V101: How to Make Miniature Portraits

Awhile ago I posted about lovely little 18th century miniature portraits, and what a nice addition to one’s costume they can be.

Well here’s how to make them!

What You’ll Need:


1. First, you’ll need your picture.  I scaled the pictures to just a little bigger than 40 x 30 mm, in my image editing software, then printed them out on photo paper.

Why hello Mr.’s Jefferson an Hamilton…

The prints should be as high quality as possible.  If you are using regular paper, you want to seal the image by painting on some Mod Podge and allowing it to dry (clear) before continuing.  This just makes sure the inks don’t run.

2. Next, trace around the clear cabochon, on your picture, and cut it out.  You’ll want to cut a little bit inside the line you traced.

Oo, Jefferson, you sexy beast..
Sorry George, I’ll save you for later…

3. Now dab a little bit of Aleene’s Paper Glaze onto the front of the image, and press the cabochon on top, making sure the glue is spread over the whole image, and that there are no bubbles.  Wipe away any excess with a paper towel.

To prevent bubbles between the image and your cabochon, put a book or something heavy, like this handy hard drive, on top, while the glue sets.

Hard drives. They come in handy.

4. When it’s dry, dab a tiny bit of Mod Podge in the center of the setting, and press your cabochon into it.  Again, weight it while it dries.

A small amount of Mod Podge in the setting.

And that’s it!  You can wear these on a ribbon, a chain, or pin them to your costume.  I made a bow with a pin on the back, for Queen Bess.  For Jefferson and Hamilton I thought I’d clip the rings off the cabochon settings and turn them into bracelets, to wear on each wrist.  That’s my nerdy Historical LOL.

Things NOT to do:
Don’t use any ol’ glue.  I first tried E6000, and while the photo prints did okay, young Queen Elizabeth got eaten by the glue and I had to pry her up and replace her with Armada Queen E.  Aleene’s Paper Glaze is by far the best glue for the job.

When I first started making miniatures back in 2008, to sell at Renaissance Faires, I poured liquid acrylic over the top of the images.  I had the misconception that the domed, clear cabochons would magnify the images in a way I wouldn’t like, so I went through all the trouble of mixing the goop with the catalyst, and pouring, and breathing fumes, and wigging out about bubbles, and it was just so stupid.

DON’T DO THIS.  (well, you can if you want, but I don’t recommend it)

The clear cabs look great.  They hardly magnify at all, have a very professional appearance, are *so* much easier to use, and are more durable.  Save yourself the fits of rage and get the clear cabs.  Really.

Young Elizabeth didn’t survive…

Something Else to Try…
There are these cool 30 x 40 mm “Epoxy Dome Stickers,” that you can just peel and stick over the top of your image.  I’ve ordered some but haven’t made any miniatures from them yet, but I can’t think of anything easier than that – peel n’ stick. Save yourself the glue and the hard drive!


  • Madame Berg

    April 10, 2012 at 5:07 PM

    They look very nice indeed! If only those materials were more available here in Sweden! NOw I have an urge to order stuff online…

    I made a ring with my husbands face 'Shopped into a painting years ago, though 😀 It looked OK since it was so small. "Insert-your-photo"-rings seem to be available on the 'Net (but not here in Sweden, sadly) so I will look out for those next time around (I had to mess with a ring that already had a picture in it. Fiddly.)

  • Trystan L. Bass

    April 10, 2012 at 7:19 PM

    However, in visiting the V&A, Colonial Williamsburg, & other museums (even online), I've rarely seen actual historical miniatures framed with glass. Maybe Victorian perhaps, but by that point, you're talking photos, not paintings. 16th-century miniatures were usually painted on vellum, & 18th-century ones were often painted on ivory. They don't show much of a dome shape.

    • Lauren R

      April 10, 2012 at 7:30 PM

      Trystan, very true. Ages ago, when researching these the first time around, I read that isinglass was sometimes used in miniatures. You can still get isinglass today, supposedly, but in all my experiments, for durability and ease of creation – say, if you don't have mad porcelain-painting skills – the clear cabs, acrylic though they may be, make a lovely, durable miniature.

