Fuse Your Photos to Stone and Tile for Unique Gifts and Stunning Displays

By Christine Pentecost–

USE THIS OrigCoasters and trivet darker

Finding a unique niche in today’s world of photography is not the easiest thing to do. Fortunately, something as simple as making your own coasters, trivets or hanging wall decorations using inexpensive tile, Mod Podge and Red River photo papers is an easy yet wonderfully creative way to share your photography.

STEP 1. Print your photos on the Red River paper of your choice, either in groups or one at a time.

I begin by sizing my images to fit the stone or tile I will be using. For a 4-inch square coaster, I size it to 3.8 inches square. I’m able to place four coaster images onto one 8 1/2 x 11 inch Red River piece of photo paper but you can also print them one at a time. The trivet templates are sized to 5.8 inches square for a 6-inch square tile. I do this, so I can have a slight edge of tile around each image.

I print the images using my Epson SureColor P800, set to the proper color profile for the paper I am using. However if you don’t use profiles, not to worry; any printing method you use will be fine.

I’ve made my coasters using many of the different photo papers that Red River has to offer. I started out with the Red River Inkjet Photo and Fine Art Sampler, a selection of more than 16 different types of papers, which was a great way to find out what I liked and what worked best. My favorite paper is the 66lb Polar Pearl Metallic, but I found that all of the papers worked great. The 60lb River Linen 2.0 gives a nice textured look, whereas the 66lb Arctic Polar Satin had a nice smooth look to it. (See “Links To Resources” below for more information about these paper products.)

STEP 2. Here are the materials you’ll need.

Using a paper trimmer to cut out my photos, I then set up my studio to make the coasters and trivets. Materials needed are Mod Podge, available from your local craft store, a 1″ foam brush, a 4″ rubber brayer (roller), and paper towels. Mod Podge is available in many sizes, from 2-ounces up to one gallon.  I used matte but it’s also available in gloss, super gloss, sparkle, and outdoor formulas so there’s plenty of room for experimentation.

STEP 3. Coat the stone or tile with Mod Podge.

You don’t need a lot of Mod Podge per coaster, and a 16-ounce bottle will make a lot of photo tiles. The 4×4 tiles I use are tumbled stone, and the 6×6 tiles for trivets and wall decorations are ceramic tiles, all purchased from my local home supply store (Home Depot or Lowes). While not necessary, I also like to wear latex gloves to keep my hands clean. You may also wish to cover your work area with newspaper or plastic, to protect it from the Mod Podge.

Making one coaster or trivet at a time, I coat the tile with Mod Podge, using a foam brush. I like to put enough on so that when I place the photo on the tile, I can slide it around a bit to position it in place.

STEP 4. Remove bubbles from under the photo.

I then use a brayer to flatten the image and push any air bubbles out from underneath. Always try to roll in the same direction so that any bubbles will be completely removed and not just redistributed.

It is important to hold the photo in position when using the brayer, because if it moves, it will be difficult to re-position it.

 

STEP 5. Coat the photo with Mod Podge.

After about 15 minutes, I then place another coat of Mod Podge on top of the photo, making sure that the image is coated well, and that the edges of the photo are secure to the tile. Your image will look white, but the Mod Podge dries clear.

After the top coat of Mod Podge, it is time to let the tile dry. Do not be tempted to touch up the tile as it is drying, as you may end up with an uneven surface on your tile. When the weather is warm, I like to allow the tiles to dry outside in the sun. Drying time is dependent on the temperature and humidity but 24 hours is usually sufficient

STEP 6. After the photo dries, spray it with sealer. Here, four tiles are being sprayed at the same time. This waterproofing step is very important.

Once the coaster tiles are dry, I spray them with a clear finish protectant (Krylon Crystal Clear Protective Finish), which helps to protect against staining. I then apply a 3.75″ x 3.75″ adhesive cork that I get from the Aetna Felt Corporation to the back, stamp my business name and info onto the cork, and they are done!  (NOTE: You may want to use a simple face mask to avoid inhalation of fumes.)

For the trivets, I found wood trivet frames through Dick Blick an online art supply store which are perfect for the 6-inch square ceramic tiles. These are especially nice because they have a drilled hole in the back for hanging, and rubber pads on the bottom. If you are going to use the trivet as a decorative art piece, you are finished. Just glue it to the trivet frame with a wood glue, such as Elmer’s.

However, trivets that are going to be used for hot pots and pans require an extra step to make them heat-resistant. When the image fused to the trivet tile with Mod Podge has dried, I apply three coats of a fast-drying, oil-based, polyurethane such as Varathane or Minwax which are available from home supply stores as a spray or liquid in gloss or matte finish.

