How to Make an Embossed Photo Frame for Your Pet

comments (5) February 27th, 2009     

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Sister_Diane Diane Gilleland, contributor
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This little shrinelike frame is very easy to make, and you likely have most of the materials at hand.
The metal comes from grocery-store foil baking pans. I get these for about 60 cents each at my local store.
Using simple tools, you can create an intricate embossed design in the metal—and add color with good old Sharpie markers!
This little shrinelike frame is very easy to make, and you likely have most of the materials at hand.

This little shrinelike frame is very easy to make, and you likely have most of the materials at hand.

Photo: Diane Gilleland

As Pet Month winds down here on CraftStylish, I got to thinking about all the pets I've had in my life, and how I never stop missing them after they've gone. I thought it would be nice to make a special photo frame that, if you like, can also be a kind of shrine to remember those special friends. This would also be a nice gift for someone who's dealing with the loss of a pet.

I'm using embossed metal to make these frames especially shrinelike, and, to keep them inexpensive to make, I'm using metal from an unusual source: grocery-store foil baking pans. Look for these pans in the aisle with the baking supplies. They come in all kinds of sizes.

What you'll need:

  • Foil baking pan (I used a 7-inch square cake pan)
  • Strong scissors
  • Bone folder
  • Low-tack painter's tape
  • Downloadable template (see link below)
  • Utility knife
  • Metal ruler
  • Sheet of craft foam
  • Pencil (not too sharp)
  • Embossing stylus (see notes below)
  • Fine-point Sharpie
  • E6000
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Cotton swabs
  • Assorted color Sharpie markers
  • Clear sealer (optional)

A few safety notes before we begin: When you work with any kind of metal or foil, please be very careful of the edges-they can be sharp enough to cut you. I recommend wearing some kind of eye protection when you cut metal, too. Protect your work surface with some paper, as we'll be using Sharpie markers, which can leave permanent marks.

Cut into the corners of the pan, then cut away the sides.

Begin by cutting into the four corners of the baking pan with scissors. Then, cut away the four sides, leaving the flat bottom of the pan as your working piece of foil. (You can use those side pieces in other small projects, if you like.)

Use a flat-edged tool, like a bone folder, to press out any ridges in the foil.

Most foil bakeware has some kind of ridges pressed into its surface, and we need to get rid of these before we can make our frame. Place a piece of paper over the foil and firmly wipe a bone folder across the surface until the foil is flat. (If you don't have a bone folder, try the back of a spoon or a credit card.)

You may see some faint lines in the surface of your foil after this process. Don't worry about these; they'll disappear when you start embossing.

Tape a template to the foil and trace with a fine-point Sharpie.

Time to cut out the pieces of the frame. You can download my template if you like, or design your own frame. If you're using the template, cut out the pieces and tape them to the foil, using small pieces of tape. Then, trace around the template with a fine-point Sharpie. (This will leave a cutting line on the foil, which we'll remove later.)

Those small pieces of tape won't interrupt your tracing line too much.

Cut along the traced lines.

Cut along your traced lines with scissors. When you're cutting curved edges with corners, like in the top of the template, you'll get the best results if you cut from both directions in toward the corner, as shown.

When the pieces are cut out, carefully snip off the very tips of any pointed corners. This keeps them from being too sharp.

Cut out the center of the frame with a utility knife.

To cut the center out of the frame, use a utility knife and a metal straightedge. Start each cut at the corner and cut toward the center. This means that each side will require two cuts. This material will cut best with light pressure on the knife.

Remove traced lines with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.

Use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to remove the tracing lines from the foil. For best results. squeeze out excess alcohol so that the swab is damp.

Place the metal cutout on a sheet of craft foam for embossing.

Now it's time to emboss your frame. Place the foil cutout on a padded surface, like a sheet of craft foam. The padding will give your embossing more depth and detail.

