glue and tea lights!

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Happy Sunday friends!  I hope you are having a fabulous weekend!  I am REALLY, REALLY excited to share these picture frame luminaries with you today.  They are perfect for your dining table or mantel.  They work wonderfully for events like showers, receptions and graduations!  Really…any time of the year!  I am pretty sure I will find a place for this up year round!  :) Last year I shared my wine bottle luminaries…I tend to like things that light up during the holidays!!!

Easy and inexpensive tutorial to make these picture frame luminaries! 

 Supplies Needed for Picture Frame Luminaries:

I started off by finding four photos that I wanted to feature on my centerpiece.  I took some photos of my boys in August and so I used one of Michael, one of Ryan, one of both of the boys and then I had to dig back to the really, really archives and dig out a photo of Fred and I …FROM OUR WEDDING…(in 2008) because apparently that is the LAST time we took a decent photo together (read: that is the last time I was not BEHIND The camera taking the pictures!). 

I bought two pieces of vellum at Michael’s.  You can find it in the open scrap booking paper section or I linked to packages of it above.  (In case you don’t want to leave the house or have multiple to make!)  


It looks like wax paper (opaqueness) but not waxy!  It’s awesaome.  The only vellum I could find had a print through it.  I thought “Hey what will this faint vine print do to my photos…probably nothing”…WRONG!  It shows through!  (as you can see the vine pattern in the photo above)  So I linked to both solid and patterned vellums above.  Your choice.  I was happy with the surprise after I made it! 

I printed my photos on my home printer directly onto my vellum…and then I trimmed them down to size.

Easy steps to make these awesome picture frame luminaries.

I took out the happy family that was in the dollar store frames and I replaced it with our family photo printed on vellum…ON TOP of the GLASS!  So it goes frame face down, vellum photo face down and then glass and frame backing on last.  I did this so that when you place the candles inside…you don’t risk lighting your house on fire!  Just sayin…kind of important! 

Once in your frames, glue them together into a cube.  NOTE:  Gorilla glue (which is what I used) expands when it dries…so be sure to apply a thin line and towards the inner side of the joint.

Assemble Picture Frames into a cube to form these awesome picture frame luminaries.

Then you are ready to assemble your centerpiece.  Simply put the cube frame over the square mirror.  This will help reflect the light from your votive making the photos clearer and more prominent.  Then place the votive inside and light! 

Add Mirror and Tea lights to make Picture Frame Luminaries

Even when not lit, it’s still a focal piece and something everyone comments on when they come over!  

Picture Frame Luminaries during the day make great decor!

And here is is lit at night!  How cool?!?!?  What a great centerpiece this will be on your holiday table or mantel! 

Picture Frame Luminaries. Perfect for gifts, weddings and centerpieces!

Picture Frame Luminaries at thatswhatchesaid.com

Some other great handmade keepsake ideas to try are my Thumbprint Heart Pendant CharmFootPrint Butterfly Placemats, and Gratitude Journal

Picture Frame Luminaries tutorial

This post was originally part of my yearly 25 days of Christmas Series!  Be sure to sign up for my emails so you get all the current year’s posts for free, to your inbox!  

You might also like this Thumbprint Christmas Light Frame

That's What Che Said Blog - Thanks for reading!

IF YOU LIKE THIS PROJECT DON’T FORGET TO PIN IT:

diy photo luminaries

169 Comments
  1. jamie lynn

    this is really cute!! i love easy – and cheap! – crafts, this may make a great xmas present for the in-laws!! thanks!!!

    • Thank you! I was thinking perfect present for grandparents also! They would love this and you can make several and not go broke :) Thanks for the nice comment!

      • Marlene Moniz

        Can I use a wooden block as my base or does it need to be glass and if so why?

        • If you are using real candles, I would recommend glass. Otherwise you can use whatever you’d like! The Mirror actually sits inside the square of the frames so that the frames sit flush on your table top. The frames do not sit on top of the mirror.

          • Marlene Moniz

            Right, I just didn’t know if the wood would make it darker to see the photos meaning it wouldn’t reflect from the candle/light. Where did you get the mirrors?

          • Marlene Moniz

            I’ve called OfficeMax and Staples and they’re unable to do it because it might melt the paper because they use higher power..I hope that doesn’t happen when I do it from a home printer..lol and can I use a regular printer or does it need to be a laser?

