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Photo Centerpiece

Martha Stewart Living, July 2006

If you're throwing a party for someone's anniversary or birthday, the guest of honor will shine with a set of photo frame lanterns. They consist of three hinged photo frames set around votive candles. The black-and-white photos are printed onto ecru-colored vellum paper, which is translucent enough for the images to be visible by candlelight.

Photo Centerpiece How-To
Disassemble three like-sized frames, setting aside their fronts and discarding their backings. Paint or stain wooden frames desired color; let dry. Upload or scan photographs into a computer. With editing software, make the images black and white, and resize them to fit your frames. Print them onto vellum paper with an ink-jet printer. Slip the images into the frames. Using cloth tape, hinge frames together to form a triangle. Stand frames around a candle in a protective glass holder.

Colored bookbinding tape; $1.75 per foot; NY Central Art Supply; 800-950-6111 or

Comments (54)

  • Happy_Birthday_Dr_Seuss 17 Jan, 2013

    Photo Centerpiece
    Russell's Thursday Centerpiece "Christmas and Family"
    Friendly and Fun!

  • PulpFresh 23 Aug, 2012

    I've made these a couple times, however, I decorated cut chipboard for the frame and printed on acetate for the image rather than vellum. Acetate gives a much brighter light. Remember to use a candle height that is roughly centered on your photo. I hosted a fund raiser last year for my son's senior all-night party where i used a picture of each of the seniors and sold them to the mom's--great fundraiser.

  • MamaJenni 26 Mar, 2015

    Hi, Pulpfresh! I realize you may not get this, but I'm hoping to get your advice on printing the photos. Is there a certain type of acetate paper that works best? AND do the photos show up during the daytime? I am working on a summer birthday party for my mom, and although it will be an evening party, we will be outdoors for 3 hours before it actually gets dark. Thank you so much!

  • swiffersabe 2 Dec, 2011

    My mom is going to paint a different painting for each table at our wedding reception as our centerpieces. I haven't yet been able to figure out how to display her beautiful work. I think this might be a great way to do it. Has anyone tried this with color? Or even with paintings instead of photos? So excited!

  • jasmin_coleman 28 May, 2011

    I bought my vellum paper from hobby lobby. It was 6.99 for 25 sheets, with 40 percent off.

  • ammoss 6 Apr, 2011

    Where did you find the vellum paper and how did you print? Did you do it yourself or have a printer help?

  • davidjan1 8 Feb, 2011

    I made 22 of these last August for my son's rehearsal dinner filling them with pictures of the couple. I found inexpensive frames from the dollar store, put the glass behind the vellum picture, using the frames tabs to hold it all in place. I also used black duct tape to hinge them together and it worked great. They were beautiful!!

  • davidjan1 8 Feb, 2011

    I made 22 of these last August for my son's rehearsal dinner filling them with pictures of the couple. I found inexpensive frames from the dollar store, put the glass behind the vellum picture, using the frames tabs to hold it all in place. I also used black duct tape to hinge them together and it worked great. They were beautiful!!

  • MamaCD 25 Jan, 2011

    These are awesome! I too used inexpensive frames so no painting required. Just slip photo in and slide in the glass. Also used Sail Tape versus bookbinding tape. Works great!

  • Sharon19 15 Aug, 2010

    I made these for my daughters wedding.We used pictures of her and her (now) husband when they were growing up and as a couple now. Everybody loved looking at all the pictures and the lovely glow from each table.

  • ojolie 27 Jul, 2010

    I found inexpensive frames that I could just slip the photo into the top and sides of the frames hence not having to glue or find a frame with metal tags to secure the photo in place. I did cut the backing ( mine was mat board ) slightly smaller than the picture itself so the photo would show through.

  • rottndachs 18 Jul, 2010

    I did something like this for Christmas cards. I quad folded the card to make a box. The velum image created a luminary.

  • kathyjayne 15 Jul, 2010

    we did something very similar for our cub scout dinner but instead of using frames the boys made frames out of popsicle sticks and glues the velum printed images to them to make the lanterns. It came out really cute, and the kids loved making them.

  • esther414 15 Jul, 2010

    For those who have mentioned already making these any pics you can post a link to or post? Would love to see what the chalk board ones looked like! All very cute ideas!