    • Trystan L. Bass

      April 10, 2012 at 9:27 PM

      No need to put glass over them at all — a light coat of matte acrylic sealer / Mod Podge over the image is honestly all it takes. Not too much or it looks shiny & less paint-like. I have several faux miniatures that have held up for years with no problems (I mean, I haven't worn them in the pouring rain, but I prefer not to do that with any of my costume gear ;-).

    • Lauren R

      April 10, 2012 at 7:31 PM

      hrm, that might be one for poured acrylic…wonder if the hair would perpetually look wet if adhered with glue to the cab. See, the cab is flat on the back, so there is no space between it and the setting. :-

    • Anonymous

      April 5, 2017 at 8:37 AM

      I know this is old, but maybe the next person that reads this will get some ideas. How about tying the hair with ribbon in a bunch and gluing the ribbon down?

  • Hallie Larkin

    April 10, 2012 at 7:47 PM

    Lauren.. when I made mine a few years back, I used printable fabric sheets from Jo-Anns.. it actually gave a hint of a "canvas" look to them when printed. I don't mind the glass dome, but did not need it with the fake "canvas".

  • Kitty MacDowell

    April 10, 2012 at 8:47 PM

    OMG,I have been racking my local craft stores trying to find the right striped ribbon for Military Awards, but the satin bow idea is PERFECT! Much more elegant and ladylike.

  • Jenny

    April 10, 2012 at 11:46 PM

    These are great, and so easy! I want to make some out of my fave paintings and portraits! They would make lovely gifts as well. Personal, handmade, and unique 🙂

    • Lauren R

      April 12, 2012 at 6:49 AM

      I started with cold resin glaze and had all kinds of trouble with it, mostly found it to be unpredictable and prone to air bubbles. Whatever the finish, though, miniatures make a cool accessory.

  • Anonymous

    April 11, 2012 at 2:35 PM

    Does anyone know if there are any good Photoshop tutorials on how to make a a photo look like a painting? I'm interested in making a miniature with my husband's portrait in it, but I have no painting skills. I'm wondering if there is an easy way to make his picture look like a painting. I would love to make a personalized miniature of him using your tutorial.

    • Lauren

      April 12, 2012 at 6:47 AM

      I've seen some meld the face cleverly with an original period portrait. I don't know of any tutorials, but perhaps some of the "artistic" filters might work?

  • Anonymous

    May 3, 2012 at 8:33 PM

    It was suggested to me by a fellow reenactor to paint over the picture with Mod Podge and let it dry before covering it with the cabochon to make it look like it was painted. I managed to make two miniatures, one of me and one of my sweetheart, and they came out well! They're small enough to be used as pendants or watch fobs so it worked out well! 😀 Thanks for the brilliant idea!

  • Gina

    May 27, 2012 at 4:44 PM

    Oh…my….goodness! I have been wanting to do a little project with miniatures for a couple of years now! There is a dress in the Kyoto Museum collection with the lovely lady wearing two bracelets of miniatures and pearls. I wanted to make those with portraits of my sons dressed in that period clothing. I had inquired into having a lady here in town paint them on porcelain, but the cost…Anyway, I can totally do this now using your technique. Just take photos of my boys, tweek them with photoshop and get to it!!! Hahahaha!!! Wonderful!! Thank you!

  • Unknown

    September 7, 2016 at 4:25 PM

    This is a terrific project. It is the kind of accessory that would make proper 18th century dressing look truly finished. I agree that these would make fantastic gifts, too. Thank you!

  • Unknown

    September 7, 2016 at 4:25 PM

    This is a terrific project. It is the kind of accessory that would make proper 18th century dressing look truly finished. I agree that these would make fantastic gifts, too. Thank you!

  • Carol

    September 10, 2016 at 2:35 AM

    OK …I give I have to put myself on AD time out. Every time I come online you have something else I have been wanting to find or find a way of doing myself and BING! you've done it again. AND DAMN ETSY TOO, Im hooked there too!!!!! BUT A HUGE Thank you for all you do. Luv ya!! have fun in China !!!

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