A couple of years ago, I made these homemade photo place mats to give the grandparents as a gift for Christmas. I was able to get the photos free, so my only cost was the paper and the lamination. They were really easy to make, and Grandma and Grandpa still use them. Here's how we did it:
Select a theme for each set of place mats, such as “summer memories,” or “winter wonderland.” For mine, I chose photos from the beach on a Florida trip. Or, you could simply cover each place mat completely with photos of a certain family member. To save even more, look for free photo offers to get your prints for less.
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Cut a piece of tagboard into a large rectangle (14″ x 20″) or use a place mat that you already have as a design template. Repeat the process for as many place mats as you'd like to make. Tagboard can be found at The Dollar Tree for 3/$1.
Next, arrange your photos on the tagboard. This can be the tricky part, but realize that it doesn't have to be perfect. Cover both sides for reversible place mats. Secure them to the tagboard using a glue stick. Note: It's important to make sure that you don't use school glue or anything that will cause the photos to bubble up, otherwise you'll have problems with bubbling after they're laminated. I'd recommend also weighting them down with heavy books for a day or two, just to make sure they're completely flat before laminating them.
To finish, bring them to an office supply store like Staples or Kinkos to be laminated. This is really the only part of your project where cost adds up, so if you have access to a laminator through work you may really be able to do this project inexpensively. For me, the cost was $3.00/sq. foot to have them done. The large ones I made came out to be $6/each, but if we had made smaller ones they would have cost in the $4.50 range.