  • artistmoe 15 Jul, 2010

    Mrssly - instead of using 3 frames - use 4 to form a square and square vases are very popular right now you can find them at lots of different stores. I would buy the vases first if you are buying the frames too.

  • dididdle 15 Jul, 2010

    I made 10 of these and used them as centerpieces for my parent's 50th wedding anniversary party. They were quite simple to make and were a huge hit. Family members were able to take one home. I used a baby picture of my dad and one of mom and then a wedding photo.

  • polkadotpink 6 May, 2010

    I made these for a couples shower. Ikea sells 3 wooden frames for $2. I spray painted them with chalkboard paint and put the couples initals on the frames using chalk. I was also impressed with how well duct tape worked to hold the frames together.

  • shycatlee 4 Apr, 2010

    I made the centerpieces with mats not frames. Frames are too expensive for a large party. Check out, they have every color of mats that you can imagine and it very cheap (I got the JAVA color). I ordered and got the frames within 3 days. I attach the vellum picture to the back of the mat with double stick tape....and I taped the mats together on the inside with packing tape.

  • BeanCounter7895 23 Mar, 2010

    What weight of vellium paper do you use?

  • Sharla25 13 Jul, 2009

    Hinged frames work great and seem to be cheaper than buying three frames. Simply reverse the hinges and they are done.

  • rashmim 19 Jun, 2009

    nfraz1402 - could you copy in your instructions?
    the link listed appears to be dead, and I'd love to know how you did yours :)

  • nfraz1402 6 Mar, 2009

    i made these for my wedding in july - made them with 4 frames bc i wanted a square. bought our frames at the dollar store, painted them brown, hinged them together with clear silicone caulk, attached the vellum to the glass with Zotsn n n n n n , and put a votive in a small square vase in the middle. guests loved them and family members took them home - also used on the memorial table with photos of family members who had passed. here are my instructions:

  • KelliRocha 7 Oct, 2008

    I use these centerpieces every year to honor our high school's football and wrestling teams. Same centerpiece, but new photos for each season and sport. The parents love it and I always get lots of help from the athletes when it's time to set up.

  • Mrssly 15 Sep, 2008

    I put the 5x7 b/w blow ups in black frames and found small black vases that fit inside the triangle perfectly. I tried to hot glue the frames together/horrble it "leaked" through to the front, so I ripped it off and am going to try the duct tape the frames together. They're so unique I think folks will be picking them up to take a closer look and I need them pretty sturdy, not just to stand alone on the table. Will be using fresh autumn colored roses in each vase.

  • cristimo 3 Sep, 2008

    did you come up with any ideas for the picture vase??? i love that option :)

  • Mrssly 29 Aug, 2008

    I am looking to make a picture "vase" with this idea for my mother's 90th birthday. It is a daytime party, and although the luminary effect is beautiful, I think it's too romantic for this daytime party. Instead of using the vellum, I'd simply put black and white pictures in the frames, and not use the candle, but somehow make a vase of out the triangle. Does anyone have any ideas? Maybe I could put that green square foam inside to hold the flowers? Or a small vase? Any ideas?

  • Alabaxter 11 Jul, 2008

    You can use duct tape too, just go ahead and put it on and then paint.

  • mrspsp 10 Jul, 2008

    I liked the look of pictures hanging on the wall in groupings in inexpensive matching frames but was stuck with the leftover frames when I changed my decor out for a different look and season. Now I have this idea to recycle the frames into an easy but unusual display. I could even give them as gifts. My hobby is genealogy and this completed project would be the perfect way to say thank you to someone who has shared their research data.

  • msi 10 Jul, 2008

    I use the flameless candles. They are battery operated; the good ones look just like real candles and it's much safer than using real candles.

  • christinesanthuff 10 Jul, 2008

    I used this photo centerpiece as a craft night project and my fellow crafters really liked the end product. However, we realized that we need to work out a few kinks if we created them again. First, not all picture frames have the small metal tabs to bend over to secure the glass, so we thought about hot gluing the glass in place if needed. Second, we used vellum glue dots to secure the vellum, but the picture(s) still had a tendency to come loose. Any ideas on how to keep them in place?

  • pelican66 10 Jul, 2008

    now this is truly clever! graduation party with the graduate's photos growing up would work too!

  • charlene16 4 Jul, 2008

    I am throwing my mom a 60th birthday party that is an all white theme party and would love any ideas to implement to make this day memorable.

