top of page
  • Writer's pictureChristie

In Memoriam: A Tribute to My First Cat - How to Make a Memorial Ornament With an Ornament & Paint

Before you start reading, I want to provide a trigger warning for those who may need it for any reason. In this post I'm going to be discussing the loss of a pet and death as a topic in general. Feel free to click away if you do not wish to visit this topic.

If you would like to skip over that, skip past the next section - down to "How to Make the Ornament". From there to the end, I will keep things light. :)

Also, I apologize ahead of time - I didn't take nearly enough photos of the ornament painting process. Hopefully the instructions are still clear regardless. 🙂

On Lily, Death, and Grief:

I wanted to show how I made a memorial ornament for my cat, Lily. I've been wanting to make a memorial ornament for her for a while, and while I was at Michaels I found the perfect ornament to use as a base. I wanted it to be simple, just a simple painting of her portrait.

Here is Lily enjoying a lap and being slightly confused. 🙂

She was calm and sweet, kind of shy around other people, but so gentle with my husband and I. She tolerated "family hugs" (where we basically sandwiched her between us until she made her trademark whiney meow), sat contently in a lap, and was a silly little goof.

Here she is getting a big hug that she whined about but actually liked. 🙂

To lose her was devastating. She was pretty young when she passed, and it was sudden. Tomorrow will mark 5 years since the day that she passed away. We were with her when she was euthanized - She had a hole somewhere in her body so that she was having trouble breathing and would likely not have survived the invasive surgery that she would've needed to undertake to fix it. It was such a painful decision to make, and was the most piercing grief I've ever felt in my life, even to this day.

To be honest, I can't picture the more perfect cat. I wish that she was still with us, but I'm happy to have so many memories and cute pictures of videos of her that we can go back to when we miss her.

Ultimately, death is a part of life. We will all experience loss in our life, and we need to remember the happy memories and try not to stay buried under the grief of a loss.

I hope that if you have lost a pet, or a person, that you find peace. This time of year is particularly difficult sometimes, but please know that you are not alone.

How to make the Ornament:


  • Wooden Ornament (as of today, Dec 11 2021, they are 50% off at Michaels. mine was $1!)

  • Acrylic paint in the colors you need

  • Paint Brushes

  • photo of pet

  • gesso (optional)

  • resizing software ((so that you can print the photo to trace onto the ornament). I used procreate but you can paste into word and use the ruler tool to get it to the size you need before printing)

  • transfer paper

Here is the ornament I chose to paint. I like the built in bead frame it had. I got it for $1 at Michaels.

Step 1: Find & print your photo -

Headshots are the easiest to use.

This is the photo I chose for mine. I cropped it so that I'd just have a headshot.

Use your choice of resizing software to make the photo the correct size so that it will print to fill up the ornament when you trace over it. I used Procreate and exported the file as a PDF to my printer, but you can use Word as well. Paste the photo into the software and resize the photo as needed.

This was the page I used - since I use a laser printer and ink supply isn't a concern I printed 4 different sizing options on the sheet to see which worked better on the ornament. I ultimately chose the largest image.

Step 2: Prepare your ornament -

This step is optional, but I prepared the surface using gesso which will help with paint adhesion. Let that dry.

Step 3: Trace your pet onto the ornament -

This step was a bit tricky for me.

I started off by placing the photo over tracing paper over the ornament centered as I wanted and pressed hard with a pen to trace the main lines of her face. It kind of worked but I ended up getting the best imprint when I pressed hard with a pen on the photo with nothing in between and allowed the pen to make an imprint through the gesso when it was about 98% dry. You may want to experiment on the back of the ornament to get the best results unless your okay with trial and error.

Step 4: Paint the background -

Using acrylic paint, paint the background around your pet in whatever color you'd like.

Step 4: Paint your pet -

Using acrylic paint, I painted in the basic shapes in the basic colors of Lily's face and body, simlarly to how I would complete a paint-by-number. Once that was done, I did some shading with lighter and darker tones.

Add as much or as little detail as you are comfortable with.

Once I painted her, I went back in with a darker background shade and also used it to outline her.

To make the color lighter towards the center I simply dipped my brush in a bit of water to allow the paint to have more flow. With this process I was able to get a bit of a watercolor effect that I really liked.

The whiskers were added last since they went over the background. I kept Lily's cheek whiskers on the painting but found that the eyebrow whiskers didn't read well on the ornament so I ended up removing these on mine.

End Result/Closing:

Here is how my ornament came out. I'm so happy to have this ornament to put on my tree.

If you end up making this, please tag me on instagram @mermaidcoveart

I would love to see what you make and hear about the pet you chose to paint. :)


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page