How to Make a Memorial Photo Collage for a Funeral


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Printed photos are precious in the digital age. They provide tangible reminders of fond memories. Today, everyone’s photos are stored on smartphones or computers. Physical photos can be rare and bringing them out is an occasion. 

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What better occasion to display precious photos than at a funeral or memorial service? It’s a time when people remember someone’s life and accomplishments. Putting them on display is a great way to do that.

What if you’re not very artsy? How do you create a photo memorial collage? Whether you were an art major or don’t even know where to get a posterboard, our tips below will help you out.

COVID-19 tip: If you're hosting a Zoom memorial service using a service like GatheringUs, ask if you can create a digital memorial slideshow or video to share with your virtual guests. You can scan physical photos to add, upload live videos, add songs, and other digital mementos to your slideshow.

Share your final wishes, just in case.

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Step 1: Get Your Photos Printed

Tap into your cloud-stored memories of special occasions, graduations, birthdays, and more. Choose which ones you want to use. If there’s a theme you have in mind, pick photos that go with the theme. Otherwise, pick the ones you want to print. 

Many photo printing services like Shutterfly offer cheap printing. They will print your images on photo-quality paper in the size you request and mailed to your address. 

Let’s say the deceased was older. You may have to sift through piles of physical photos. This removes the printing step. Make sure there are duplicates of important photos. This includes high school graduation or military ceremony snapshots. You don’t want to crop a photo or alter it if there’s only one copy!

» MORE: An online memorial is a perfect ending to honor and celebrate someone's life. Create one for free.

Step 2: Gather Your Supplies

Make a list of what you need before you drop by a craft store for your supplies. Count the number of photos you have. This helps you make an educated guess for a display board. Decide the material you want to use, too.

It depends on how permanent you want your display to be. How will it live on after the funeral? If someone wants to frame and hang it later on, a sturdy poster board might be a great choice. If you’re willing to poke holes in photos with tacks, corkboard might work. Less traditional options include dry-erase boards, plywood, and cardboard. 

Your display board dictates the adhesive you choose. Tacks? Glue? Tape? That depends on the board you choose. It also depends on how many duplicates you have. Gluing (and ruining!) the only copy from great-grandma’s wedding ceremony is a bad idea. If you selected posterboard and want to make it permanent, read up on decoupage. You can buy Mod Podge or something similar. It’s a texture like Elmer’s glue — it dries clear.

You can paint it over the back of photos to stick them to your display board. Once everything is arranged perfectly, paint a layer or two of Mod Podge over it. This will create a protective slick over your photographs. Repeat layers, depending on how transparent you want the layer to be. 

Step 3: Choose a Shape

You aren’t stuck with a traditional rectangular shape! If the craft store you visit doesn’t have the shape you want, make one.

Choose a shape big enough to accommodate what you have in mind. You might want to make your display board into a heart or a circle. Any shape is possible! Some poster boards are precut into unique shapes. If you can’t find that, trace your shape onto the poster board you purchased. Then, cut it out with a box knife. This will make the perfect base for your project. 

Be sure to consider frames. It’s easy to find rectangular and square frames. If your memorial photo collage is going to be framed later, keep that in mind. It’s hard to find a heart-shaped frame! 

Step 4: Become a Historian

Putting places and dates to photographs is hard. It helps contextualize memories which is important! You might be able to piece together information like a jigsaw puzzle.

For instance, if your grandmother was born in 1947, how old was she at the senior prom? Doing simple math can help. Add the approximate age or “circa 1965.” Decide where you want to write the date. Sticky notes can be removed, but it might ruin the overall look you’re going for. You can leave a tiny border between each photo, you can write the date. This works if you’ve chosen permanent options.

If you’re using a corkboard, you can write dates on the back of each photo. People can take photos off the board, turn them over, then replace them. 

» MORE: Grief can be lonely. Create space for your community to share memories and tributes with a free online memorial from Cake.

Step 5: Get Creative

Next, embrace your crafty side! You can cover your memorial photo collage board with images. This will make it look crowded and unprofessional. Adding a personal flair will help make it a memorable centerpiece. To start, browse through the fun part of your crafting supplies session. Scissors that cut unique patterns are a great place to start.

These add a nice edge — even if you don’t have an artistic bone in your body. Consider the deceased’s personality, too. Your loved one might have liked balloons or glitter! These are easy, heartfelt touches. Other options include colored paper and pencils, lace, or other artistic touches. Depending on your level of ability, these add a nice look. 

But what if you’re not artistic? If you’ve already affixed the photos, it’s tempting to leave it alone. Sometimes, photos don’t line up. There might be gaps on your board. This is especially true if you cropped photos and they are in odd shapes. Fill this space in with personal mementos!

There are many great options. Did your grandmother win prizes for her brownies each year? Pin one of her blue ribbons to the board. Did she love the Star Wars original trilogy? Paste her ticket stubs from seeing the movies. If you have permission to go through her mementos, take advantage of it. Letters that people can read, old cards and other physical objects are great to fill space on the board. 

Memorial Collage Ideas 

You’re not chained to traditional collage ideas. If you think outside of the box, you may come up with something really creative!

Make a wreath

The holiday wreaths you can hang on your door look lovely. The bows, the smell of tree branches, and the nostalgia of the holiday season make them a great decoration. What about switching things up and making a memorial wreath? You can make the wreath out of anything you like.

If it will only be on display for one day and you could make a wreath out of the deceased’s favorite flowers. You can choose a handful of photos and affix them to the wreath. You can make many of these and put them at different spots in the funeral venue. 

» MORE: Online obituary that is 100% free. Honor a loved one beyond a newspaper.

Make a digital memorial

You might not want to make a physical craft for family members who might not be able to visit the funeral. People are spread out across the country and the world, so this is sometimes the case.

Try a digital memorial or online memorial if that happens to you. There are several sites available that will help you create a digital photo wall.

If you're hosting a virtual funeral, such as one offered through GatheringUs, you can create a digital slideshow with music, favorite photos, and other digital mementos.

Leave an autograph

Many funerals have a guest book. Family and friends can leave their signatures. That way, the family has a record of who attended the funeral. This provides a physical keepsake for later on. You might create a photo board that is half empty. If you trace ruled lines on it, people can sign the board. That way, you can combine the photo collage and the guest book. 

Make a slideshow

You can take full advantage of today’s technologies. You can make a slideshow, complete with a few of the deceased’s favorite songs. There may be a screen at the venue and you can play your slideshow in the background. This can provide conversational topics and spark memories. This is a great icebreaker technique for when people mingle before the funeral. 

Create a Collage for Your Loved One

Creating a memory can be a challenge. Remember that your personal touch is what makes it special. No one expects a professional-level product. They only expect a heartfelt touch!

Tip: If you are the executor for a deceased loved one, deciding how best to memorialize them may not be the only cause of stress. Handling their unfinished business can be overwhelming without a way to organize your process. We have a post-loss checklist that will help you ensure that your loved one's family, estate, and other affairs are taken care of.

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