Transform an iPad into a digital photo frame for £10 (no tools)

Just spent £xxx on that new iPad and struggling to justify your purchase? Look no further, and join me in transforming it into a digital photo frame. I’ve wanted a digital photo frame for a while to display pictures, but these can often be expensive and ugly looking. So, instead I wanted to use my iPad as one, but browsing the internet I couldn’t really find any cases that resemble a nice photo frame, So I decided to take the matter into my own hands and do it myself.

I don’t have much tools or materials by hand, so this had to be done in simple means, and after some thinking, the simplest solution would be to find a picture frame big enough to fit the whole unit, and a passe-partout that could cover up the device frame.

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What you need:

  • Spare iPad or equivalent tab

    • Spare charging cable
  • Some strong tape, preferable ducktape

  • Picture frame with a passe-partout the size of the screen

Finding a matching picture frame

The screen of my iPad Air 1st generation measures 15x20cm, or about 6x8”, this is the same size as a normal A4 sheet. We need a photo frame that has a frame big enough to fit the whole iPad, and a passe-partout at the size of an A4 sheet. Browsing around on Amazon I quickly found a good match, a nice looking picture frame made of wood and painted white, which matches our furniture nicely.

In addition to the picture frame, some wide tape is needed to attach the passe-partout to the iPad, and to attach the backside of the picture frame to the wooden frame in a way that allows the iPad to be easily accessed behind the glass front of the picture frame. I got some 3M ducktape of Amazon, going full MacGyver style.

Let’s get started

The first step is to emulate the home button with an on-screen button, as the physical button will be inaccessible. On the iPad this is done by going to Settings > General > Accessibility > AssistiveTouch, then turn on AssistiveTouch. Make sure to set the button to as transparent as possible so that it won’t obstruct images when not in use. When you have the software button activated, we can start the fun part of putting together the actual picture frame.

Start of by removing the backplate from the picture frame, leaving only the passe-partout and the glass-front in the frame
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Then fit the iPad over the passe-partout, and make sure it fits nicely by inspecting from the front. Then plug the charging cord/lightning cable into the iPad, and tape the iPad to the passe-partout. Make sure that the full screen is visible while taping, you want to get this right before going to the next step. Note that you could also use some double sided tape here for a even better result.


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Then we can fit the backplate back on, but the iPad is thicker than a traditional picture, so the small metal hooks at the backside most likely won’t fit over the backplate anymore. There are several ways of coming around this problem, and one of them is the MacGyver way with duck tape.

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So, place the backplate back, try using as much as the original metal pins as possible to hold it together, but make sure the top side of the frame stays loose (don’t bend back the metal pins). Then place a long piece of tape covering the whole lower part as show in the picture, and a smaller part on the top. This allows the ipad to be easily tilted out and accessed for changing pictures, or clicking away those annoying update requests. You can also choose to not use the glass front, then you can touch the iPad screen freely, which allows you to thoroughly tape the backplate and frame together.

To access the iPad gently lose the small tape piece at the top and tilt the wooden part towards you. This is not a perfect solution, but it makes it easy to access the iPad while being able to leave in the glass front.

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The final product
Well done, you now have a very nice looking digital picture frame where you can display your wildest pictures! Feel free to check out some of mine at @chriotte on Instagram.

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