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How to Make Floating Ornaments Using Photos
(in less than an hour!)

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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, 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 family pictures we took during Thanksgiving, I got my inspiration for this year’s creation – floating ornaments. 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:

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-inch circle out of plain paper and placed it inside the ornament. It fit perfectly so I was ready to design my cut file.

blank ornament for floating ornaments made with photos

Step 2: Import your image

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

circle drawn in Silhouette Studio

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.)

Silhouette Studio shape for floating ornaments made from photos

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. The small portion of the photo outside the circle 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.

using the knife tool in Silhouette Studio

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.

Photograph for floating ornaments

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 (keyboard shortcut: CTRL+G on a PC or CMD+G on a Mac).

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

duplicated images in Silhouette Studio for floating ornaments

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 the transparency film

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 back of the mat until the transparency film was stuck down well.

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.

Silhouette Studio cut settings for transparency film

When you’ve determined the correct settings for your machine, cut the photo inserts.

cutting a photo for floating ornaments with Silhouette Cameo or Portrait

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

Step 7: Complete the floating ornaments

how to make floating ornaments

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.)

inserting photos into floating ornaments

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.

floating ornaments on Christmas tree

Like what you see here? Share the image below to Pinterest!

And that’s it! Floating ornaments 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 ornaments on your own. Feel free to share a photo over in my Facebook group or leave a comment below. Your feedback is very important to me!

Until next time,

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    1. 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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