Create Your Own Heirloom Ornament

X-mas ornament on tree

 Getty Images / Christina Reichl

Holiday ornaments are more than decorations, they're memories in miniature. Capture the special memories of favorite family members or ancestors by creating your own homemade photo ornament with these step-by-step instructions.


  • Clear glass ornament (any shape & size)
  • Magic Bubble adhesive (or alternative*)
  • Magic Bubble brush (or alternative*)
  • Crystal glitter (very fine), powdered paint pigments (such as Pearl Ex), or shredded Mylar angel hair
  • 1/4" decorative ribbon for bow (optional)

Note: Magic Bubble products are no longer available in local retail stores, or online. A similar effect can be achieved by using a craft glue such as Mod Podge that dries clear (mix two parts glue to one part water), a spray adhesive, or a clear acrylic paint such as Ceramcoat. A disposable mascara applicator or even a Q-tip taped onto a thin stick can be substituted for the Magic Bubble brush.


  1. Carefully remove the flange from the top of your glass ornament and rinse the ornament with a solution of bleach and water (this helps prevent mold growth on the finished ornament). Place upside down on paper towels to drain. Let dry thoroughly.
  2. Select a treasured family photograph for your photo ornament. Use graphics software, a scanner, and printer, to enhance, resize, and print a copy of the photo on regular printer paper (do NOT use glossy photo paper - it won't conform to the glass ball very well). Alternatively, you can use a photocopier at your local copy shop to make copies. Don't forget to decrease the image size to fit your ornament.
  3. Carefully cut around the copied photo, leaving about a 1/4-inch border. If you're using a round ball ornament, make cuts into the edges of the copied photo every 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch, to allow the paper to fit smoothly on the rounded ball. These cuts will not show on the finished ornament.
  4. Pour some Magic Bubble adhesive into the ornament, being careful not to get it on the neck. Tilt the ball to let the adhesive run until it covers the glass where the image will be placed.
  5. Roll the copied photo (image side out) into a roll small enough to fit into the ornament and carefully insert. Use the Magic Bubble brush to position the photo against the inside of the ornament and carefully brush over the entire photo until it has smoothly adhered to the glass. If you're unable to obtain the Magic Bubble brush, it looks like a small mascara wand or bottle brush - so feel free to substitute anything similar.
  6. If using glitter, pour more Magic Bubble glue into the ornament, and tilt the ornament to cover the inside completely. Pour out any excess. Pour glitter into the ornament and roll the ball until the entire inside of the ornament is covered. If you find you've missed a spot with the Magic Bubble glue, you can use the brush to add more adhesive to that spot. Shake out any excess glitter to avoid clumping.
  7. Allow the photo ornament to thoroughly dry. If you did not use glitter on the ball, you can now add shredded Mylar angel hair, decorative paper shreds, punched paper snowflakes, feathers, or other decorative items to fill the inside of the ball. Once the ornament is completed, carefully put the flange back on, pinching the wires to avoid damaging the ornament opening.
  8. Use a glue gun or white glue to attach a decorative ribbon bow around the neck of the ornament if desired. You may also want to attach a paper tag with the names and dates (birth & death dates and/or the date the photo was taken) of the individuals in the photograph.

Heirloom Photo Ornament Tips:

  • If you plan to use your printer to print the photos, be sure the ink is water fast. Many inkjet printers use water-soluble ink, which will run if used in this project. If you aren't sure, then have copies made at your local copy shop.
  • This project works best on flat ornaments. When using round balls, be sure to clip the edges of the photo to help it fit the rounded ball, and make pinpricks in the photo to help eliminate air bubbles. Work slowly and be patient - this can be tricky with larger photos and round ball ornaments.
  • If you make a mistake, tear a photo, etc. you always have the option of starting over. To reuse the ornament, rinse it out thoroughly with chlorine bleach, and let dry.

Enjoy your special keepsake ornament!

Please note: The Magic Bubble ornament is a patented technique by Anita Adams White which she graciously allowed us to share with you. 

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Your Citation
Powell, Kimberly. "Create Your Own Heirloom Ornament." ThoughtCo, Sep. 2, 2021, Powell, Kimberly. (2021, September 2). Create Your Own Heirloom Ornament. Retrieved from Powell, Kimberly. "Create Your Own Heirloom Ornament." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 30, 2023).