          • That’s interesting Marlene. The Office Max by me has done it several times for me before we had our own printer. I brought them my vellum and they printed it no problems at all. I used inkjet to make these.

  2. imklvr

    Wonderful idea! Again! And might I say, you have a beautiful family!!

    • Thanks Dona…I am partial to them as well :)

  3. Jill @ Create.Craft.Love.

    How did I miss this yesterday? This would be a great Christmas gift for the grandparents! Lovin’ the creativity, friend!

    • I posted late…apparently I don’t know the difference between AM and PM when scheduling posts ;)

  4. I love this!! I have it bookmarked now so hopefully I will remember to make it. You should add a little pin it button so everyone can easily pin it too!

  5. debbiedoos

    You girl have been busy and so very creative. Glad you shared this with the dollar tree party. We are almost up to 100 clever and inspiring Dollar tree Christmas ideas.

    • Thanks Debbie!

  6. This is a great idea. I can see using text for this project too. I think I’d use the battery tea lights though – I have a beagle who is TOO curious!

  7. Brenda

    This is a great idea for a graduation party too. Just use pictures from k through 12 and place on your tables. My daughter loved this.

    • That is a great use for these Brenda! Even a baby shower…put in baby photos of the mom & dad to be! I’m so happy your daughter loved it! Thanks for stopping over!

  8. janet dycus

    I just love this idea but how do you hold the vellum onto the the front of glassthat is my question thank you

    • Thanks Janet. You just cut the vellum the size of a photo. Then just sandwich the vellum between the frame and the glass (just opposite than normal with the vellum on the outside of the glass) like normal. No tape or adhesive needed.

  9. Anna Terry

    Do you have a video tutorial on how to make this photo frame luminary? I love this and plan on making for Xmas gifts. Thanks

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  11. Caitlin

    Do you print the pictures out in black and white?

  12. Moira

    Did you use an inkjet printer or a laser printer? I have had unpleasant experiences printing onto different “papers” in the past :-)

  13. Samantha Senff

    Do you think it would work to print in Sepia, or do you think Black and White would look better?

    • When they are lit, they look sepia so I am not sure how sepia would look lit up? You could certainly try it with one side and see if you like it?

      • Diamond

        I have actually done the Martha Stewart version with the 3 frames. I did color, black & white, & sepia, all of them look amazing!!

  14. Johanna

    Hi! I love this idea for a Christmas gift!! But one question- do the frames just rest on the mirror? Or is the mirror glued on? And does it have to fit the size exactly? Thanks!

    • My frames just rest on the mirror…just to give a bit more reflection! It does fit exactly inside my frames!

      • Anne

        Can you please provide detail on the placement and size of mirror? I thought the cube gets glued on. I’m having a difficult time finding amirror this size.

  15. Trina Rasa

    I’m so glad I found this! I am making these for my sister, mom, mother-in-law, and both of my sisters-in-law for Christmas! Are the picture frames you used plastic or metal? Thanks!

  16. Melanie

    Did you use an inkjet printer or a laser printer? I am having trouble printing on the Vellum.

    • Inkjet. A really, really old Lexmark from college! Mine printed really easily. Make sure you have a thicker paper selected on your settings.

      • Melanie

        the thick paper setting worked great!! I was using custom paper. OMG what an easy fix! Thank YOU

  17. Megan

    Please help! I can’t figure out how to get the frames glued together. I bought the same ones from dollar tree. The sides are flat but there is only one thin line of plastic to try to glue it to when you are putting them together. What am I missing?

    • Hmm…Megan mine are pretty solid on the backs and if you look in the first photo, I had a pretty good area to glue together.

  18. Ivonne DeBolt

    hi I love this idea and am in the making of making one. my question is how did you get the glass from the frame to stay in place?

    • Ivonne I just used the existing holders from the frame itself. I just removed the cardboard backing!

  19. Amanda

    AMAZING! Just made 5 of these and they turned out beautiful!! You’re a genius and I am so glad I found this pin! Thank you thank you for your creativity!

    • Awesome Amanda! I am so happy you love them! This is kept out year round here and my family just loves it!

  20. Corinna Flores

    Hello..I am trying to figure out how you were able to get the vellum onto the glass. Did you tape or glue it?

    • Neither Corinna. I simply just sandwiched it between the frame and the glass. Instead of frame, glass, photo, then backing. I did frame, vellum, and then glass. No glue or tape needed.

