Review: 3 DIY photo magnet methods

Photo magnets are a wildly popular gift, and my sister had mentioned last year that she wanted more photo magnets of the boys, especially since Elliott didn’t have a presence on her refrigerator yet. So this year, I did some exhaustive research into how best to make photo magnets to make a nice Christmas gift.

Why make? Well, the previous photo magnets we had given her were part of the photo package we got from the Michael and Chris’ preschool class picture session. And over time, I didn’t like how the photo started to peel away from the magnet. And if you look at the most common way you can purchase customized photo magnets online, they all look like this — thin photo paper pasted onto magnets that will eventually peel off.

I wanted something with some heft, so I first tried one method from photo ideas site Photojojo, then went with a cheaper method that several sites touted, then finally went with a slightly more expensive but ultimately much more satisfying method that was a bit harder to find. It was an interesting exercise in trying out DIY methods you can find online.

First method I tried, as I mentioned earlier, was from Photojojo. I should mention I love Photojojo, which is probably why I went with their method first. Their method involves ModPodge’s Dimensional Glaze, and the end product is pictured above, to the right, using Michael’s smiling face.

Pros: The materials, outside of the dimensional glaze, are easier to procure, if not already on hand. I personally did not need the Xacto knife, but some of you more dedicated DIY’ers and crafters might already have one, so more power to you. With this method, you can also make your magnets bigger or use a more unconventional shape — I had one rectangular picture I really wanted to give, so used this method to turn it into a magnet.

Cons: The dimensional glaze. Photojojo’s tutorial says it is super thick and won’t run, but nope and nope. It’s not as thick as, say, Elmer’s glue, and good Lord did it run. On the rectangular magnet I ended up giving, it actually pooled around one portion of the picture. Oh well. Then the bubbles. I tried mightily to get the big bubbles, but there was no getting around the smaller ones. And then even after I set them aside to dry, covered with old Talenti jars and cottage cheese tubs to protect them from dust, they still developed bubbles. The tutorial also said it would take 24 hours for these to dry, but my experience was more like 48-36 hours. And then once dry, some of them warped.

Conclusion: Good enough for my fridge, but not as a gift as I would give.

So, seeing as I had already spent about $8 on a method I didn’t feel was up to snuff as a gift, and had to spend a little more to get another type of ModPodge to keep going, I went with the cheap route — the dollar store glass gems. You can see how it came out above, in the middle, using Chris’ smiling face.

Pros: Cheap. This is the biggest pro. You can get a bag of decorational flat-bottomed glass pebbles at the dollar store for a whole dollar. Which is a good thing, and I’ll expand on why later.

Cons: It ends up looking cheap. The problem with those glass pebbles is that the bottoms aren’t totally flat — out of the bag of maybe 30 pebbles, I was able to use maybe five that were reasonably flat. So using actual photo paper leads to bubbles or gaps that are visible once dry. The photo paper doesn’t stick very well to the pebble either. So to compensate for that, I printed on regular printer paper and that stuck much better, but then the color ran. Finally, these pebbles are easily scratched and I was freaking out at the thought of them falling off the fridge and shattering.

Conclusion: Maybe better for pretty patterns or single words, not so much for photos of people.

Finally, I tried out Snapguide‘s tile magnet method. These are more involved but it was ultimately the winner, in my opinion. I had to hunt down a 2×2 sheet of tile ($2.95) that was as close to white as I could find it at Home Depot. While I was there, I also picked up six heavy duty magnets and a tiny bottle of Gorilla Glue, both for about $4. I followed the instructions pretty faithfully, and was briefly flummoxed by how to remove that tacky blue that keeps the tiles together, but managed to shave most of it off using my scissors. Using the Gorilla Glue was also a bit of an experience, and I neglected to dampen the backs of the tiles before gluing on the magnets on several of the tiles, but I made it work. Besides, its the backside and no one will see the weird glue bubbling, for the most part.

Pros: If I’d started out with this method, it would have been just as inexpensive as the others. I was able to use actual photo paper and the regular ModPodge Mat glue dried very quickly on the back and front. These tiles obviously have some heft to them. They can break if they fall, but because I used really strong magnets (versus the stick-on sheet/tape type) and Gorilla Glue, I feel like there’s little danger of them just falling off the fridge for no reason.

Cons: Gorilla Glue is kind of complicated.

Conclusion: I gave these as my gifts and they were well received!

I didn’t set out to try all these photo magnet methods, but there you are. My biggest expense in making these magnets was refilling/replacing my printer cartridges for about $35. As for the crafting materials, I ended  up spending another $30. But I did have some nice, personalized gifts for my sisters and my brother (who got a photo of him and his girlfriend in San Francisco that I stole from Facebook) and have the Photojojo magnets for my fridge and the glass pebbles as a cautionary tale, heheh. Shout out to Kit Kraft in Studio City, an easy walk from my lot, where I got the ModPodge products. That place is a dream come true for DIY’ers and crafters.

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