Shell Ornaments

This past summer, I made a bunch of these shell ornaments to sell at a craft fair at the beach – She Sells Sea Shells down by the Sea Shore…   I found them to be a great way to archive precious moments or memorable places.  The pictures I transferred onto the shells were a collection of ones I had taken over the years of that same sea shore.  This past fall I made some more shell ornaments this time using vintage family photos.  I plan to send them off to the extended family as holiday gifts.


  • surf softened Shell Pieces (similar to sea-glass, you want shells that have been tossed about in the surf a bit so that the sharper edges have been worn down.  The flatter and bigger the shell piece the easier it will be to work with.)
  • Clear Waterslide Decal Paper (you want to make sure to match the paper to your printer type)
  • Computer with photo editing software
  • Printer
  • Acrylic Coating Spray 
  • Scissors
  • Wire (gold, silver, or copper wire can be found in the beading sections of most craft stores)
  • Needle-Nose Pliers
  • Ribbons for hanging


  1. Use your computer to format and shrink the photos so that they can be printed out on the waterslide decal paper.  I usually fit between 10-20 photos on each piece of waterslide decal paper.  The photos need to fit the shells – keep that in mind as you format and shrink the photos.
  2. Print out the photos onto the waterslide decal paper.
  3. Spray the printed decals with the acrylic coating spray.  You want to do this in a well ventilated area, preferably, outside.
  4. Allow the decals to dry for about an hour.
  5. Use your scissors to cut out the decals and match them to your shell pieces.
  6. Fill the bottom of a small container with water.  You will be placing your decals into the container one at a time and then retrieving them.
  7. Keep your scissors on hand for the next few steps.
  8. Place one of your decals into the water for about 5-10 seconds or until it starts to slide off its backing.
  9. Gently slide the wet decal off of the paper and onto the shell.  Getting this right takes practice, and not all of them will transfer perfectly.
  10. Tuck the edges of the decal around the sides of the shell, and use the scissors to trim the sides when necessary.
  11. Allow the shells to dry completely.
  12. Spray another layer of the acrylic coating on top of the finished decal. Once again, do this in a well ventilated space or outside.
  13. Allow the acrylic coating to dry.
  14. Cut a foot long length of wire.
  15. Artfully wrap the wire around the ornament.  Make sure to form a wire loop for the ribbon at the top of the shell ornament.  This is another step that takes some practice.  You want to make sure that the wire will remain secure and that most of the photo remains visible.  You can use more then a single piece of wire if you think that will help secure the shell.  Make sure that all the wire ends are tucked in and no sharp points remain sticking outward.
  16. Tie a ribbon through the wire loop in order to hang the ornament.

Tip: You can brush the ends of the ribbon with clear nail polish to keep it from unraveling.

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