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How to Turn a Photo into a Mailable Mosaic (or, a Photo a Day and They’ll Think You’re Monet)

In the age of the Internet, keeping in touch when your chum or sweetheart is miles away is a lot easier than it used to be. A quick call, a text message, a little “I miss you” e-mail — they’re all well and good…

But what if you really want to show that special guy, gal, or pal just how important they are to you?

Our pal Bryan Zmijewski has got an idea that’s easy, inexpensive and guaranteed to earn rave reviews… All it takes is a few minutes a day, some photos, some stamps, and a pair of scissors.

Read our tutorial to find out how!

This tutorial will take you through some simple steps to create a 24-day-long photo care package for your pal. You’ll pick an image, slice it into 24 postcard-sized pieces, and mail one each day until your darling or friend can put together the entire picture.

The Ingredient List

  • A great photo — The higher resolution, the better. Photos with significance or sentimental value to the person you’re sending your mosaic to work best. (How about a photo of the place you first met, or a pic of an exotic beach you’re planning a trip to?)
  • 6 pieces of 8.5″x11″ cardstock — Unless you’re following variation #1 or #2 below.
  • Scissors

Note: This tutorial assumes you can print on 8.5″x11″ cardstock edge-to-edge. If you can’t, try one of the variations at the end.

Step 1: Prepare your image

Once you’ve found the perfect photo, it’s time to fire up your favorite photo editing software (Photoshop, The Gimp, PSP.) You’ll need to resize and crop your pic to be 17″x33″ at 150 dpi. (The same as our six pieces of letter-sized pieces of cardstock put together.)

First, select “Image Size” from the “Image” menu in Photoshop and make sure “Constrain Proportions” and “Resample Image” are checked. Now use the “Document Size” section to increase the larger dimension of your image (height if it’s a vertical image, width if it’s horizontal) to 33 inches, and set your resolution to 150 pixels/inch. Hit OK.

Resize your image

Next, use the “Canvas Size” tool to crop the photo so that the smaller dimension is equal to 17″. Be sure you have “inches” selected in the drop down menus, change the smaller of your height and width to 17, and hit OK.

Crop your image

Step 2: Chop it up!

Next, you’ll create guides to split up your photo into twenty-four 4.25″x5.5″ sections.

Since your image is 33″ tall and 17″ wide, you’ll use the Guide tool (In Photoshop, select “New Guide…” from the “View” menu) to put in three vertical guides at 4.25″, 8.5″, and 12.75″ and five horizontal guides at 5.5″, 11″, 16.5″, 22″, and 27.5″.

Place horizontal and vertical guides

This is what it should look like when you’re done:

Image with gridlines in place

Step 3: Prepare your Printouts

Leaving your guide-chopped photo open, create a new 8.5″x11″ document. Go back to your grid-chopped photo, select four sections of the grid (four sections make up a 8.5″x11″ chunk), and copy and paste them into the new document. Repeat until you’ve brought every grid section into your new document. Each selection should should be pasted into a new layer.

Prepare your prints

You should now have six separate layers in your new document, each the same size as your cardstock.

Step 4: Print and Cut

This one’s simple: make borderless prints of each of the six layers onto your cardstock, then cut each sheet in half both ways. You should now have four equal rectangles for each sheet of cardstock.

Step 5: Address, Message, and Send!

Now the fun begins! Each of your 24 rectangles is a postcard-in-waiting. Just flip it over, address it, stamp it, write a funny, mushy, or silly note, and hand it to your friendly neighborhood postman.

Do this 24 times (we recommend sending them out over 24 days), and revel as your recipient delights in assembling your masterpiece bit by bit, thinking warmly on how thoughtful and creative you are.

Now sit back and count your brownie points.

Prepare your prints

Variation #1: 4×6 + Mailable Photo Frames

Can’t print 8.5″x11″ borderless prints on your printer? Simply prefer to get standard 4″x6″ prints from your corner drugstore? Here’s what to do:

  1. In Step 1, prepare your image by resizing and cropping to be 16″x36″ instead of 17″x33″.

  2. In Step 2, place your vertical guides at 4″, 8″, and 12″, and your horizontal guides at 6″,12″,18″,24″, and 30″.

  3. In Step 3, copy each individual 4″x6″ grid section into its own layer in a new 4″x6″ document, for a total of 24 layers. Print each layer as a 4″x6″ image. If you’re having these printed for you, copy each grid piece into a new 4″x6″ document, saving each as a jpeg. Have the 24 resulting jpeg files printed up.

  4. Step 4: No need for that messy cutting!

  5. Step 5: You can use the photos as-is and write on the back, or use our awesome Mailable Photo Frames to send your photos in a protected hard cardboard and clear plastic casing.

Variation #2: The Panorama

Like the idea, but want to send your friend an easy-to-assemble panorama instead of a cut-up photo? Here’s how.

  1. In Step 1, prepare your panorama by resizing it to be 6″ high at 150 dpi. Crop the width to be a multiple of 4″ so that it slices up neatly.

  2. In Step 2, you no longer need horizontal guides! Place vertical guides every 4″.

  3. In Step 3, copy each individual 4″x6″ grid section into its own layer in a new 4″x6″ document. The number of layers depends on the width of your panorama. Print each layer as a 4″x6″ image. If you’re having these printed for you, copy each grid piece into a new 4″x6″ document, saving each as a jpeg. Have the resulting jpeg files printed up.

  4. Step 4: No need for that messy cutting!

  5. Step 5: You can use the photos as-is and write on the back, or use our awesome Mailable Photo Frames to send your photos in a protected hard cardboard and clear plastic casing. Since the Mailable Photo Frames have a built-in vertical (and horizontal) stand, your pal can instantly start showing off your panorama wherever she likes!

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