Racks and racks of bookmarks ranging from funny to inspirational are available in most bookstores. But for a truly unique bookmark, make your own from a treasured digital photo.

This idea came from my wife, who wanted to give something meaningful to the ladies in her group she met with regularly. She and her friends love reading books, so the bookmark idea sprung in her mind. After a few minutes of searching our digital photo database, we found the perfect image from a rare Valentine's Day snowfall in Dallas.

Tools you will need

If you have a digital camera then you are half way there to having all the tools you need to create your very own bookmarks. The other half is a digital photo editing software such as Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0.

More specifically, here are the tools you need, some of them optional:

  1. Digital photo from which to create the bookmark. This image could be from a digital camera or scanned in from a traditional photo.
  2. Digital photo editing software. This is required to trim (crop) a narrow strip from your original photo to make the narrow bookmark.
  3. If you have a photo printer capable of printing on 4x6" photo paper, then you can print the bookmarks at home. Use the thickest photo paper you can find for a sturdy bookmark.
  4. If you do not have a photo printer, you can prepare the bookmark image using the same steps and have it developed at a photo lab.
  5. Paper cutter. The final photo will contain two bookmarks, so you need a way to cut it in half. We found that an inexpensive plastic paper cutter made for scrapbook enthusiasts works well for this task.

Selecting the image

This step is completely up to your own taste. Select a photo and perform any necessary editing to your satisfaction. My wife selected the photo below and requested that I add a Bible verse for inspiration.

Image selected for bookmark

In the original picture she was walking our dog, which I removed with the "stamp" feature in Photoshop Elements. I also converted the photo to black and white. Your photo may be fine as is, so don't feel like you have to do any modifications.

Preparing the image

Now for the trickiest part of the procedure. Don't be intimidated—it only seems tricky the first time.

The goal is to select a narrow portion of the original image so that two will fit on a single 4x6" print, including borders. Ours looked like this:

Two copies of same image side by side

I will give you the general steps and you can apply them to your specific photo editing software.

OK, so there is a little bit of math involved. If that completely turns you off, you may still achieve good results eyeballing your project, but the numbers below will give you an exact fit.

  1. Create a new blank image (or canvas) in the proportions of a 4x6" vertical print.

    For example, if you intend to print at 300 ppi (pixels per inch), then the dimensions of the new image needs to be 1200 x 1800 pixels. I arrived at these number by multiplying 4" by 300 and 6" by 300.

  2. Divide the total number of pixels in the width of the image by two.

    Using my numbers above, that would give us 600 pixels.

  3. Determine the number of pixels you need for the border.

    Be sure to leave a generous border to mask slight imperfections in your final cut. We used 30 pixels all around.

  4. Double the border pixels because you will have borders on the left and the right side.

    This gives us a total of 60 pixels for the borders for one of the bookmarks.

  5. Now subtract the border from the half width to get the width of the actual bookmark image.

    In my case that leaves 600 - 60 = 540 pixels.

  6. Then subtract the border from the total height of the image.

    The same math for the height gives us 1800 - 60 = 1740 pixels.

  7. Now select a section of your original image in the proportions calculated above.

    My bookmark proportions are 540 pixels wide by 1740 pixels tall.

  8. Copy and paste the selection into your new image to take up the left side, leaving space for the border.
  9. Paste another copy of the same image on the right side, again leaving space for borders.

The result is a single 4x6" vertical image containing two bookmarks. For larger bookmarks, you can print on 5x7" photo paper and re-calculate the dimensions using the technique above.

Print the image

Now that the image has been prepared, you can do one of two things. If you have your own digital photo printer, just print, wait for the ink to dry, and cut.

If you do not have a printer, save the image in JPEG format and take or upload to a photo lab. When you get your order back, cut it in half and you are done.