  • mariah81766 23 Jun, 2008

    This would be cool for a wedding reception of photos of the couple. The frames could be painted white or even their colors. I love this idea.

  • maryk6 18 Jun, 2008

    I did this last year for father's day. I used photo broardes and taped them together. I used vellum tape to attached the pictures. They were displayed indoors, so they would not burn. They still look great today.

  • bkindler 16 Jun, 2008

    Ok - I know I am repeating some of the questions, but I too would love to know if others used the glass or no? It seems it might look a bit softer without? Also, I would also need another tutorial on how to tie frames together with ribbon? I like this idea, but can't make sense of it...

  • TravelingTParty 15 Jun, 2008

    This is a wonderful idea! This would also be cute with storybook pictures for a children's party.

  • meadresearch 14 Jun, 2008

    What a beautiful idea! How nice would this be for a memorial dinner?

  • prissbutt68 12 Jun, 2008

    I used this for my friend's graduation party. I used a pale lavendar purple

  • cpc94118 12 Jun, 2008

    I've also used this for a 50th anniversary party. I changed the photos to sepia tint in Photoshop and printed them onto vellum through my printer. To save money, I used pre-cut mats instead of picture frames and created an invisible hinge with artists tape on the inside. They turned out beautifully and my parents had some great mementos of their day.

  • andeande 10 Jun, 2008

    i used this for a 60th anniversary party. they looked fantastic. i printed the pics onto vellum, taped the frames together, and used glass votive holders. it was pretty easy and was great for table conversation.

  • andeande 10 Jun, 2008

    i used this for a 60th anniversary party. they looked fantastic. i printed the pics onto vellum, taped the frames together, and used glass votive holders. it was pretty easy and was great for table conversation.

  • jessicaangelina 9 Jun, 2008

    i have tried this before, works great, i got the frames from the dollar store and you can just print pixs from your computer in black and white and that works fine, im a little weary of the candle though so i use a everbrite portable lite. i'm gonna try a glow stick, hope it works.

  • terivanhecke 9 Jun, 2008

    Don't mean to sound dense - I like the idea of the ribbon but cannot figure out what you're trying to describe. Please expound! Thanx, "Dense Teri"

  • cyndi_b 9 Jun, 2008

    to arose4kim, not sure a triple frame bends backwards, but you could take your pics to a local print shop like Staples or OfficeMax. Personally I can't wait to use this idea for my next family get-together.

  • arose4kim 27 Feb, 2008

    what about using a triple frame so it doesnt have to be taped or tied together?? has anyone tried this? i dont have a printer...i was wondering if i can just use a regular pic?? do u think it will work???

  • dblg 4 Feb, 2008

    I did this project for a 60th Surprise birthday party. It's easy and inexpensive to do, no matter what color you did them. I used regular velum paper and printed the photos in black. It's a great effect and was the hit of the party!. I just sent this to a friend who is having a 50th Surprise party for her husband.

  • sheilajh28 27 Jan, 2008

    I made mine with color pictures and they worked very nicely. We used them for a going away party for our son

  • pppdesigns 22 Jan, 2008

    Does anyone know if the pictures must be black

  • darbiene 16 Jan, 2008

    You can slide the ribbon through the glass and the wood frame. Very easy.

  • moneypenni 15 Jan, 2008

    I can not tell about the glass. Is it necessary for the cloth tape. If using ribbon how did you tie the wood frames together??

  • coachrg 15 Jan, 2008

    Does anyone know if you leave the glass in or not!!!

  • teach4261 14 Jan, 2008

    I searched "photographs on vellum" and found a lot of worthwhile info. You might want to also check the hp website. The vellum should be heavy and you'll need to adjust you copier to the correct settings. Also, make sure the vellum is the correct kind for your copier. They sell vellum for laser, ink jet, and both. Good luck. I will also be trying this for my father's 70th birthday party on Feb. 16.

  • rideasnowboard 13 Jan, 2008

    I'm trying to make these for my wedding this year but I'm finding that when I print my pictures on vellum, they get blurred and aren't sharp! Did anyone else have this problem, or have a quick fix?! Thanks!

  • darbiene 17 Dec, 2007

    I made the photo centerpieces for a 50th anniversary party, and they were the hit of the party! I would make only one recommendation. I used ribbon to tie the frames together, with a perfect bow at each corner. It was better than the fabric tape and soften the frames.