From creating a Warhol-inspired canvas to giving new photos an old-fashioned feel, digital photo technology makes it easy (and often inexpensive) to turn family snapshots into photo art. Elizabeth Mayhew of "Real Simple" magazine was on the “Today” show to offer five techniques that are fun and affordable. Here are her tips on how to do it.
How to get started
Submit a high-resolution image. For a digital photo, use a minimum of 300 dpi (dots per inch) or it will look fuzzy when it’s enlarged. The larger the final image will be, the larger the file should be. You can also use a plain, old-fashioned photo. Get it scanned at a copy store (about $10). Save the image onto a disk (a floppy disk or a CD) and mail it to the lab doing the work, or e-mail the image directly from your computer.
When placing your order, be clear about what you want. Specify the kind of paper (gloss or matte); any retouching that needs to be done (red-eye or cropping); and whether to retain a print’s white border (it will be proportionally larger when it’s blown up) or bleed the image to the edges of the paper. Ask the lab to e-mail a digital version to you before printing it, so you can make sure it is to your liking.
1) Artist’s canvas
Having a photograph printed on canvas gives it a bit of the painterly texture of an oil portrait. Send in a digital photo and the piece will arrive rolled up in a poster tube in about a week. ($100, www.photoworks.com)
What to know
- A family photo will work, but for something a little more artsy, go for a close-up shot and eliminate the commonplace. Crop out recognizable objects, like the living room lamp, and zoom in on a face. You can do this yourself or ask the lab to do it.
- These can be done in color or black-and-white. You can convert a color photograph to black-and-white, but not vice versa.
- Specify the final size of the image and verify that at least three additional inches of blank canvas will be left on all sides (to act as a border).
- Canvas is not a good choice to hang in the bathroom. The humidity may cause it to shrink or warp.
- When the canvas arrives, you’ll need a stretcher from an art supply store (about $20) and a staple gun.
2) Pop art
You don’t have to be Marilyn Monroe to get the Andy Warhol treatment. Just send a digital image or print to a specialty lab, and they’ll make multiple copies of your favorite head shot, then digitally colorize them and print them on canvas to create the playful look of pop art. (About $80 per canvas, about $60 if printed on paper, www.lilacdigital.com)
What to know
- This look works best for head shots.
- You can ask the lab to alter the shades in your photo according to your choice of colors.
- Be sure to have the company e-mail you a mock-up of the images for final approval.
- For canvas prints, you’ll need a stretcher from an art supply store and a staple gun to finish them.
- Hang the images about two inches apart, either in two rows of two, or as three or four prints in a line.
3) Sepia tone
To give new photos an old-fashioned look, as well as an air of sophistication, have them printed in sepia tones on white. This mimics the antiquated printmaking process and conveys a certain timelessness. ($65, www.maine.com/photos)
What to know
- This treatment can be applied to color or black-and-white photos.
- You’ll get a better result if the original photo is gray in tone, not sharply contrasted with black-and-white areas.
- If you want more of an antique look, choose a matte finish. Otherwise, choose glossy.
- Framing the photo with a mat keeps the photo from sticking to the glass, but for more drama, go for an image that fills the entire frame.
4) Split image
Poster-size prints can be cut into sections, encased in inexpensive frames, and grouped for an original graphic effect. Most photos can be processed within a day. ($135, www.fedex.com for store locations.)
What to know
- Choose an image with a single figure to create a clear focal point. You don’t want a face to be broken up between panels.
- If you order a print to fit a standard frame height (such as 36 inches), you’ll save a fortune on framing.
- You can order this on matte or glossy paper in sizes up to 36 by 54 inches.
- Hang pieces two inches apart for the best look.
One great snapshot can become a year-round pleasure when turned into wallpaper. Printed on an acrylic-coated (i.e. wipeable) wall-covering material and finished with a UV protectant to keep it from fading in sunlight, a photo mural should last 50 years. ($10 per square foot, or $640 for an 8-by-8-foot panel, www.4walls.com)
What to know
- Choose a photo you love and won’t get tired of.
- Simple, graphic images where the subjects are centered or in a cluster work best.
- This makes for a strong visual effect, so using it on just one wall might be best.
- For this scale, you’ll need to provide either a very sharp photo or a digital image of at least three megapixels.
- Hang the image as you would regular wallpaper. It comes divided into 58-inch-wide strips.