DIY: Photographs in Oil

7 Sep

I am so excited about this post!

One of my very first posts (over a year ago, wow!) was about the many uses of mason jars. Within my post, I discussed one particular way to use mason jars to showcase photographs suspended in oil for a unique spin on picture display.

“Lastly, a less common but very interesting way to use mason jars is to make it into a one-of-a-kind picture frame. The clear jars would be best for this, and by pouring olive oil (try to avoid the garlic kind — could get stinky!) in the jar with an upright picture, you can get a sepia effect and a new way to display your pics.”

Inspired by: Flickr

Over the past year, I have received many comments and questions about how exactly to go about recreating the photograph in the mason jar. Mostly what I have been asked is “Would a color or black and white picture work best”?

And after an in-depth experiment when I was bored to tears on one night…I finally have answers.

To break it down for you more easily, I’m about to get old school on you by using the scientific method.

  1. Question
  2. Research
  3. Hypothesis
  4. Experiment
  5. Conclusion
  6. Communicate
Now if only I had this sparkly beau-hunky vampirific lab partner, my night would have been complete.

Why yes readers, that is Edward Cullen awaiting me at our lab desk. The lab desk that we share. We share it since we are lovers...I mean partners. In science. And perhaps in life as well.

Me like-a-da Ray Bans 🙂

Back to the business at hand…

1. Question: What type of picture will work best to re-create this mason jar picture frame? Color, black and white, sepia, or antiqued/faded?

2. Research: Google helped me see if there were any other great answers out there. There are not.

3. Hypothesis: After my research and personal opinions, I believe a black and white picture would make the photo in my mason jar picture frame most visible.

4. Experiment: Using a cake pan filled with about a half inch of olive oil (don’t worry, I didn’t waste much…I used it to cook some pasta afterwards), I submergered 4 different pictures/treatments to figure out which looked best and the most clear. If you want to re-create it to figure out the best results for your particular picture, by all means go for it. Try these easy steps:

Step 1: Fill pan with 1/2


Step 2: Grab a regular color photograph.

Step 3: Submerge color photograph.

Step 4: Observe results. Then repeat for each time of photograph you are considering.


Black & white photo.

Black & white photo in olive oil.

Black & white photo in olive oil results.


Faded/antiqued photo

Faded/antiqued photo in olive oil.

Faded/antiqued photo results.


Sepia photo.

Sepia photo in olive oil.

Sepia photo results.

5. Conclusions: This is a multi-part conclusion.

1) It appears to me that the original mason jar used a black and white photograph in the olive oil.

2) However, I actually ended up liking the effect of the antiqued/faded picture the best.

Therefore as our friend Captain Planet would say, the power/choice is yours.

6. Communicate your results: Done. Boom.


12 Responses to “DIY: Photographs in Oil”

  1. arielhall September 7, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    I actually did this after your mason jar post last year! I used a color photo!!! They are in my room in Houston, will send a photo when I’m home!

  2. Angela September 9, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    I love love loveeeee the picture in the mason jar! What a great idea 😀 Also, what a great idea with olive oil. I shall be trying these out! Thanks for the ideas 🙂

  3. Nadia September 14, 2011 at 1:40 am #

    Does it have to be olive oil? I’m so cheap, I would hate to waste olive oil…. what about the cheapo vegetable oil? 🙂

    • Amy April 20, 2012 at 8:15 pm #

      I was thinking the same thing.

  4. chickiepea September 18, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

    Just wanted to say I have one of these that I did in a milk bottle about 10 yrs ago (with a sepia photo of my THEN baby 😉 and used clear corn syrup (cheaper than olive oil!) It has stood the test of time.

  5. Kristi September 20, 2011 at 10:40 am #

    Wouldn’t the picture deteriorate over time? Like the picture peel away from the paper? That is my only concern otherwise i’m tots doing this!

  6. Maxi December 28, 2011 at 11:26 pm #

    Was just wondering if the pics in jars will last a few years, they are awesome!,

  7. Tracy March 9, 2012 at 2:48 am #

    wondering if you could add glitter or something to make turn it into a snow globe or is the oil to thick?

  8. ivonne24 March 31, 2012 at 8:17 pm #

    I have the same question as two of your readers. Will the pictures deteriorate fast? Also what did u use for the back of the picture so it wouldn’t look blank? Or you just place the jar against a surface so the back of the picture wont show? I love the idea though.


  9. Heather July 18, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

    What about adhering the picture to the back of the jar instead of putting it inside? You could create a label big enough to cover the picture and place the picture face down on the jar, then apply the label over it. You could personalize the label. Would it have the same effect?

  10. jackie November 11, 2012 at 9:13 am #

    do u have to seal lid with glue or something and what holds picture in place so it dont float around

  11. FatMamaCheesecake November 26, 2012 at 5:07 am #

    Can I use baby oil? And do I need to glue the photo in order to keep it from moving all around while people are trying to view it?

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