Picture of Cheap 'n Easy Digital Picture Frame
I basically made this as a birthday present for my girlfriend. Looking for an awesome gift idea? This is it! Total cost was under $100, and could be substantially less if you're savvy.

I know I'm not the first one to come up with the idea of a homemade digital picture frame. I'm not even the one to come up with the idea of using the particular lcd screen and digital photo viewer that I chose. But I can write a darn good how-to about it, and there's no stopping me!

(3/14/07) Edit: For an easier setup, take a look at my new picture frame here.

Step 1: The basics

Picture of The basics
After reading in a forum about someone who used a Sony PSOne LCD screen and a SanDisk Digital Photo Viewer in order to make a digital picture frame, I just had to try it. He said it was easy, and indeed it was.

The SanDisk Digital Photo Viewer is basically a little black box with 4 slots on the front to accept different types of memory cards from digital cameras. You stick in the memory card, hook up the composite video(or s-video) to the tv, and turn it on. The device automatically plays a slideshow of your pictures, and you don't have to do a thing. This makes it really really useful for this project.

The particular screen I used was a 5" Zenith lcd screen made to attach to the GameCube for people who enjoy playing high graphics videogames on small screens : ) The internals are identical to the Sony PSOne screen or the Zenith Xbox or Zenith PlayStation 2 screens of the same size. If you see any of these on eBay for less than $40, grab 'em!! Considering that suggested retail value is over $100, that's a bargain. I've seen used ones for as low as $25(+S&H). Granted there are other screens that you can use, and by all means go for it. The basic concept is that in order to keep things simple, the screen needs to be large enough to enjoy viewing pictures on and already accepts composite video. It's that easy.
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ewilhelm7 years ago
Digital picture frames are a really popular gift project here on Instructables, and lots of people are searching for digital picture frame how-to's. So, in addition to this great project, check out this guide to some of the best digital picture frames we have:
Instructables Digital Picture Frame How-to Building Guide
chr8 years ago
I made a digital frame some years ago using an old laptop with a 15" monitor. I got this old laptop from my school, for free. It's a PII 233MHz or i think, but it's a quality laptop with a screen that goes all the way to the edge of the laptop. This is especially important when finding a laptop to use as a picture frame, this way you can have a narrow frame on the laptop. First thing I did was to remove the laptop casing. And was left with an LCD monitor and mainboard with the keyboard attached. It wouldn't boot without the keyboard.. otherwise i could just have connected the circuit board from a usb keyboard to the usb port. Once I found a frame that matched the dimensions of the lcd somewhat, i cut it to size and glued the lcd in place. To fasten the mainboard to the back of the frame, i put screws into the back of the frame and glued the mainboard to them. The farme runs Linux. I chose Slackware for this application, since it is light weight and no-nonsense. It has really simple init scripts, so it was an easy task to make X start up with no window manager at boot, and then load a small program that recursively shows images from a directory. Here are some pictures of it. I really like the picture where it boots linux, that's like art to me, a picture frame booting linux with a high resolution console :-) Using it to show some kind of network statistics, log tailing or cmatrix would also be neat.
crazypyro chr7 years ago
aim sure you could find a screen saver that automatically displays pictures from a flickr count, then give it to someone, and when you upload a new picture, they see it.
There is a screen saver app. for that. It's called Slickr, you can link it to all Flickr accounts or just ones you want.
dorian chr8 years ago
>Using it to show some kind of network statistics, >log tailing or cmatrix would also be neat. Agreed! Long live plain old text! Try hooking up any old atticware to StarTTY.com - all you need is a TELNET prompt. You can get news, stock quotes, weather, time/date, UPS package tracking and more. Hook it up, leave it running, and toss the keyboard! I don't have a picture frame built yet, but here are some old machines set up as StarTTY viewers, some using serial-to-TCP/IP devices:
Neat stuff, I know what I'll be fiddling with between Christmas and new year :)
trume chr8 years ago
when you made the picture fram out of a laptop, did you have problems with colors becoming inverted if you look at it from an angle? and how easy is it to load new pictures up there once it's made? thanks man
ROMbler8 years ago
Great tutorial. I made my digital picture frame using plexi for the box and attached it to a frame I got at Wal-mart. For the matte I decided to go with duct tape at the last minute. I also put duct tape over the plexi instead of painting it. I think it turned out nice. The color of the tape works well with the frame. I have it in my office and everyone stops to check it out.
duct tape rocks my world. i keep a roll in my purse at all time, along with pliers and a pocketknife. you're right, the tape does work with the frame.
Brian Henderson (author)  ROMbler8 years ago
Rock on! That's a sweet frame you found - it looks great.
chr - if you would do an instructable for that would be awesome!
Duckism4 years ago
