We are in the era of camera phones, and almost everyone has the opportunity to snap photos at moments when it may have been impossible or inconvenient in the past. The result? Lots and lots of photos, and more sentimental memories captured than ever. If you’re like me, then you want to put those extra special photos on display in some creative way. Well, pillows are one of the easiest things to sew, and they can sit in just about any room in the house (plus they make awesome gifts). Okay, let’s get started!

how to design a photo pillow

In this design tutorial, I’ll take you step-by-step through designing a pillow using your own photography. 

choose photo for pillow

For this project, all you’ll need is a high resolution, digital version of a special photo, a photo editing program like Photoshop, and a few minutes to size it properly for uploading to Spoonflower to print. 

crop photo to square

I wanted to make a series of square pillows from some black and white photography by Damon Lapas, so I’m going to use the cropping to make this rooster photo into a square. If you want to size your pillow to a rectangle or an odd shape, that’s perfectly fine!

adjust image size

I want this pillow to be a 15″ square, so I’m going to size the image to print at that size by clicking “Image” –> “Image Size” and selecting “inches” from the drop down menus associated with height and width of the image. If the image isn’t exactly 15″ by 15″, that’s okay, but if it’s off by more than 1/2″, try cropping it on the longer side a bit more. 

adjust resolution for photo

Next, make sure your image is set to 150 DPI because that’s the resolution Spoonflower prints files. Then save the image as a JPEG.

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Next, you’ll want to have a plan for the back of your pillow, too. Do you want to print a design in the Spoonflower Marketplace for the back of the pillow, use the same photo for the back, or create your own complimentary design? Since I want to stay with the greyscale theme, I’m going to pick a nice, solid grey color.

adjust image size of pillow back

I’d like to sew an envelope-back pillow cover, so I multiplied the length by 2 to allow for the overlap on the back plus seam allowances and finished edges. Next, adjust the file resolution to 150 DPI. No matter how you’d like to enclose your pillow, it’s a good idea for the pillow insert (or pillow form) to be slightly larger than the cover so that it fills out the corners better and the pillow looks fluffier. For example, I’m sewing the pillow cover to be 15″x15″, so I got a 16″ pillow form. If you want to do a zipper enclosure instead, try this tutorial.

add detail about the location on pillow

I added some photo credit text and detail at the bottom of the pillow back design, along with some seam allowance so that the text is not puckered or accidentally sewn into the seam. You may choose to write the location or year that the photo was taken, as it may provide a helpful reminder many years from now.

create new file for one yard

Once you’ve saved your file as a JPEG, we’re going to place the two files into a new file since both the front and back of the pillow will fit on one yard, then we’ll upload them together as one file. Open a new Photoshop file, name it, and set the width to 54″, the height to 36″, and the DPI to 150. 

  Place-embedded pillow files

Next, click “File” > “Place embedded” and select one of your files.

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Move the first file to one side of the canvas and click Return or Enter place it.

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Repeat this step for the second file.

  upload pillow design to Spoonflower

Now, save the new file as a JPEG and upload your new pillow design to Spoonflower. Make sure you size the design to 1 yard and center it. We would recommend printing on Eco Canvas for the most vibrant black and grey colors. We also recommend Linen-Cotton Canvas, Minky, Organic Cotton Sateen, Heavy Cotton Twill and Faux Suede for making pillows.

fabric in the mail

 Once you get your Spoonflower fabric in the mail, sew the pillow cover and stuff it with the pillow form! (This tutorial in The Spoonflower Handbook called “Portrait Pillows” beginning on p100 is pretty handy.)

finished photo pillow

Show us the pillows that you create with your own photos and post your “in-progress” or finished projects on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook using the hashtag #spoonflower and we may repost them to show off your handiwork! 

Have fun and let me know how it goes!

Jenny