Decorating with Children's Books and a Phone Camera

6 January 2021
9:36 AM

I decorated my kids’ room with pictures from their favorite books. This is a guide in case you want to do something similar.

I started with a set of pictures frames. This way you know the number of pictures you need and the dimensions you’re working with. I picked a set of 9 frames from Home Depot: 13″ squares with an 8x8″ mat opening. I also like the HOVSTA square frames from IKEA that are 9x9″ with a 5x5″ mat.

Then I needed pictures. I picked a dozen of my daughters’ favorite books (they’re 5, 2, and 2). Ordinarily, I would use a scanner on a work copy machine but my office has been closed for months. Instead of buying a scanner, I decided to try taking pictures using my phone. I was surprised by how well this worked. To get a clean image put the book on a table or counter, use good lighting, hold the pages as flat as you can, and try to avoid reflections and shadows.

Once I had pictures on my computer I made quick, small, square crops to play the layout using Figma. Figma is a pixel-based tool so I sized everything assuming 20px per inch.

  • 13″ square frame => 260px x 260px
  • 1/2″ black edge => 10px border
  • 8″ inner photo => 160px x 160px

I added an inner shadow on the photo to simulate a photo mat. This is completely unnecessary.


This let me plan how it would look ahead of time and make sure the photos and colors went together. Some books have beautiful pictures that just didn’t fit, like A Sick Day for Amos McGee. I also tried to arrange the pictures to minimize clashes and give some directionality: witch flying right is at the top left, Max sailing left is at the bottom right, animals going upstairs in the bottom left, etc.

My initial plan was to do all the pictures on a white background, which I think would look great—especially with more, smaller frames—but I loved the colors of the pictures and decided to keep them as-is.


Once I picked my 9 pictures, I went back to the original files to clean them up a bit. You could probably skip this step and do everything with the tools built-in at Shutterfly and friends. I I have somewhat unhealthy perfectionist tendencies so I spent a few extra hours on the images.

I used Pixelmator Pro to do some light retouching using the repair tool, curves, and sharpen. Here are the steps I used on each image:

  • crop to a square (I did not resample any of the images)
  • adjust the colors using ML Enhance or curves
  • using the repair tool to fix any issues
  • apply sharpen
  • export to a JPEG

I started with Pixelmator’s “ML Enhance” auto-correct feature. Sometimes it looked great and I kept the results; other times it just looked weird (probably because illustrations in children’s books have difference color balance than you typically find in photographs).

If I wasn’t happy with ML Enhance, I adjusted the curves directly. If the picture looked washed out, I used the curve tool to set the page to white and applied a gentle S-curve adjustment to boost the contrast.

Pixelmator’s repair tool is great and it made it easy to fix wrinkles, bright spots from the photograph, and the edge of pages where I needed a little extra color. I watched this video on using the repair tool. In short, create a new empty layer, select the Repair tool, ensure “Sample All Layers” is selected, and click and drag to repair issues.

Once I had all the high-quality JPEGs, I got trial prints of a few from Mpix and Shutterfly. I was particularly interested in giclee prints and matte finishes. The prints all looked amazing; it was hard to believe the source image was a picture of a book that I took on my phone.


The deep matte finish from Mpix is gorgeous. It makes the print look more like a page from a book instead of a glossy photo print. Once I put it behind a glass frame, though, I could barely tell the difference, so I went with the cheaper glossy finish ($3.73 for glossy vs. $4.81 for deep matte at time of writing for 8”x8” prints). In retrospect, the giclee prints were probably overkill given the relatively low quality source images.


I measured and marked points on the wall to hang the frames. Our house has a mixture of drywall and lath and plaster walls and I didn’t appreciate how hard it would be to be to hang things accurately. If I had to do it again, I would probably try to create a guide on a large sheet of paper and use command strips instead of nails for hanging.


Overall I was pretty happy with the results and the girls loved the pictures when they saw the room.