I am all for DIY and stuff... but a little under 100 dollars? you can buy digital frames that size for way less than the price of this project.
yes they are cheaper than dirt now like 39.95 on Geek, but keep'in this trash outta the landfill is a very good thing dontcha think??
yeah keeping trash out of the land fill is great, but doing it at this scale is seems like such bandage solution and this kind of attitude is what give companies and government to start green washing everything instead of coming up with new and actually pratical solutions. the amount of the stuff that would ended up being rescued from the landfill from DIY projects like this i don't think would even reach 0.01% of stuff that ended up goign to the landfills.
Screwerman4 years ago
Normally I would not have looked at this instructable, but glad I did. Use gui so much I forget about the text mode for older systems. Looking at the startty.com comment gave me some great ideas. I feel an instructable coming on.
indian_995 years ago
If you need a light OS for your digital picture frame you can use this one based on openSUSE11.3: http://susegallery.com/a/OFJVZe/photoframe
zack2475 years ago
is this possible with a lcd screen from a portable dvd player? i have one of those laying around, and i want to do something with it
cliffyd zack2475 years ago
yes me too! I have had this portable dvd player lcd for months and tried hooking it up, can it be done?
zack247 cliffyd5 years ago
well, i had thought i had figured it out, but when i dug it out of the box the screen was cracked! all i can do now is use the cold cathode bulb, i really wish it didn't crack... good luck though!
agnivohneb5 years ago
 I want to do a similar project using a LCD Monitor, and i DON'T want to hook my computer up to it. I seen this project and want to know... Where can I get the SanDisk Digital Photo Viewer and dose it have a VGA out on it?
Wow, isn't is so cool to see the how imagination of some of us can build great thinks?! however isn't much easy just to buy a cheap photo frame instead to destroy the laptops?! :)
Please note that this was originally posted May of 2006.  Cheap digital photo frames did not exist.
girlteen5 years ago
Good work, you earned your intstructables patch!
ashleyv6 years ago
These digital frames are getting more affordable so most can buy one now, but very interesting post on how you built.
<a href="http://www.digitalsmartframes.com/portableusa.html">digital picture frames</a>
I'm sure there's more sense of accomplishment. How did she like it. cheers.
DrThousand6 years ago
. The problem I have is finding a cheap enuf & large enuf LCD. How do I know if the device I find will take NTSC composite video? I want to make a monitor for a C64, to use for programming the C64 to control the LEDs on next year's 5' Star of Bethlehem at our church. (I hope it's considered in good taste)
In the case of our friend here, he bought lcd brands that are designed to accept composite video. You could purchase any one of the screens he suggested, or one for a PS One, and they would all work just fine. You comment makes me want to pull my C64/128 out of the bowels of storage and start playing with it again. :)
Bigev6 years ago
I'm a huge fan of the Toggle Switch.
FaqMan6 years ago
This ible would save me money instead of buying a store bought one.
etechtim6 years ago
Good Job ! Looking forward to giving it a try. Keep up the good work. By the way, the part where you say "The adapter that comes with the viewer is labeled for 12 volts (but I was measuring 15 with my multimeter... all lies!) " has a basis in reality. Power supplies read higher when its just them and a multimeter. Its called "no-load" reading. Like driving at highway speed and you press in the clutch the engine will go to higher rpm's because it is not under the load of pulling the car.
antennas7 years ago
A 7" screen now sells for $90 bucks. All that work to get a smaller screen. I think not.
Brian Henderson (author)  antennas7 years ago
You're right - the price has dropped a great deal since originally making this Instructable. Notice the date when I originally posted this? That's right - it was a year and a half ago. If there's a better price somewhere, then by all means go for it. One advantage of making it on your own is that you can choose a frame that, y'know, looks nice and is not made of plastic.
"One advantage of making it on your own is that you can choose a frame that, y'know, looks nice and is not made of plastic." No, there is no advantage. If you want a nicer frame, take a working factory-built unit and add a frame. Cheaper and better.
why are you so against this instructable, regardless of if it can be done cheaper or "better" this project represents something which comes with the pride of success and building something yourself. try to get that in a store now. i see no reason to argue with the quality of this fine instructable. if you don't want to build one then don't but some people might.
But it doesn't have apple or sony written on it. Ha ha.
well that is why the ipods used to come with stickers lol cheers, mspark400
ahh didnt seee da date ty and sry for anything misyook 4 bashin
swcrazy9 years ago
Hi everyone, I am new to the group and had a question. Is it possible to use an used LCD from a laptop for this project? Or how about a used LCD tv from a minivan? thanks.
From what I understand, laptop LCDs usually have a proprietary digital connection to the panel, so I doubt you'd have much luck with one.
well if the lcd tv has composite input then yes cos the viewer is for tvs anyway
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