Thursday, June 9, 2011

Personalized Place Mats: A Tutorial


I am always on the look out for cute place mats.  I just cannot use cloth mats!  I would have to wash them every day and I do not want to add to my laundry load.

The plastic ones I find always seem boring and outdated so I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Using Picasa, I made a collage for each member of my family.  I selected a bunch of different photos of each of the children...great vacation memories, baby pics, funny faces, etc...created a collage, and then using the Text feature, wrote their names on them.  The kids love these place mats!  Each photo seems to bring up a topic of conversation at the dinner table.  "Remember when Dad made us hike up that mountain?"  or "We had so much fun at that reunion!"

You have heard me talk about using the collage feature of Picasa before...it is the same method I use for making my blog headers and my scrapbook pages.  It is so fun, easy and best of all free.   For a tutorial on how to make a collage you can go here, or here for a step-by-step easy video tutorial from Persnickety Prints.  You can also use a different program (i.e.Photoshop), OR just use a single picture if you don't want to bother with fancy digital stuff.  If you want to make it even easier, you could pick up a few 11 x 17 size papers, and have your children make their own drawings.

I called my local printer and decided to go with an 11 x 17 size.  That seemed to be a good size for a place mat, and it was easy and cheap for them to make color copies and laminate those color copies because it is a standard size.  The color copies were $1 each, and then to laminate each of them was $3.  $4 for custom place mats!  Not bad!  They also told me I could just email the collages to them, which made the whole process extra easy.

I did this about 5 years ago (using just a single picture that I brought in to be photocopied, before I was familiar with photo editing software) and the place mats held up for a good 3 years.  They are easy to wipe off with soap and water.  The copy place told me that they use 5mil laminate which makes them durable and sturdy.

Here are some tips and ideas:
1. I made a collage using the automatic "Mosaic" feature...that throws all your selected photos together into a collage automatically. (I chose plain white for my collage background.)  Once that collage was created, (after you hit the Create Collage button) I selected that collage, and also selected a scrapbook paper, pressed Collage again, and using the Picture Pile feature, centered the finished collage on the scrapbook paper.  That is how I got the scrapbook paper edge around the collage.

2. Sometimes the copier will cut off a small bit around the edges...ask!!!  The copy lady told me I would lose about 1/4"...it didn't matter because I had the scrapbook paper behind my collage, but without it, it might have.  Keep that in mind.

3. Remember in Picasa you can select your own custom collage size.  You just type in your dimensions.  (Horizontal size first.)  Again, I used 17 x 11 because it was cheap and easy.

4. I think for this size, I could have used less pictures.  I overloaded my own placemat and some of the pictures are tiny.  The ones that turned out best are the ones were I selected not more than 30 pictures.

5. And of course, the possibilities are endless.  Wouldn't it be cute to type in manner reminders?  Or the family dinner blessing?  You could make seasonal place mats also, with fun summer or fall colors, or a holiday theme.

23 comments:

Mom Taxi Julie said...

Super cute, what a great idea!

HijabiMommy said...

Love this idea! Thanks for the tips!

Clean Mama said...

Adorable! What a great idea!

Ruth Ann said...

These mats are SO NICE!! I do have a lot of photo folders online now...Maybe if I tried a placemat I would learn how to use Picasa....sort of.
Thank you for the tutorial!

Robyn said...

I LOVE this idea! The possibilities are endless and it would definitely keep my fidgety boys at the table longer.

Donna said...

Making place mats was Item Number One on my summer project list to do w the kids, but I didn't think of doing it this way!! So awesome! Great idea! I can't wait to try!!

createdwithlove said...

Another fabulous Picasa project! Great one Sarah

Brandie said...

What a cute idea, I might actually have to try this!

twolittletots said...

Another great idea! Totally going to make them this summer. Thanks Sarah!

Kim said...

I made the same place mats for each member of our family quite a few years ago... back before fancy computer programs and what not! We call them 'face mats'and my kids are crazy for them!!! It has been so long since I made them that they are full of baby pictures - they love to see themselves as babies! Brings back so many sweet memories.

I might give this a wing using picasa... so cool!

Heather said...

What a great idea! I think my kids would love them!

Danee said...

this just made my list for a really fun summer activity. such a fun idea. i know that i can do it because i have used your tutorials for Picasa more than once. thank you for sharing.

Tessa said...

I love your blog, thanks for sharing.

Kari said...

Way to go! Great idea - I'm totally doing this for my daughters!

kayce hughes said...

Love it!

Jaime said...

Sarah - what a great idea! I think I am going to do this for when I host Christmas - instead of placecards, make them a christmas-y collage of themselves! LOVE IT! ;)

christi @ burlap and basil said...

my mom let us make these when i was a kid! she'd print off photos, get out the glitter and we'd go to town. it was always a summer project. then she'd laminate them and we were all so proud of them!

Jane said...

Really clever and adorable! I confess I rarely use placemats. I have some lovely fabric ones that Annie made that I use for special occasions. But we have a laminate table top so I just wash it off! These are adorable - they would even make a cute gift!

Sandy said...

Sarah...I've decided you are the blog header guru and I am just a wanna be! Can you help me paaalllleeezzze? I make the collages just fine...just can't get them to size right on the blog. What am I doing wrong?

If you find time btwn baseball and soccer to help this poor mama hen get her chicks in a pleasing blog header roll...then you will forever be placed on our wall of fine feathered friends!

my blog is:www.farmhousechicks.blogspot.com

:)Sandy

The Mommy said...

These are fantastic - I made my this last week based on your instructions - big big hit:
http://expecttheunexpectedblog.blogspot.com/2011/06/personalized-placemats.html

Donna said...

I was so excited about this. Finally did it. Went to Kinkos and they want $26 to laminate my five placemats with only a 3 ML laminate! So bummed. Wish I had your printer around me! I will just use contact paper...

Michelina said...

I created a family tree one for each of my kids, but I haven't laminated it yet since I want it to be double sided with some sort of family related activity. You can get an idea on how my kids' place mats look here:
http://preservingheritage.blogspot.com/2011/01/kids-family-tree-placemat-keep-their.html

Angela said...

i love this idea! i also love using picassa. i just made my first placemat tonight...it looked great on the screen then i put it on a cd and sent it to Office depot with my husband and son to get it copied and laminated. but it came back with the pictures looking kinda grainy and fuzzy. i used about 25 pictures i think. any ideas what i did wrong??