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How to Make Your Own Printable Decorative Paper (Tutorial + Free Downloads)

Just Peachy #1

I hope you like the paper bead sheets I’ve been posting, but maybe you have a photo of your own you’d like to turn into beads. How do you do it? I’m glad you asked! You can turn just about anything into beautiful printable paper with the right software tools.

Photo Editing Software

OK, don’t freak out. You don’t have to learn Photoshop. (Whew!). The sofware programs I use aren’t too expensive or complicated. You can learn them pretty quickly if you spend a few hours (or, better yet, days) playing around with them. The key is to try everything. Familiarize yourself with the tools you have available to you and learn how they work. You don’t need the exact programs I use, but here they are in case you want to try them out:

Paint: Yep, the free program that comes with Windows. It’s not good for much, but I do use it for cropping photos and adding text. I also use it to convert the .png files I export from Inkscape to .jpg format.

Inkscape: You probably don’t need this one, at least not for making your own printable decorative paper. It has a bit of a learning curve, but is very similar to CorelDraw, which I used in my Mom’s (and then my) T-shirt printing business. I use it for adding borders and text to photos for the featured images on my blog. I also use it for the “cover photos” that will accompany the paper bead sheet sets I plan to sell on Etsy. See the featured image at the top of this page for an example. Inkscape is completely free, so you have nothing to lose but time if you want to try it.

Corel PaintShop Pro: You can probably find a cheaper (or free) alternative if the price tag scares you. The suggested retail is $79.99, but if you look around, you can probably find it cheaper. You don’t necessarily need this particular program, but you do need a photo editor that will allow you to remove color casts; adjust highlights, shadows, and color saturation; and play around with various image effects.

LunaPic: This is a free online photo editor. It has lots of features I like, such as mirror and copy, color saturation, and my favorite: kaleidoscope. It’s lots of fun to play with, and I would still be using it except for one small limitation: the images are too small. You end up with an 800-pixel square image, which is fine for personal use, but not for selling. The resolution is too low.

Kaleider: My newest love! I love, love, love this program. First of all, there are lots of options that I’m sure are very powerful and someday I will learn to use them and make even better designs. But for now, this is all you need to know how to do in Kaleider:

  • Open the program.
  • Close the annoying little box that pops up.
  • Look at the right edge of your screen. Is there a funky-looking menu over there with shapes and stuff? If not, click “View” (if the main menu is not showing up, type “w” first), then click “Show Kaleid tools.”
  • Open your file.
  • On the right side menu, toward the bottom, look for the word “Random.” It’s kind of greenish. Click it. Wow! Magic just happened!
  • If you like what you see, save the image. I recommend using “Save with Special Options.” I save every image two or three ways: First, save a full-scale image at 2550×3300 with the “center tiles” button checked. Then, if your image is one that will not look the same if rotated 90 degrees, save another copy at 3300×2550. That will give you both portrait and landscape versions. I also like to save a single tile at full scale. These could be used as website backgrounds or to make fabrics at Spoonflower.
  • You can play with the current design by scrolling the scroll button on your mouse. It will go through all kinds of color combinations. Save the ones you like. When you get tired of this pattern, hit “Random” again for a whole different look.

Note: I had trouble getting Softonic’s page for Kaleider to load while I was putting this post together. Here is an alternate download location.

The download is a free trial. It costs $28 after the trial is over and is well worth it, in my opinion.

Getting the Original Photo Ready for Kaleider

If you want, you can just pop your photo into Kaleider and let it do its stuff. But I like to play with my images first to bring out the best colors. To prove that you can make just about anything beautiful with the right software, I am going to walk you through the process using this picture that my 4-year-old son, Reilly, made for me:

Reilly's Artwork 1

Now, as Reilly’s Mom, I just have to say: I think it’s beautiful already. It’s probably not going to make awesome beads, though, so we need to do a little work to it.

