DIY Gift: Collage Tray

by Tracey
Every year I try to do at least a few homemade gifts. I think it is more meaningful and it typically helps our Christmas shopping budget. I was so excited with how this gift turned out that I had to share. It is a great gift for that person who doesn’t really need anything yet you want to give them something meaningful. It works for any holiday or occasion and it is inexpensive to boot!
I was at Hobby Lobby and came across some wood trays with handles. The trays in the link are part of a set. They do sell them individually in the store. I picked one up for $5.99 less 40% from my coupon (so only $3.60!). I had the idea that I may paint it (of course, right?!). When I got home a great gift idea hit me though for the grandparents in our family who can never seem to get enough pictures of their grandbabies! I decided to decoupage a collage of pictures to the inside of the tray.
Here is how I did it!

You will need:

ModPodge (I used satin finish)

a foam brush


of course your wood tray either stained or painted, or both!

First I stained the tray in dark walnut. My idea was that I would stain it and then paint it so that when I distressed the edges the dark wood would show through instead of the unfinished pine. Once I stained it though I really loved the wood grain and decided to leave it as is.

I selected some photos, both old and new, and had the ones I didn’t have on hand printed. I picked a few wallets just to add variety of size for visual interest.

Next, I arranged my photos. I had to trim a few edges and rearrange a few times. Once I had them how I wanted them I took a picture so that I’d remember the layout after I took them off again.

To adhere the pictures to the tray cover the bottom in a thin coat of Mod Podge (MP). You can see I did this really carefully (not!). I’m a pour and spread kind of gal. If you want to be neat and more careful about not glopping in the corners then you may want to pour some in a paper bowl or plate for easy dipping of your brush.
Lay out the pictures and MP in between any places that overlap. Don’t underestimate how fast the MP can dry. You can see I had some unwanted gaps because I waited too long to scoot them into perfect position. Oops!

While I let this dry I used my Silhouette Cameo to cut out some text to add to the collage. I simply did the kids names and “Great Grandchildren”. You don’t have to add text at all or you could do other scrapbook embellishments or text from a magazine -whatever you want!

I decoupaged the text on next by adding a thin coat underneath, arranging the text and then I went over the entire collage with my first thin top coat. I like to get my strokes in the same direction and watch for any bubbles. I let it dry 15-20 minutes and did 2 more thin coats to really make sure the pictures weren’t going anywhere and to ensure the tray would actually be usable.

Don’t freak out. It dries clear!
Once the MP dried I used paste wax to buff all over the stained wood. I did a couple of coats to give it a nice satin finish. I had the wax on hand and once you buff it is pretty dry, I didn’t want to wait another half a day for polycrylic or spray varnish to cure but whatever you have on hand is fine and a finish coat may not be totally necessary. Whatever you think…

That’s it! I took about half of a day to complete which included time in between taking care of my kids. I plan to do a few more for other family members and maybe another for a wedding.

A few other ideas using this tray could be to decoupage scrapbook paper to the tray and do a monogram or do a monogram all by itself. The possibilities are endless.

I listed this as a $4 project because you probably have to purchase the tray (with a coupon of course!). If you are a Hometalk regular or a crafter you likely have Mod Podge, stain or paint and brushes on hand. If not, you can still do this project for $10-$15.

If you try this project please share pictures with me on Facebook, the blog, or via email! Visit the blog for more pictures, details, and other DIY projects!
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
Frequently asked questions
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  • Wilma Turcotte Wilma Turcotte on Aug 07, 2017
    Don't the photos have to be printed on a laser jet printer so the picture is not messed up and the tray be safe to use without destroying the pictures? Thanks.Love it. Going to make a couple if I can ever get my photos together.

  • Go18338615 Go18338615 on Oct 21, 2017
    What did you paint over the pictures so they are clear? Love your idea.

  • Lydia Anchondo Lydia Anchondo on Dec 19, 2018

    going to try this, but what do you put on top of the pictures so they don't get wrecked when using it's being used as a serving tray for drinks?

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