Turn an Etch-a-Sketch into a Kitschy Picture Frame in Just a Few Minutes

With just two dials and some aluminum powder, George Vlosich III creates works of art with Ohio Art’s classic baby boom toy, the Etch A Sketch.

For those of us, however, who can only manage a really nice set of stairs, we have a solution.

Our Etch A Sketch Picture Frame tutorial will show you how to turn an ordinary Etch A Sketch into a kitschy picture frame in no time flat. We’ll even show you how to transform your photos so they’ll look like you spent hours twiddling those white knobs to scratch ‘em out.

Read on to learn how!

p.s. A reminder: We’re looking for awesome photo submissions for an upcoming photo notebook tutorial. Submit your photos to our Flickr group!

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(Bonus: Add any other photo goodies and pay no xtra shipping for US orders!)


Many of us spent hours of our childhood hunched over a gray, unyielding screen, turning small plastic knobs in frustration.

Some of us achieved Etch A Sketch nirvana: barely recognizable shapes, not-entirely jagged curves, a work that suggested the artist had undergone serious surgery only minutes prior and was still recovering from the effects of heavy sedation.

The rest of us gave up early and settled down to a bowl of sugary cereal and Saturday morning cartoons.

Whichever camp you belonged to, we think you’ll enjoy this tutorial. The Etch A Sketch frame looks great anywhere, makes a great gift, and will help you exact lasting revenge on Arthur Granjean’s draconian invention.

The Ingredients

  • An Etch A Sketch
  • Some photo paper and a printer
  • Strong glue like Goop or Gorilla Glue
  • A picture frame hook or easel, stolen from an old frame
  • A photo-editing program (We’ll use Photoshop CS2, but you can use the photo editing program of your choice.)

Step 1: Pick Your Photo

You’ll want your image to be 7″ x 5″, keeping in mind that a little bit of the edge will be hidden under the red plastic frame.

For this technique, images with strong foreground elements and less background details / textures work best. Also, look for photos with high contrast and simple lines.

Photo Credit: Daniel Weisser

Step 2: Give Your Photo the Etch-A-Sketch Look

You’ll be using some Photoshop filters and techniques to turn your image into a line drawing that mimics the Etch-A-Sketch look.

The first step is to make your photo black and white. Click “Image” –> “Mode” –> “Greyscale” from the menubar to get rid of the color.

Now lets make it sketchy. Select “Filter” –> “Filter Gallery” from the menubar. In the window that pops up, select the “Sketch” filters and look for the one called “Photocopy”. For the settings, we used Detail: 4 and Darkness: 10.

Now you need to give the image a gray tint to mimic the aluminum powder. Create a new layer by selecting “Layer” –> “New” –> “Layer…” form the menubar. Fill that layer with a medium gray (we used #999999) using the Paint Bucket tool. In the layers window, change the Overlay setting for your new gray layer to “Multiply” and then adjust the Opacity until it looks Etch-A-Sketchy grey (we found 30% looked about right.)

The last step is to take away the shades of gray by applying a threshold to your photo. Click “Image” –> “Adjustments” –> “Threshold…” from the menubar. We used a Threshold value of 128.

That’s it! Now just print your image, cut it to 7″x5″, and you’re ready for the next step!

Step 3: Slide the Photo in

Now that your photo’s ready, it’s time to mount it in the Etch A Sketch. The red plastic frame can be pried up slightly to allow you to slide your photograph in. (Try a screwdriver or a dull knife.)

Work the image in a little bit at a time and be gentle so you don’t wrinkle your photo.

Step 4: Frame It!

If you want to hang your new Etch A Sketch masterpiece, use a strong epoxy such as Goop or Gorilla Glue to attach a picture frame hook. You can purchase these clips, or do as we did and pry one off a tabletop frame that you aren’t hanging on the wall.

Alternatively, use the easel stand from a tabletop frame and attach it using glue or tape so that the Etch A Sketch can stand on its own as in the picture at right.

Wait for your glue to set, hang, stand, and enjoy!

What Next?

Switch up the photo in the frame every so often, and let your friends think you create new Etch A Sketch masterpieces whenever you’re bored.

You can also try printing your final photo onto a transparency at a copy shop instead of photo paper. That way, you’ll still be able to use the etch a sketch to add real lines to your photo using, you know, the knobs.

More ideas…

Posted in DIY, Gifts, Photojojo Original, Tutorials