The first thing we need to do is remove the gray color cast, adjust the highlights and shadows, and saturate the colors. I do this in the “Adjust” section of Corel PhotoPaint.

Printable Paper Tutorial Step 1

To remove the gray cast, you just click in an area that is supposed to be white. It didn’t make a lot of difference in this photo, but sometimes it does. Play with the highlights and shadows and then saturate the colors a bit to make them pop.

You don’t have to stop with making them pop, either. You could super-saturate the colors and have a completely new color scheme, like this:

Reilly's Artwork Saturated

Maybe that’s a bit much. We’ll go back to the original color scheme, at least for now.

It’s time to play with effects. These are in the “Edit” section of PhotoPaint. Before we get started, let me say one thing: Make sure you save at each step you like along the way. There are plenty of distortion effects in PhotoPaint, but my favorites are Twirl and Wave. Here is Reilly’s artwork after twirling:

Reilly's Artwork Twirled

After twirling the image, I waved it, so this is with both twirl and wave:

Reilly's Artwork Twirled and Waved

Next, I played around with the Artistic Effects, still under the Effects menu in PhotoPaint. My favorite artistic effects are chrome, colored foil, enamel, neon glow, and solarize. Here are some examples, using the twirled and waved version of Reilly’s artwork:


Reilly's Artwork - Chrome

Colored Foil

Reilly's Artwork - Colored Foil


Reilly's Artwork - Enamel

Neon Glow

Reilly's Artwork - Neon Glow


All of these tools have settings you can play with to get different effects with the same tool. I solarized the image a few times with different settings to give you an idea of what you can do with it.

Reilly's Artwork - Solarized

Reilly's Artwork - Solarized

Reilly's Artwork - Solarized

At this point, these images are all ready to use, but I just found a really cool tool today that I think will make them even better. The Seamless Tiling tool (under Image Effects) eliminates the weird white or black bumps on the edges and takes the pretty colors from the center and copies them around the edges, in addition to making the whole image tileable. Here are the images from above after applying this effect:

Tileable Chrome

Reilly's Artwork - Tileable Chrome

Tileable Colored Foil

Reilly's Artwork - Tileable Colored Foil

Tileable Enamel

Reilly's Artwork - Tileable Enamel

Tileable Neon Glow

Reilly's Artwork - Tileable Neon Glow

Tileable Solarize

Reilly's Artwork - Tileable Solarized

Reilly's Artwork - Tileable Solarized

Reilly's Artwork - Tileable Solarized

Now for the Fun Part: Kaleidoscopes!

Now, we need to pick an image and put it into Kaleider. I chose this one to start with because it looks cool but is still pretty true to the colors my son used in his artwork. It was twirled and made tileable.

Reilly's Artwork - Tileable SolarizedReilly's Artwork - Tileable Twirled

Here is a video showing me making it into a kaleidoscope in Kaleider:

Now that I have figured out how to do screen-capture videos, let me know if you need me to show you any other part of the process. I’ll try to zoom in more next time. I didn’t realize how much resolution would be lost going from the original video to YouTube.

Download Today’s Free Printable Decorative Papers

Just Peachy #1

You get a bonus today—instead of one free paper, you’re getting four! I’ll do this every now and then. Today’s free decorative papers were made from the image I played with in this post. They at the full resolution of 2550 x 3300 that I am using for my papers now. Most of the free papers will be the ones I already had done before I switched to the higher resolution, but they are still 170 dpi, which is decent. Here are today’s free paper bead sheets. Just click on the image, wait for it to load, then right-click and save.

Just Peachy 001

Just Peachy 016

Just Peachy 016b

Just Peachy 025

Just Peachy 026

You may use these free downloadable papers for any project, for personal or commercial use, as long as you do not sell the files and the pattern itself is not recognizable as a significant part of the project.

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Do you have any questions about making your own printable decorative papers and bead sheets with Kaleider? Scroll down and leave a comment!

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