My favorite finish is “clear satin” but others may work as well with different kinds of images. A spray can is very inexpensive so there’s plenty of opportunity to experiment. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions which usually recommend two to four hours between coats depending on the temperature and humidity. After the last coating, I usually allow between 24-48 hours for a permanent set.

Red River 6

There are several methods you can use to display larger tiles. One that I have mentioned is to simply hang the trivet which is already framed by its border. For bare tiles, you can use some double-sided, removable sticky tape (from your local craft or home supply store) but it may mar your wall (or even take off paint) when removed so read the instructions carefully.

A better option might be to get some tile hangers for wall display or tile easels, some of which just self-stick to the back of the tile allowing you to place your work on shelves or lamp tables. (See Links To Resources below.) Or you can simply frame them if you wish.

Creating coasters and trivets using my own photography and creativity has given me a new way to share my photography as functional art. The sky is the limit on what I can do with Red River Papers and Mod Podge, and it has been a lot of fun experimenting with this process!

[All photos and photos within photos © Christine Pentecost]

LINKS TO RESOURCES

Aetna Felt Corporation [aetnafelt.com] Adhesive cork for backing coasters.

Dick Blick [dickblick.com] Trivet frames for tiles.

National Art Craft [nationalartcraft.com] Tile hangers, frames and self-stick easel backs.

Elegance In Easels [easels.com] Tile display easels and holders.

LINKS TO PAPERS USED

Red River Paper Samplers

Red River 66lb Polar Pearl Metallic

Red River 60lb River Linen 2.0

Red River 66lb Arctic Polar Satin

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Christine Pentecost is a Red River Pro who lives in Bozeman, Montana. Using many of her wildlife images, she produces cards, coasters and tile trivets that are sold at gift shops in her area and on the web.  Visit her web site and also read her Red River Pro profile.  You may also be interested in reading Cash In On Greeting Cards! in which her work is featured along with other card-makers.

15 Comments

  1. Or, you could dye-sublimate them and not have to be concerned whether the finish will gum with repeated use. Takes some equipment and practice and good substrates. Contact me if you are interested in the possibility. There are 6×6 and larger that come with UV and scratch resistent surfaces that are suitable for actual wall placement. There are a variety of sizes that have the necessary coating. And the tiles do not need to be square. Rectangular tiles make for an interesting possibility. Attach a snack dish at one end…

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  2. I appreciate your clear instructions! I have already made coasters, using your methods described, but I can re-fine my process using some of your techniques. I have also printed postcards, made laminated bookmarks, and mod podged my photos on little paper gift bags and on note pad covers. I always use Red River paper for all of my photo needs. I am about to try making luggage tags with MDF wood sheets. And I would like to try the tiles project.

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  3. Good Ideas….thank you for sharing! Where do you get your tiles?

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    • CHRISTINE ANSWERS:: I buy my 4×4 tumbled stone tiles from Home Depot.  It is “Crema Marfil”.  I have to order it online (with free shipping to the store) but larger Home Depot stores may carry it in stock.  Home Depot does carry other types of tumbled 4×4 stone.  I would imagine the selection varies from store to store.

      EDITOR ADDS: I use whichever 6×6 tiles are the least expensive; they are a popular size and usually always in stock.

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  4. If you’re lucky to have access to a “Large Format UV Digital Printer” you can direct print on most substrates… including tiles and coasters.

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    • CHRISTINE ANSWERS: I don’t know, as I have not had tile placed in a bathroom or humid/moist area.  If you were to do this, I would recommend multiple coats of polyurethane be put on top of the tile.  I recommend applying the polyurethane in a can and using a brush, rather than out of a spray can.  I cannot guarantee how long the tiles would last.  I have done tiles as accents around a gas fireplace and in a kitchen, with no reports of problems.

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  5. Great idea!! I’ve made several this week and they look great. The Acrylic spray coating is really important to do. You can do several spray coats to have a nice hard surface. The Mod Podge remains tacky and will soften up with any contact with water (i.e. it’s not permanent even after drying). Thanks for suggesting this great use for photo gifts!!

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  6. What a great idea! These will be offered as another perfect Christmas gift – along with my Red River paper cards! Thanks!

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  7. Thank you…this is a great idea!

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  8. Are the tiles coated or more absorbent? Thanks.

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    • The coaster tiles were unglazed, the trivet tile was glazed. I don’t know if it really makes a difference. I prefer unglazed because it is “less slippery”.

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  9. I am a retired Pro-Photographer and read the ‘Trivet’ article with great interest. Now I plan to use your plan(s). Thank you!

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