Maybe Matilda: Handmade Gift Idea: Make a Coloring Book from Family Photos

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Handmade Gift Idea: Make a Coloring Book from Family Photos

(This was originally posted a few weeks ago on Eat. Sleep. Make. as part of their Stuff Your Stockings series—check it out for more great handmade gift ideas.)
You know how I love making handmade gifts for loved ones for Christmas, but there is a slight problem when it comes to a certain little cherub I know: he has hated just about everything I've ever made him.
I know. With a face like that, it’s hard to believe, but it's the sad truth. Over and over throughout the past 2 years, I've spent hours and days and weeks making something special for him--whether a crocheted baby blanket or handmade clothing or toys or crocheted sweaters--that he promptly tosses and shouts at and becomes infuriated with when I finally present them to him. It's depressing, and I must be a slow learner, because I keep trying and getting rejected.
So for this Christmas  I thought maybe I'd fool him into thinking I didn't make his homemade gift. I'm hoping that if he thinks I didn't make it myself, maybe he'll like it better. So I took a different route and stepped away from my typical crocheted and sewn creations, and tried my hand at something new, something he wouldn't recognize as a DIY project at all . . . a personalized coloring book made just for him using photos of himself and loved ones.
How to make your own personalized coloring book
This project was as easy and quick as a DIY project can possibly be, required almost no skill or knowledge whatsoever (other than the ability to upload pictures to a website, print them out, and drive yourself to an office supply store), and looks absolutely adorable. And I think he'll even like it. (Fingers crossed.) Ever since he was born, I've wanted to make a little book of his family members, near and far, so he could learn their names and faces (especially for family members who live far away and don't see him often), so I went with a "Who Loves Forrest?" theme and included pictures of his grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins for him to color in this book.
Here's how I made Forrest's coloring book:
1. Head over to Coloring Page Creator and set up an account (it's all completely free!). I believe you can also make a coloring book without actually setting up a membership and joining the site, but it probably won't save your work if you have to step away from the computer.
2. Start uploading the pictures you'd like to include in your book, and the site will automatically transform them into black and white coloring pages. I learned that some photos work better than others--it's best to stick with close-up shots that don't have a lot of background action happening. For instance, take a look at this picture of Forrest with his Uncle Jake: it's a tight, close shot of faces without much happening in the background, and it turned into a really crisp, clean coloring page:
Make your own personalized coloring pages
And compare that to this one, which is kind of busy with all the trees in the background and grass in the foreground--it still made a decent coloring page, but it's busier, distracting, and not as crisp-looking. I'm  glad it's part of the book since he is crazy about his "Elmo and Papa" (grandma + grandpa) and will be out of his mind with excitement to color them, but you can see that certain pictures transfer to black and white outlines a little more nicely than others.
DIY Coloring Pages made from Family Photos
3. Click the "Create a Coloring Book" tab and add your pictures to your book! When it's all set up how you'd like it, you can save and download the book as a PDF.
4. Print your pages. Here's what I liked so much about the site Coloring Page Creator--there are quite a few websites out there that will turn your photos into coloring pages, but I loved that I could print them out right at home without their logo on the pages. Many sites automatically include a watermark or a logo or their site name printed somewhere on the page. I loved that with this site, there was nothing added to the pictures at all. Just your photo, as a coloring page, period. (And they're not paying me to recommend them, by the way--they don't know who I am--I just was very happy with the site and with the end result!)
5. Bind your book. If you'd like, you can certainly staple the pages together or bind them however you'd like at home (I think it would be neat to slip them into those plastic sheet protectors so it becomes, more or less, a 'dry-erase' book--kids could color right on the plastic protector with markers, then wipe it off and start over later). I headed over to Office Depot and paid about $4.50 to have my pages spiral bound with a clear, hard plastic cover. Then I just packaged it up with new markers and it's ready to stick under the Christmas tree!
DIY Coloring Book
(To make the "Who Loves Forrest?" text and image for the front, I just uploaded a photo of Forrest and my husband to PicMonkey, added the text, saved it, and then uploaded that image to Coloring Page Creator. Easy as pie, and it makes a nice cover page!)  

Hopefully I’ll finally fool him into enjoying something I made for him. As long as he doesn’t read this post, I should be okay.


  1. Oh my goodness--what an incredible ideas! I've never seen anything like this, so thanks for sharing! My son is a little young to enjoy it, but it would be cool for my niece and nephew.

  2. Thank you for this wonderful idea!!!! I'll be sharing with my friends. :)
    Jen (Piggybaby)

  3. I love it! Henry's still a bit too small for coloring, but I do love this idea. And kinda wnat one for me. Who loves Kim?

    I made a little photo book this year called Who Loves Henry? I'm sure it's more for me than for him, but that's life.

  4. Such a great idea! I'll definitely be making one of these for my future offspring.

    You should keep this for when he gets older. I bet he'll enjoy looking at his 2 year old coloring skills.

  5. Love! I have debated making Wil something similar. I don't think i will get to it this Christmas maybe I will make one for Easter or just because :) thanks for sharing!

  6. Hi Rachel! I'm a newbie to your blog (saw you on eat.sleep.MAKE). Love this idea!! I have the same issues with my little Simon in liking anything I make for him. I've made him a pillow with a felt puppy (inspired from his favorite stuffed animal). If he doesn't like it, well then maybe the coloring book is next on the list to try. LOL! Thanks for sharing a super fun project!

  7. Super cute idea! My almost 3 year old would love something like this. Definitely going to have to look into making one for her :) Thanks for sharing.

  8. I love this idea! I've made my son two hats since I started crocheting again and so far he's been pleased to see them. I hope that continues.

  9. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information?
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