How to Make a Floating Photo Ornament Using Your Silhouette Cameo or Portrait
(in less than an hour!)

The Christmas season seems to get busier and busier each year – and that’s especially true for makers and crafters. But some traditions are just too important to let go of, even when time is short. For me, one of those traditions is making a special ornament for each member of our family. While looking over the images from our Thanksgiving photo shoot, I got my inspiration for this year’s creation – a floating photo ornament. It’s a quick and easy project but the result is sure to become a treasured keepsake.  In this tutorial, I’ll tell you how you can whip up one (or several) in less than an hour!

What you’ll need:

  • Clear Plastic Flat Disc Ornament (ball shape will work too)
  • Ruler
  • Silhouette Studio Software
  • Digital Photo
  • Printable Transparency Sheets (I used Grafix Ink Jet Film, also available for laser printers.)
  • Printer
  • Silhouette Cameo or Portrait

Step 1: Measure your ornament

I used an 80mm ornament, measuring 3 inches in diameter.  To test the size needed for the insert, I cut a 3” circle out of plain paper and placed it inside the ornament. It fit perfectly so I was ready to design my cut file.

Step 2: Import your image

Create a new 8.5” x 11” page in Silhouette Studio. Draw a 3” circle by holding down the SHIFT key while using the “Draw an Ellipse” tool.

Choose File > Open and navigate to where your digital photo (or other image) is saved on your computer. Double-click on the filename to open the image. (TIP: Darker photos show up the best on transparency film.)

Move the circle until it is centered over the portion of the photo you want visible in the ornament. Scale the image as needed by clicking on one corner and dragging diagonally. Do NOT alter the size of the circle!

Step 3: Remove unwanted portions of the photo

You can crop the image into a perfect circle, but I find it much easier to trim away the excess portions of the photograph using the knife tool, leaving a small portion of the photo outside the margin of the circle. This gives you a bit of “fudge factor” when cutting on your Silhouette and avoids the need for using the PixScan mat or a Print & Cut design.

Step 4: Add text (optional)

Type out your desired text, fill with color, and adjust the size/placement as needed. Be sure that the text is set to “No Cut”.

Step 5: Duplicate & Print

When the design is to your liking, select all parts (circle, image, and text) and group them together by choosing Object > Group (CTRL/CMD + G).

Duplicate the design as needed. (I like to print an entire page full to make good use of the transparency film.)

Print the image(s) on your home printer, following the directions provided with the transparency film. My HP printer does not have a setting for transparencies but after experimenting a bit, I found that choosing “Other specialty papers” and “Best” quality gave the most favorable results.  (Remember: the darker the photo is, the better it will show up on the film.)

Allow the film to dry completely (usually 5-10 minutes).

Step 6: Cut & Complete

Place the transparency on your cutting mat, being careful not to smear the image or get fingerprints on the film. I found it helpful to gently place the transparency on the mat, then turn the mat over with the printed transparency resting on a clean sheet of paper. I then used my vinyl squeegee to burnish the mat on the reverse side, assuring proper adhesion of the transparency to the mat.

Choose your settings and perform a test cut. I started with the Textured Cardstock setting and added a Line Segment Overcut of 0.1mm for a cleaner cut between the starting and ending points of the circle.  I saved my settings (Blade – 3, Speed – 4, Force – 30, Passes – 1, Line Segment Overcut – ON) as a custom media type labeled “Transparency Film”. When you’ve determined the correct settings for your machine, cut the photo inserts.

(A well-worn mat is the sign of a well-loved mat. Just sayin’.)

Step 7: Complete the ornament

Remove the cap from the ornament. Roll the insert up into a loose circle and place inside. (I recommend rolling with the printed surface to the inside to avoid damaging the image when placing it inside the ornament.)

Once it is placed inside, the transparency should unroll and pop into place. Use a small pair of tweezers to adjust and center the design as needed. Replace the cap and embellish the ornament as desired.

And that’s it! A floating photo ornament completed in less than an hour and a gift that will be treasured for years to come. I absolutely love the way mine turned out and look forward to sharing them with my family.

I hope you’ve found this tutorial helpful and that you’ll try making some floating photo ornaments on your own. Feel free to share a photo over on my Facebook page or leave a comment below. Your feedback is very important to me!

Until next time,




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    • Lycia says:

      Hi Suzie! The photo that is printed on the transparency is a bit larger than the circle that will be cut for the ornament, so the alignment does not have to be as precise. As long as you align your printed transparency with the gridlines one the upper left corner of your mat, the circles will cut in the right place. If they are off slightly, it won’t matter because there is some “fudge factor” built in. When I’m working with a project like this, I usually test it on plain paper first, so that I don’t waste my specialty materials if adjustments need to be made. I hope this helps!

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