  21. Tonya

    I made this over the weekend and I LOVE it! Thank you so much for the idea! It is so pretty. Now I just have to find a good place to put it so everyone can see my beautiful, glowing family! :)

    • I’m so happy you love it! I keep mine out all year long! I just love it!

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  23. Apu

    Hi, Im trying to print the photos on the vellum paper that i got from Micheals. I doesn’t seem to show clear picture after I print. Please let me know asap.

  24. Kathie

    Hi there, I know this post is old, but I am getting ready to make this as a Christmas gift. I was wondering what kind of vellum paper to use? I was going to purchase it online and there are different weighted vellum papers. It’s pretty confusing. Thanks!

    • Kathie, I am not sure of the weight. I just purchased the open stock at Michael’s. It’s less than card stock but a bit thicker than printer paper. 60# maybe? 40#?

  25. Alicia

    Inkjet

  26. Sonya

    can you print in color?

    • I have never tried it Sonya. As long as your color photo has lots of contrast. Otherwise it will be very dull when lit. The black and white creates good contrast for the candles to shine through.

  27. Carissa bell

    I have a question, gorilla glue does not dry instantly how on earth did u put it all together I can’t figure it put.

    • Carissa, I just propped them up with jars or whatever I had on hand until the glue dried.

  28. Julia

    Cute idea! I’m making these for my Mother in Law for Christmas! Question though. I have the vellum prints, then the glass, but what’s supposed to hold them in place? My frames are also from the dollar tree, did you glue the glass frame down?

    • No Julia I simply used the regular clips that would normall hold the photo cardboard backing. So do vellum, glass and then skip the cardboard and then use the frames clips to hold it in place.

  29. Eileen

    Hi Cheryl, I love this photo luminary idea and bought all of the materials yesterday. One problem though, when I print the photos on vellum, the ink doesn’t seem to dry. Do I need a different kind of ink? Or just let the photo sit and dry for a long time before using?

    • I’m not sure Eileen. I didn’t have that problem. You could try printing in “draft” quality as it would use less ink from your printer.

      • Christy

        Hi! I just saw this post…I printed mine in draft, it worked a lot better. Still took a little while to dry, but not nearly as long as regular or photo.

  30. raqueldykes

    There is a white film on some of my frames and glass from the gorilla glue. What can I do?

  31. Caitlin Morrison

    Hi! I love this idea! I am attempting to make these for the grandparents as christmas gifts. I have actual color photos that I had printed at CVS. Can I use these or should I print black and images on the vellum? Also what size mirror did you use and are they supposed to fit perfectly? Thanks!

    • Caitlin regular photo paper will not allow the light to shine through. It’s not thin enough!

  32. kendall

    This is so awesome but how do you make the pictures stay without the backing?

    • You still use the glass. So it goes Frame, vellum, glass. Just put the glass behind the vellum instead of in front like you’d do for a regular frame.

  33. Darlynda Miktuk

    Thanks for the awesome craft idea! I made two of these last night as Christmas gifts for family members. It is my daughter’s senior year so I included a baby picture, a kindergarten picture, and 2 senior pictures. I found everything as you said at the Dollar Tree and Michaels. I printed my pictures in black and white as yours looked black and white, and they look cool illuminated with the “fake” tea-lights I found at the Dollar Tree by the picture frames. No fires here – lol! One tip – make sure the picture frames are flat (no curves or indents) as the flat ones glue better. I used a bit of tape with one end folded for easy removal to brace the frames as they dried.

  34. Lori

    For someone who is not crafty (like me)… maybe my mistakes will help you. The 1st picture frames I bought did not hold the glass in without the backing. The tabs did not reach far enough to hold the glass in by itself. The 2nd frames I bought were “fancy” and were almost impossible to glue together because there was only a small strip. So buy a straight edge for sure!!! Hoping 3rd time is a charm ; )

    Thanks for the awesome idea! Love it!!

    • Sally

      Lori, I’m not crafty either. Did you have any luck on your third try? I bought frames today and the best I can think of is to actually tape the photo along the edges to stay on the glass.

  35. Christy

    Thank you SOOOOO MUCH for this idea! My boyfriend died unexpectedly 6 weeks ago…moneys real tight this year. We’re young…didn’t have life insurance. These are PERFECT gifts for family and friends!! Just wish he didn’t have soooo many!!
    Thank you again!!

