Wednesday, August 17, 2011

DIY: Print photos on old dictionary pages

I first saw this idea floating around the Pinterest boards. People had printed photos onto old dictionary pages. I just happen to have a HUGE unabridged dictionary from 1937:
 I love the marbled exterior and the tabs. But since I don't actually USE the dictionary other than for decor, I thought it could stand to sacrifice a few pages for an art project.

MAKING THE PRINTS

There's really not much to it:
1. Carefully rip out a page and measure it.
2. Choose a photo (or in my case, 6)
3. Convert the photo to black and white. It's best to use photos with some contrast and a decent amount of white space. Whatever is white will not actually print white on your page; it will just show through to the background.
4. The first tricky part is to figure out the margins so your photo will print on the right part of the page. Not that it's necessary to be exact with this kind of thing. I measured the size I wanted, made a blank document in Photoshop at that size, opened my photo, copied and pasted it into my blank document, and then used the Free Transform tool to make it the size I needed with the margins I needed. The best thing to do is approach it with a very forgiving attitude. Apply the "galloping horse" rule (which is that if you don't notice the error when galloping by on a horse then it's fine).
5. The second tricky part is feeding your paper into the printer. If your paper is old like mine was, you'll have to carefully hand feed it.

Once I knew it was going to work, I used the first page of the dictionary for this photo I took of an iron gate in Paris:

One feature of this particular dictionary that I really like is the letters down the right side.

Another cool thing that you can see on this crop of a bike photo is the dictionary illustrations that show through, like these wasps. I used all Paris photos, which makes me wish I had an equally cool French dictionary to cannibalize. (The photos I snapped of these completed pages, by the way, had the awful lighting conditions of incandescent+sunlight, which is why the color doesn't always look uniform.)
The door knocker looks really cool, in my opinion, because of the contrast and the ample white space.
DISPLAYING THE PRINTS

I bought an old six-pane wooden window for $10 at a consignment store. I knew I was going to use it for photos, and it turns out that the panes are just about the right size for the dictionary pages. My plan was to simply tack the pages on the wall with decorative upholstery tacks and then hang the window on top of it. The trick is figuring out where to pin each photo. I hate doing anything that requires measuring and calculation, so I hung up the window, marked with pencil just outside of each pane, took the frame down, and then put painters tape to show where the divisions were:

(Did I mention how sick I am of that wall color? It's changing very very soon.)

I had to take the window on and off a few times and adjust the tape until it lined up pretty well:

Finally, I just started tacking on the pages, making sure that they were at least in line with each other (I didn't care if they were perfectly centered in each frame--galloping horse, remember?).


I used a variety of upholstery tacks that had been sitting in a drawer in the basement just waiting for something like this. Here is what it looked like before I put the window back up:


The detail of a chair (top left) seems to be a favorite. Top middle is my favorite, but I like them all. In fact, I have about 20 photos that are good candidates for this sort of project.

Finally, I hung the window back up:


OTHER OPTIONS
You can save yourself time by just framing the thing. Or better still, don't even frame it; just use decorative pins, tacks, or whatever. You could also save yourself the printing effort by scanning the dictionary page and making a composite, but I really wanted to print on the actual pages.

Maybe this will inspire you for your own project. If you do something and post it, send me a link.

BONUS!
Don't want to make your printer hate you by feeding it old dictionary pages? OK. Check out the tutorial I just posted on how to do the whole thing in Photoshop.

AND...You can also buy my exclusive versions of the prints you see here with all of the flexibility (almost any size) and durability of photo paper (or giclée, canvas, even metal) you can get them on my site.

18 comments:

Life with Kaishon said...

I love it so much. How creative and fantastic. Putting this on facebook this instant! ; )

Karen O'Donnell said...

Oh my gosh....I absolutely love this! Love it!

Jill said...

The pages look so cool and I love the way they look behind the old window!

michelle said...

I really like all of these and love the dictionary pages. Love them even more up on our wall!

josh said...

Magnifique! Absolument magnifique! Tu m'inspires à faire quelque chose paraille chez moi si ma fèmme et d'accord

marc said...

Merci! Je continue d'en faire (et sur des pages de vieux magazines que j'ai achetés il y a 10 ans aux puces de Vanves) et ça me plaît beaucoup.

Joyce - Quilted Nest said...

Very clever and great looking too! good eye.

Patti Senter aka NW Lady said...

Love this idea. Do you set your printer to just normal print when you're printing it to paper. I have so many old photos and they would just be striking done this way.

By the way, saw this on Pinterest and came to your blog to see how you did it. Of course I started on your current post so took a bit to get here, really enjoyed looking along the way though, you have a great blog!

Patti

marc said...

Normal probably works. You want a setting that doesn't use too much ink. The paper tends to warp if it is too saturated with ink. Of course, this depends on the thickness of the pages you use.

Karen Valentine said...

Hey Marc! I wanted to come over and invite you to see what this wonderful post inspired! Come see me!!!
xo
Karen
My Desert Cottage

marc said...

I'm so glad you let me know about your post. I love what you've done with it and how you've put your own unique spin on it too.

Donna said...

This is beautiful. Now I am on the lookout for an old dictionary. Great job.

shoelesswanderings.com said...

This is adorable! Love it! I have some old window frames that I've been debating what to do with...thank you for solving that problem!

Cree8teevgrl said...

marc - this is brilliant and cool and oh-so-creative! great job!

mikaljains said...

Congratulations! This is the best thing, Thank you so much for taking the time to share this exciting information.
Photo Gaint

Dan said...

Love the gate and bicycle photos. Would like to know though are they a montage of more than one image -- looks like maybe two. Also did you adjust opacity or make other photoshop adjustments? What printer do you use? Thanks if you have time.

marc said...

Dan, Thanks for your comment. The photos are not a montage. It was really a very easy process. The only thing I did in Photoshop was a curves adjustment to heighten the contrast. I used an Epson printer, but I can't remember the model. It was one of those huge ones (I was at a university print lab) and we hand-fed the paper. The hardest part is feeding the paper so it doesn't jam. I did about 20 pages and maybe 3 of them were ruined by misfeeds.

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