Embossing is as easy as drawing firmly on the foil. I'm using an embossing stylus here, which is a great tool for making nice, sharp lines. I also keep a dull pencil handy for embossing larger areas. You don't have to use an embossing stylus, by the way-a ballpoint pen that's out of ink also works well.

If you like, you can trace a motif from a book to form the basis of your embossing.

You can certainly do your embossing freehand, but I sometimes like to use a tracing to start the design. Check your local library for design motif books, which are filled with small graphic elements that make nice starting points for embossing. You can trace a design you like onto tracing paper, and then place the tracing over the foil. Retrace over the lines, and this will leave a lightly embossed design in the surface of the foil.

(Bonus: If you need to repeat the design in the reverse, just flip your tracing over and trace it onto the metal again!)

Add lots of embossed details.

Then, you can re-emboss the lines to deepen them, and add any other details you like. I think that the key to nice metal embossing is lots of detail.

You can emboss details into the back of the foil as well as the front.

As you work, keep in mind that you can emboss the foil from either side, creating design elements that press down into the foil or that rise up from the surface. I think that the nicest embossing combines both. Here, I'm embossing on the back side of the foil...

This detail shows embossing on both front and back, creating raised areas and sunken areas.

...and here it is from the front. See how the embossing on the back has created a nice, raised center for this flower?

The photo and frame will cover much of the center.

As you emboss, by the way, keep in mind that the photo and frame will cover up most of the center of the background. Any embossing you do in this area will be visible from the back of the piece, of course, so it's up to you whether to add details to this area.

If the foil becomes bent during embossing, place it under a heavy book.

If your foil pieces have become bent or curled during the process of embossing, place them under a heavy book for an hour or so to flatten back out.

(This is a good time to mention the photo frame. I embossed all those parallel lines by embossing against a ruler. I like the contrast of this texture against the floral background. But by all means, emboss the frame any way you like!)

Add color with Sharpie markers.

When you have both pieces of the frame embossed as you like, you can add some color. The foil will take alcohol-based inks beautifully, and Sharpie markers offer nice coverage and colors. Just use a light pressure when you're coloring, so the marker won't emboss the foil. The nicest results come from coloring with the side of the marker nib.

You can color broad areas of the foil or draw fine lines of color into your embossed details. There are lots of possibilities. (And incidentally, if you make a stray mark with the Sharpie, you can easily remove it with a cotton swap moistened with rubbing alcohol.)

With the color applied, you can spray the finished pieces with clear sealer if you like, and allow them to dry.

Glue the photo to the frame.

Cut your photo to size so it's slightly smaller than the rectangular frame. Glue the photo to the back of the frame with E6000.

Glue the two embossed metal pieces together.

Then, glue the two metal pieces together, also with E6000. Try to keep the glue away from the edges of the frame, so it won't ooze out when the two pieces are pressed together.

I like to place the glued frame back under a heavy book for an hour or so while the glue sets.

Use a metal ruler to bend the sides of the frame.

Lastly, use a metal straightedge to bend the two sides of the frame at an angle, so the piece will stand.

posted in: metal, frame

Comments (5)

Sister_Diane writes: _coda_, I'm so sorry - I've already taken the book back to the library and I can't recall the name! But, take a look at this search page on Amazon - there are so many great motif books out there:
Posted: 8:36 pm on March 2nd
_coda_ writes: I love this project! Could you please tell us the name of the stencil book that you used? I want to make a frame just like yours! Thanx.
Posted: 1:55 am on March 2nd
PamHarris writes: Brilliant application for pie plates and Mexican Tin Nichos! Your Mexican floral design is absolutely beautiful. A perfect way to remember a cherished pet. To echo Linda... BRAVO! Muy Bueno!
Posted: 12:16 pm on February 28th
JenniferStern writes: ...and you're right, I have everything I need to make this project right in my pantry. This is a great weekend project to do with the girls, Thanks!
Posted: 2:35 pm on February 27th
LindaPermann writes: Diane, you are a genius! I would never have guessed this was made from a cake pan and sharpies. Bravo!
Posted: 1:31 pm on February 27th
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