    • I’m so sorry to hear that Christy! His family and friends will love them and love you for thinking of them!

  36. kate

    I found this on Pinterest and so glad I did. I made this for my mom for Christmas. I put all her grandkids in the frames.It was perfect. She loves it. She has a large electronic candle she uses. She was worried about melting and wax. Thanks so much for the idea!

  37. Alexis

    Hey is it okay to use regular photo paper instead of vellum? I can’t find the vellum anywhere but I have everything else.

    • Alexis, the regular photo paper will not let the light of the candle shine through.

      • Sally

        You can get vellum paper at Staples, either online or in a store. My problem has been holding the photo to the frame once the backing is taken out!

  38. Sam Northrup

    How did you get the glass to stay in the frames without the backs. We’ve got ours all built but then we put the pictures and glass it and it just falls over.

    • Sam, my frames have the clasps on the frame not the back. So I just put in the vellum, the glass and then folded down the clasps to hold the glass and vellum in place.

  39. Jenn

    Hi Cheryl,

    I love your website. I have been trying to figure out what to do as a side business for fun, and I think maybe this could be it. I am going to make some of the picture frame luminaries for my friends event next month. I was wondering if you could tell me a good printer to purchase that isn’t too expensive.

    Thank you for your time and shares.

    Take care, Jenn

  40. Sandra Gindlesperger

    Is it best with black and white pictures or will it work with color pictures.

    • Sandra, I have not tried it with color. The black and white works great because of the high contrast, the images are still able to be made out through the candle light. I am not sure if the color will be too much?

      • Susan Pederson

        Sandra, did you try color? I am really curious if it worked for you?

        • Susan, I have it on my list to try with color! I will keep you posted!!

  41. Linda

    Where do you get the square mirror from to use on the bottom

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  43. Christina

    this is such a beautiful idea…we just lost our uncal and i was thinking of something to make as a rememberance of him at the get together and im on my way to the dollar store to get everything i need to make these thank you for sharing

  44. Jody Searing

    Hi Cheryl,
    This idea is very clever and I LOVE the accidental vine printed vellum. I think it looks great and if you hadn’t said it was a mistake, I would have never known. I am going to try this myself, but I am wondering if using a laser printer will work? I don’t have an inkjet.
    Thanks!
    Jody

    • Thanks Jody! Sometimes my mistakes work out ok for me! I am not sure how laser will work but I would think it would be OK. Maybe give it a try and report back! :)

  45. Mary weisenfels

    The picture frame luminaries…. I am stuck I have the image printed and trimmed. And the glass behind it. But how do I get the glass to stay without the black frame backing??? Did I get the wrong type of frames?

    • I used a frame with prongs attached to the frame that hold the black backing on. So instead of holding the black backing, the prongs just hold the glass and vellum photo.

  46. DeniseSherri

    im about to atempt this could i posibly modpodge pic to glass to seal this

    • It all depends on your printer and ink. Mod Podge can be too wet for the vellum and make the ink run.

  47. Allie Musso

    I just bought vellum paper, but mine resembles more of a card stock. Is it supposed to be thick, or some kind of vellum tracing paper…I have seen both?

    • Um…it’s pretty see through. Is yours see through? It’s thicker than tracing paper I think but not as thick as cardstock.

  48. Frankie

    I think the vine makes it unique. It is really cool.

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  50. Cecile

    The little battery lights would work great in here and be a lot safer!

  51. Sandy

    I have a few ideas about how to secure the picture to the outside of the glass… what did you do?

    • Sandy I used the existing clips on the frame. I inserted the vellum, then the glass then used the clips on the frame to secure that. Instead of glass then picture as you would do normally, I put the picture on the outside to keep away from the candles.

  52. aaron couillard

    Hi so I am making this but decided to put small pieces of quarter round trim at each corner to make it look more symmetrical, it’s looking nice

    • Sounds beautiful Aaron! I am surprised that the non-symmetry of mine, does not drive me batty….because normally it would, lol! I’d love to see a picture if you have one of your finished project! You can email it or post to my facebook page!

  53. Lisa

    I made this for a Christmas gift. Thank you so much for the idea. Happy Holidays!

    • Oh Lisa you are so welcome! I hope you have a great Christmas as well!

      • Lisa Tadlock

        Merry Christmas!!

