Four years ago, I saw Elizabeth Reinhardt creating custom mood boards for people from Cannon Falls, Minnesota. She would have each client fill out a questionnaire, asking them for 10 or more photos, some of the celebrities they look up to, what their favorite colors are, and more. While these asks may seem simple, the answers laid the foundation for a frameable piece of art specifically tailored to the client’s interests, style, and aspirations. Since then, Reinhardt’s side hustle has fallen to the wayside, as her life path has shifted, and her job has become more demanding, allowing me to take a crack at the art form myself.
For the past three years, making mood boards has become a part of my seasonal routine. Before heading back to school, entering the new year, or starting a new job, I call up a friend or two for a day of creation—a day designated for ourselves, where we can reminisce on fond memories, reflect on past mistakes, and set clear intentions for the future. Some of my mood boards have been hung in my home, living room, and office, serving as a season recap with visionary elements, while others have acted as shadow boxes, capturing memorable trips or my favorite things. It’s safe to say each board is unique to me and my experiences through every season.
As I move back to college and summer turns into fall, I plan to make myself a new mood board. Interested in trying one yourself? Here is a step-by-step guide of my creative process that you can use to create your own:
Items you’ll need to complete the project: one poster board, 20+ photos, 10+ paint swatches, scissors, tape, a ruler, a pencil, a 16-inch x 20-inch frame, and large Command Strips
1. Make a Game Plan
Determine where you’d like this mood board to live, and what purpose the piece is going to serve. This will help you establish a color scheme and the mood you want to add to a space.
2. Get on Pinterest
I know it may sound old school, but Pinterest is a great resource to spark inspiration, provide aesthetic images, and organize ideas. Start by typing a color in the search bar, pinning or screenshotting photos as you go. Saving your favorite inspirational quotes, celebrities, and album covers is a good idea too.
3. Sort Your Own Photos
A mood board isn’t yours without photos of your friends, family, and loved ones. Whether you’re recapping the summer or a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, incorporating some of your own shots is necessary.
Put all the images you would like to include in an album on your phone. Next, I always upload them to VSCO, but any photo editing app, such as Lightroom, Tesa, or Google Photos, will do. Copy and paste the same filter onto every photo. This will give the collective a cohesive look that will pull your entire mood board together.
4. Print the photos
I recommend downloading Walgreen’s Printacular app. Upload all your personal photos and downloaded pins, click the ones you want, double check the crop on each, and select your desired size (I usually do a combination of 4x6s and 4x4s). Send the order over for same-day printing. You can also print at home if you have a photo-quality printer.
5. Hit Up the Hardware Store
Time to pick up some swatches. Head to the paint section and grab a handful of colors from the photos you just printed. These make for great fillers in between photos come layout time.
6. Poster, Tape, Frame
Buy any additional supplies you need from Walmart, Target, or even a dollar store. I always start by putting a 99-cent, white poster in my cart, before grabbing tape, glitter, glue, and a white or black frame.
7. Pick Up the Photos
The last stop on the errands run is to pick up the photos you printed. Once you’ve got them in hand, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work.
8. Lay the Materials Out
For the creation process, I usually pick a comfortable spot on the floor where I have plenty of room to spread out. Lay all your photos out and sort them in areas according to their color scheme. Once you’ve got your materials sorted, it’s time to cut the canvas.
9. Trim Poster
Take the back of your picture frame, place it in the upper corner of the poster, and lightly trace the edges with a pencil. Cut the rectangle out, which will serve as your mood board’s base.
10. Begin Designing
Now’s the fun part! Grab photos one by one and begin drafting your collage. I always like to start in the middle and then work outward, but some of my friends prefer to start in a corner and then work across and down—move whatever way feels best. I’ve seen mood boards that completely break straight lines by overlapping images and incorporating cutouts, whereas I prefer using touching images and straight lines.
Remember, this mood board is for you and no one else. Take as much time as you need. Put other people’s perspectives aside and create a product that speaks to you. There’s something beautiful about actually picking up the photos, placing them, moving them, and swapping them until you create a draft you’re proud of.
11. Tape It Down
Once you feel like you’ve got a finished product, snap a photo of the layout on your phone, pick up the pieces one by one, and tape the back of each photo/swatch. After everything has been taped down, it’s time to move the board to its new home.
12. Frame and Hang
Place your newly created mood board into the frame. On the back of the frame, stick command strips around the perimeter and remove the protective strips from both sides. Hang the frame up, pushing firmly on the edges, suctioning the command strips to the wall.
And voila! Your work here is done. I hope you have a piece of art that you’re proud of that you enjoyed making for yourself. No matter what curveballs life throws at you, this simple act of self-care is sure to set you up for success in the coming season.