Family Tree Collage

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Article Courtesy of by Andrea Steed

My grandmother's 80th birthday was just a few weeks ago, and as part of her celebration party, I was nominated to create a photo collage of all of her grandchildren. This was something she'd been wanting for a while since three of my cousins live in another country, and all of us are so busy with school, work and traveling that it's been impossible to get all of us together at one time for a group photograph in over eight years!

There are ten grandchildren, two of whom are married, and now there's a great-granddaughter (my daughter), so in order to include everyone, I decided to make a photographic family tree including my aunts and uncles, our spouses and children. I wanted to show the lineage and the relationships between all of us in an attractive wall-hanging collage.

Collect Photographs: I started the project by commissioning my cousins, aunts and uncles to provide head-shot photographs of themselves. If you don't already have photos to work with, plan for this portion of the project to take at least a few weeks. Thankfully in the digital age, this can be as easy as sending a few emails. I asked people to send the largest size at the highest dpi they could get, and I'm glad I did, because I had to crop people from several photographs in order to get a good head-shot of everyone.

Purchase a Frame: While I was waiting for photos to come in from my family members, I went shopping for a frame. I wanted a large frame with a matted opening. I chose an inexpensive 16" x 20" frame with an 11" x 14" opening.

Plan the Design: With 22 photographs to include, it took some quick math and sketching to figure out how big the photographs could be and still all fit on the collage. Since I was planning to make a family tree with four generations, I had a rough idea of how the tree would look, starting narrow at the top and growing wider at the bottom.

I knew I needed all of the grandchildren and the two spouses to fit in one line along the width of the frame. Since there were 12 photos across and the opening was 14" wide, if each photo was 1" wide, they would all fit and still leave some extra space in between the pictures.

I decided on 2" for the height of each photograph to allow enough vertical space for four generation lines (within the 11" height opening) and leave extra room to do some creative staggering.

Print the Photographs:

Once I decided what size to make each photograph (1" x 2"), I used Adobe Photoshop to create two 4" x 6" images to be printed at my local photo developer. I cropped each person's photograph to 1" x 2" and set it to a 300 dpi (for better printing). Then I pasted each of the photos into a 4" x 6" image to create these tiled photo images:


I saved the files as high-quality .jpgs and then had them printed at my local photo developer. I uploaded them online and picked them up locally, but you could also have them shipped directly to you. If you have a photo printer at home, another option is to print the photos right from your computer on photo paper.

Assemble the Collage:

  1. First, using a paper trimmer, I cut out each picture so that I had 22 1" x 2" photographs to use in the collage.

  2. Next, I created a neutral background for the collage using two pieces of tan cardstock to create an 11" x 14" background. Since the background needed to be larger than one sheet of 12" x 12" cardstock, I had to use two pieces and was left with a faint seam on the far right side.

    *You could also make a patchwork background and use several smaller pieces of coordinating paper to have a more symmetrical background if you don't want to worry about hiding a seam later in the design.

  3. I then began arranging the photographs on the background. I centered the photographs of my grandmother and grandfather at the top of the page. Next, I arranged the 10 grandchildren and the two spouses across the middle of the page. Then, I centered the parents above their own children. Finally, I adjusted the vertical spacing of each photograph to account for the birth order of each child. For instance, my mother was the oldest child, so her photo is placed higher than her two sisters and brother. I am the oldest grandchild, so my photo is placed highest in that row, my cousin Adam's is next, all the way down to my youngest cousin Jonah. My daughter, Ayla is placed in the lowest portion of the page since she is in the next generation.

    When the spacing is just how you want it, adhere the photos to the background.

  4. The next step is to symbolize marriage relationships. I simply used a small die cut heart in between each set of couples.

  5. Next, I printed each person's first name on clear mailing labels, cut out the names, and labeled each photograph underneath the picture.

    *I used first names only, but this would be a great place to include last names and birthdates as well for a more information-packed family tree.

  6. To connect the photographs and create the tree effect, I used a ruler and .05 black pen. Starting from the center of my mother's photograph, I created a line just below my grandparents' names that continued to the center of my mom's youngest sister's photograph. From there, I created four vertical lines to connect the four siblings' photos to the horizontal line. I repeated this process for each of the children in the four families and for my daughter as well to complete the tree.

  7. The final step was to hide the background seam on the far right and add some artistic flair. To do that, I used a rub-on leaf image that ties into the family tree theme. The center branch of the rub-on runs right along the seam and makes it disappear almost completely. To balance the other side of the collage, I added a "family" stamp and another leaf rub-on to create a title and draw attention away from the still-visible seam at the bottom right corner.


Be sure to add the date somewhere on your tree-as with any family (and any tree), it's sure to grow in years to come! This project is a great way to demonstrate lineage, family relationships, and display photos of your extended family together, even if you can't be together in person for a traditional group photo.


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