DIY Gifts Ideas for Digital Makers

August calendar page

It’s August! For me, that means it’s time to start thinking about Christmas presents. I know it seems annoyingly early to think about Christmas, but I like to make gifts for the people on my list and that means starting annoyingly early.

I enjoy gifts that come from the heart, that show thoughtfulness, and reflect the love I have for the recipient. The gift doesn’t have to be complicated or necessarily take a lot of time to be special. Although, I’ll admit most of my projects do end up taking a lot of time.

Below are some projects from Christmases past that have gone over really well. I hope you are inspired to create some of your own Christmas gifts this year!

1. Famous Artwork Calendar with a Twist

00july flat

I lived with three fabulous girls in college whom I still love dearly. As our last year together was coming to an end, I decided to make us each a calendar for the next year. I wanted a fun reminder of all the good times we had together. Being an Art History major, I decided to place our faces into famous paintings.

October calendar page

It worked out great, mainly because I had so many pictures of us to work with that finding the right poses to fit into each painting was easy. My friends all loved it, they were dying laughing when they opened their calendars.

January calendar page

This is one project that took a lot of time, but it was great for improving me photoshop skills and totally worth the effort for the reaction I got. I made this calendar from “scratch” using photoshop, printing each page at Staples and having them bind it for me, but there are much easier ways to create calendars online.

September calendar page

If you don’t have great photoshop skills, another idea might be to collage photos of your loved ones into funny scenes from magazines or paintings you like. You could use the photographs as they are and turn them into funny memes, or add speech bubbles with funny sayings. I love the idea of creating an awkward family photo calendar with all the terrible family pictures you have from the 80s and 90s when hairstyles where really rockin.

2. A Cookbook Scrapbook


A couple years after my grandmother died, I had the idea to create a cookbook of all her recipes for everyone in my family. I hadn’t been in contact with a lot of my cousins, aunts and uncles, and I felt that collaborating with them on this project would be a great way to

I contacted everyone, asking for photos and recipes to be included in the book. One uncle had a box full of recipes and old papers, my aunts and cousins all sent me photographs which I scanned and promptly sent back. I had everyone write out memories and quotes they loved that my grandmother used to say. Everything went into the book.salads

Once I had scanned all the materials, typed out and organized all the recipes, I used a free trial of Adobe InDesign to create the book. It became a scrapbook as much as a cookbook, with photos of our family on every page and bits of my grandmothers handwriting as if she had written in it herself.


I used to print the book, bought a few copies to give as gifts, and sent a link to everyone else in case they wanted to purchase additional copies. If I were to do this again, I would use a different printing company, blurb is really expensive and the quality doesn’t make up for the additional cost.

This project was a major undertaking, but so worth it. I use the cookbook all the time to make some of my favorite recipes. It preserves a part of my grandmother’s legacy, she was an amazing cook, and her recipes will be used by everyone in the family instead of collecting dust in a box in someone’s attic. I only wish that I could have made this book while she was still alive, she would have appreciated it more than anyone.

3. A Family Tree

Last year for Christmas I decided to make a family tree for my parents. What really turned me on to the idea was that in addition to being a beautiful present, I could use it as a way to announce that I was pregnant by adding our newest addition to the bottom of the tree.

family tree print

The design was created in Photoshop, the tree was hand drawn and scanned in, and the family crest was originally a cross stitch that my grandfather made which I recreated using Adobe Illustrator. I got most of the information about past generations through google searches and a free trial of

If your not a digitally inclined person, drawing or painting a family tree can turn out beautifully as well. There are also sellers on etsy that will create family trees for you, like this cute pillow from Simply French Market.


For my family tree, I used Staple engineering prints as an inexpensive way to print a large 24 x 36 print. My dad loved it, but didn’t notice the new addition right away, once he did there were cheers and hugs all around.

4. Photo Books for Everyone

coverIf you have children then you probably take hundreds of photographs of them every year. My favorite way to use those photographs is by creating and printing photo books for my daughter each Christmas.


It’s so fun to look back over the year together and remember all the fun we had, plus she loves being the star in her own book. Grandparents love these photo books to, so it’s possible to create two or more gifts at one time. If your really ambitious you can even make everyone their own personalized book.


There are lots of sites to choose from for printing photobooks. I personally use Shutterfly. I have gotten some great coupons from them by being on their email list, and have been very happy with the quality of books they print. I haven’t tried any of the other sites, but Shutterfly is easy to use with nice customizable templates.

These are just a few ideas for some fun, personalized Christmas presents. Now it’s time for me to start thinking of some fresh ideas for this year!



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