Christmas Tree Garland

An easy, step-by-step Christmas crafts project for kids and adults

By Charlie Kerekes, 12/2/2005

As this year's Thanksgiving came to a close, I began reminiscing about Christmas during my childhood. One of those memories took me back to the times when my family made garlands as Christmas tree ornaments.

Start a new tradition by making this easy Christmas crafts project with your kids.

Start a new tradition by making this easy Christmas crafts project with your kids.

These were simple garlands, made mostly from colored paper circles. Today, access to inexpensive digital photo processing makes it possible to create very unique photo garlands .

If you are looking for Christmas craft ideas that your kids will remember into their adulthood, follow along as I show you how to create the photo garland.

The steps in this article use "layers" in Photoshop Elements. Step-by-step instructions are provided; however, if you are unfamiliar with layers, you may wish to start by reading Editing Photos with Layers .

Tools You Will Need

In addition to digital photos, you will need the following items to make the photo Christmas tree garland:

Determine Garland Length

In order to know how many photo squares you will need, decide how long a garland you would like to make. The length is up to you—I will use 6' as an illustration. In addition to the 6' segment containing photos, leave a foot or two of extra string on each end so that the garland can be tied to the branches.

Next, determine how much space you would like to leave between each photo. About an inch looks good to me.

Now we can calculate how many photo squares we need. Each photo will be 2" square. If we leave 1" between them, then each photo will take up 3" on the garland. We convert our desired length of 6' to inches and get 6 × 12 = 72". We divide the space required by each square into the total and get 72" ÷ 3" = 24 photo squares .

Just one more simple math and we are done: We have determined that we need 24 photo squares, but we need to double that number because each square will have a picture on both sides. So, then, our final answer is that we need to print 48 2x2" photos to make a 6' garland.

Six 2x2" photos fit on a 4x6" print, therefore, we need a total of 8 prints.

Selecting the Photos

Example of six photos on a 4x6

Example of six photos on a 4x6" print, ready to be cut into squares and affixed to garland.

Since the individual pictures will be relatively small, select photos or portions of photos featuring one or two subjects. Photos with many people may not be recognizable on a 2x2" print.

In the previous section we have calculated the number of individual pictures required for a certain length of garland. It is up to you if you would like all of them to be unique, or if you wish to select a smaller number and repeat them.

Preparing the Pine Needle Frame

You can make the garland from photos without frames, but I wanted to add a Christmas flair by placing pine needles around each. I accomplished this by creating a frame with six openings. Using a frame also makes it easier to size and position the individual photos inside the garland image.

Pine needle collage frame

So that you don't have to find a picture of pine needles, I am providing a high resolution image (490 KB) for your use.

All steps apply to Photoshop Elements 2.0 - 4.0, unless indicated otherwise as v2 , v3 , and v4 .

Create a blank image in Photoshop Elements according to the dimensions of the photo paper—this is going to be the garland image template. In this example I am using a 4x6" image at 200 ppi.

Commands:

    File > New > Blank File

    In the New dialog box enter the following settings and click OK :

    Width: 6 inches

    Height: 4 inches

    Resolution: 200 pixels/inch

    Background Contents: Transparent

Place the pine needle frame into the new image, taking up the entire canvas area.

Commands v4 :

    File > Place

    Select the pine needle file you downloaded and click Place

    Click the checkmark button on the toolbar to accept placement and size

Re-name the new layer created by the pine needle image to Frame .

Selection marquees around all red frames, ready to be deleted. Convert the red frames to transparent .

Commands:

    Click the Magic Wand Tool

    On the top toolbar set Tolerance to 100

    On the top toolbar remove checkmark from the Anti-alias box

    On the top toolbar remove checkmark from the Contiguous box

    Click in the middle of a red frame. All red frames should now have the selection marquee around them.

    Press the Delete key on the keyboard to remove red, leaving transparent frames

    Select > Deselect to remove selection marquees

Save the garland image template to your hard drive in a place where you can find it.

Command: File > Save As , and give it a file name such as garland-template.psd

Close the garland image template.

Making the Garland Image

At this point you should have the garland image template with the pine needle frame on your computer's hard drive (created in previous section or downloaded ). Let's continue with adding pictures into each of the six frame openings.

All steps apply to Photoshop Elements 2.0 - 4.0, unless indicated otherwise as v2 , v3 , and v4 .

  1. Start Photoshop Elements.
  2. Make a copy of the garland image template so that the original is not disturbed.

    The above steps opened the original template file, saved a copy under a unique name, and closed the original template file. You now have a copy of the garland image template open on your screen.

  3. First photo is placed into the garland image, taking up entire canvas area and covering the frame layer.

    First photo is placed into the garland image, taking up entire canvas area and covering the frame layer.

  4. Open the first photo into a new layer.

    Commands :
  5. Re-name the new layer created by the photo to Photo 1 .
  6. At the moment, the Photo 1 layer is on top, covering the Frame layer. Move the Frame layer to the top.
  7. Size and move Photo 1 into the first frame opening of the garland image. First photo sized and positioned inside the frame.

    First photo sized and positioned inside the frame.

    Commands:


  8. Repeat from step 3 for the other five photos.
  9. Save the finished garland image.
  10. Close the finished garland image.
  11. Repeat from step 2 to create additional garland images containing different photos.

At this point each garland image is a collage of six small pictures. Once you have enough pictures to fill a garland, print as many copies of each garland image as required, cut out all of the picture squares, and put on the garland string.

Garland Assembly Tips

Assembling the garland by placing one photo facing down

Assembling the garland by placing one photo facing down (image upside-down), two strips of double-sided tape applied vertically, and string passing over the center horizontally. Another photo to be applied on top.

Assembling the photo garland is not rocket science, but I thought I'd pass along a few pointers that I discovered during my first attempt.

I hope this homemade Christmas craft will bring your family as much pleasant memories as it did for me. Enjoy and have a very Merry Christmas.