Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Homemade Refrigerator Magnet – Computer Designed

I spent a year or two as a home tester for Avery Products and discovered that there are some really amazing things out there you can print on.  What really struck me was the printable sheets of magnetic material.  This stuff is great.  I’ve made all kinds of things out of these from simple refrigerator magnets to sheets of magnetic business cards for my special clients – the ones who actually can afford refrigerators to hang my business cards on.  It’s also great for grandparents who can’t hang enough pictures on the fridge.  Magnetic photos pile onto the fridge door like a collage.  The more you pile on, the better they cling to the door.

You don’t need very much to do the project with: 
  1. A computer with graphics capability
  2. A good printer that does photo quality printing
  3. Some desktop publishing software. Even a run-of-the mill word processor that came with your computer can usually manage it.  My ancient copy of Adobe Pagemaker 6.5 handles the task nicely. Microsoft Publisher works well too. There's also a freebie downloadable open source desktop publisher called Scribus that works well too.
  4. Printable magnetic sheets like the ones pictured
  5. The photo or graphics files you are going to use.
Here’s how I made this funny refrigerator stick-on with the sad-eyed dog.
  • Design your project. You can do it in your head or sketch it out on paper first.  I usually design my projects on the computer as I go.  This one wasn’t complex.  If you don’t have the picture you want to use in digital format, you’ll need to scan it or copy it with a digital camera that has a close-up lens.  
  • Start your computer and crank up your desktop publishing software.  For this project I created an 8 ½  by 11 inch document.  I dropped this picture into it to make a background for the magnet, sizing it to 4 by 6 inches.
  • Add any text or other graphics.  You can see where I added the text over the top.  To get it to stand out you can do a simple drop shadow the old-fashioned way.  Do the text first in a solid font in black.  Then copy the text box, paste it onto the page, change the text to solid white and then placed it slightly above and left of the black text so that the lower black text is almost covered, but not quite. With Pagemaker, however, you can just do the text once and add soft shadows with font effects – much simpler.
  • You can even make permanent refrigerator art. If you have a scanner, you can scan your kids' and grandkids' artwork and turn it into a refrigerator magnet of whatever size you want and print them on the magnetic sheets. 
  • Save the document so you don't lose it.  Save frequently, every time you add something new and it's right. That way if your file goes funky (as they all do sometimes), you can shut the file down and reopen it from where it was last doing what you wanted. If you rely totally on the auto-save feature, sometimes it saves your screw-ups and you can't go back to where it worked for you. Regular saves will prevent that from happening. 
  • Make your document 8 ½ by 11.  The magnetic sheets come in that size and have a white printable surface. To save on the material, I lay my designs onto an 8 ½ by 11 page in Pagemaker.  That way I can move them around to print the image where I want it to.  In this case I was using a new sheet, so I placed the picture and text in the top left corner, allowing half inch margins on top and to the left since my HP 6122 doesn’t print all the way to the edges.  If you’re at all ambitious, now’s a good time to make a whole bunch of stick on pictures and designs of varying sizes and paste them onto the desktop publishing page till you fill the page.  You can also do multiple copies of your design on a single page.  Many word processors will duplicate a single photo and space it over a full page like a business card.  You can always print the one design, then use the remaining material by turning it around and running it through with the uncut end first.
  • Print using the photo quality settings.  The flexible magnetic material goes into your printer with the white face turned to the side it’s going to be printed on.  With my printer it’s white side face down.  Don’t handle the sheet when it comes out or you’ll smear the ink.  It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to dry after printing.
  • Next, cut out the design.  You can use a sharp pair of heavy duty scissors or an Exacto knife.  I have a wheeled paper cutter that works great for this kind of thing.  At a craft store you can buy cutters that cut shapes like stars and flowers if you want to do that sort of thing.  Just size your pictures appropriately when you lay them out.  Word processors and desktop publishers have rulers you can show next to your work to get your pictures and graphics the right size. 
Once your magnet is cut out, just slap it on the refrigerator door and there it is – your dog, your kid, you fishing boat or whatever else you want memorialized there.

How cool is that?


© 2012 by Tom King