  54. Leah Cohen

    Just made 8 of these for family. They look amazing with color prints and I used a mirror board on the bottom so I could glue it to the frame and so it doesn’t break (I’m clumsy). Also, I used the LED tealights instead of real ones and it still looks so pretty! Thank you so much for the wonderful idea! I think everyone is going to love them. :)

    • Oh that is great to know Leah that color works too! You are so welcome, I know everyone will love them! Have a Merry Christmas!

  55. Leah Cohen

    Thanks, you also!

    • They turned out beautifully! And I LOVE your pillows you made! Such a great tribute to your niece! Thanks so much for sharing your finished project with me! xo

  56. Kris Lauzon

    Hi – Lovely gift idea! Did you use plastic or wooden frames from the dollar store? Thanks!

    • Hi Kris, the frames I used were plastic! I think wooden would work wonderfully as well!

  57. christina klaas

    Hello, I LOVE this idea and can not wait to get started! I was wondering if you knew what weight your vellum was? I am a newbie to this sort of thing, and when I was looking online for some vellum i saw that it varies in weight anywhere from 17-100+ lbs and from what I can tell the weight is what makes the difference in the transparency…making some to thin to print on and others to dense to see through. Thanks in advance!

    • Christina, I went and looked at the sheets I have in my craft room and they do not have a weight on them. I purchased them from the open stock paper at the craft stores. I would say they are less than 80lb card stock but a bit thicker than regular weight copy paper. I am sorry I can’t be of more help. If I happen to find a sheet that has the weight listed on it, I will be sure to come back and let you know!

    • Hi cheryl, I’m new at blogging, but my aim of my site is to create a resource where people can learn different creative and craft skills through great tutorials. As an Occupational Therapist, I’m trying to add and element of the therapeutic and creative benefits of learning new skills to the posts I collect. I have written a post about your picture frame lamp and linked it back to you. I hope this is ok, after reading your “fine Print” I wanted to seek your permission to see if the post wasn’t breaking any rules or anything. If I am, I will gladly take it down. So, if you want to check it out and let me know your feedback.
      Thanks Karen

  58. Love these ideas. I included a link in my post about the magic of homemade mothers day gifts. Thanks for sharing.

  59. Jessie

    Hi,
    Is the square mirror necessary if I am gonna use tea lights- the fake lights?
    Thank you!

    • The mirror really, really helps reflect the light so that your images really shine through! I switched over to the fake ones too after I had another baby! He touches everything, lol!

  60. Stephanie

    Hi there!
    I have a silly question??
    So is it just the picture on then the glass? Or do you do the cardboard backung on too?
    Again probably an obvious thing. I don’t know lol
    Stephanie

    • Hi Stephanie! It is just the picture and then the glass behind it! No backing at all, just recycle that! Have a great day!

  61. Rebecca

    Someone has probably already asked this but I just didn’t read it and this is probably a dumb question anyway, but what is the size of the mirror used in this project? TIA

    • It’s 5×5. You will need a square size in relation to your frames. So I used 5×7 frames and needed a 5″ mirror. If you use 4×6 a 4″ one would be perfect!

  62. Beth

    Hi. I can’t wait to make these for family gifts this Christmas. What if we can’t find the vellum. Would printing on pictures still work or are they not transparent enough?

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  64. Lauren

    I would love to make this for Christmas! However, I don’t have a printer at home to print on vellum. Whenever I need something printed, I go to Staples. Would it still work on regular paper?

    • If the paper is very thin it might work! However if you take them the vellum, they will print on it for you!

  65. Why do you recommend not using hot glue for the frame luminaries?

    • Hi Vicki!
      I originally made it with hot glue but found that the hot glue did not adhere to the smooth surface of my frames nearly as well as the gorilla glue does. It was so fragile with the hot glue. I hope that helps!

  66. Pamela

    I love this idea. I’m making my sister one. Thank you so much for posting this.

  67. Gail

    Just got in Pinterest (I know, I’m late getting into this) and for my very first project, I made your photo boxes as centerpieces at my son’s rehearsal dinner. Printed the photos in color and used all the links you provided to purchase the votive lights and the mirrors. It was a huge success!! Thank you so much for providing links to all the materials and for the excellent directions!

    • Congratulations on your son’s marriage! I am so happy to hear you loved these Gail! Thanks for reading my site!

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