January 3, 2013

How To: Make Giant Art Prints From Your Photos

Have you guys heard about the phenomemon of turning your own photos into giant black and white works of art for only a few bucks? We came across this concept on Pinterest one afternoon and couldn't pass up trying it out — and we're so happy we did since we now have giant and personal pieces of art hanging around the house. Today we wanted to share exactly how we did it, so you can do it too!

We just chose some regular shots we've taken with our digital camera we thought might be fun little slices of life and reminders throughout different areas of the house like these:

Basil overlooking the river — we've done so many different things with this photo since we love it so much (you might remember we turned it into a color canvas print to hang above our coat rack) — it really embodies the spirit of Basil in our minds.

This was a leftover shot of the pink peonies we used in our DIY mercury glass faux finish tutorial that we didn't use in the actual blog post. I'm such a sucker for pink peonies and just thought they were beautiful — we're even thinking about making them the main flower for our wedding since they'll be back in season.

This shot below is one of our all-time favorites of the two of us, plus it includes Basil! You might remember it from the family orchard trip we made back in the fall of 2011:

We saved a handful of these photos we thought might work to a usb drive and took them on over to our local FedEx Office. Since I knew I was going for giant prints, I saved the images in their original, largest format from the camera to give the printer plenty to work with (even though I knew the quality with this printing method would have some slight distortions and imperfections).

For some reason my communication skills weren't on par during this particular trip to Fedex Kinko's. Everywhere I read online said to ask for these prints as an "engineer print," but this didn't register at all as I tried to explain what I was going for at the counter.

If you end up going to a place like I did, I nerded out and just took a few photos of the actual printer they used to make these prints to save you the long conversation I had:

It's a KIP 3000 wide format print/scan/copy machine for black and white large scale printing and the largest format prints cost about $11 each and get even cheaper the smaller you go.

This printer basically prints out an enlarged but lower quality photocopy (they will be slightly distorted and might have lines going through the image, like a giant xerox copy might look like) of the images — which is exactly what I was going for, but I think it was difficult for the sales associates to understand why anyone would want the lower quality version of a personal photograph.

I asked for the largest possible scale they could print, which was 36 inches tall by about 60 or more inches wide. As she printed a test out, it came out exactly (maybe even better) than I'd hoped for, so I ended up printing about 9 different images to take home and play around with! If you look closely at the image above, you can see one of the giant images already printed on the table next to the printer — it's one of Basil looking over the river that we love. These things are huge.

They rolled up all my new prints and I practically skipped out of the store and drove back home to show Tim how amazingly they turned out. To give you an idea of scale and quality straight from the printer, here's Brandon holding up a shot of himself, Tim and Basil walking down by the river — keep in mind that Brandon is right around 6'3"! I'm telling you, these prints are huge! HUGE.

We sat on the prints a while as we thought about and researched different ways to frame and display them. I'd picked up a couple large scale picture frames on a trip to the craft store so we tried a couple of them out in those — having to cut the prints down slightly to make them fit (I couldn't find standard frames for anything over 27 inches tall anywhere — if you do, please help a girl out!).

To cut them down, I just placed the frame over the area of the image that was important for us to keep and traced/cut/formatted from there:

So out of the 9 prints we made, we've framed and played around on placement with 4 of them so far.

The below framed image of Tim, Brandon and Basil is currently hanging on the large wall in our downstairs bathroom:

It fills the space well, but I'd like to experiment with what two vertically oriented frames of this size might look like paired together on this wall down the road:

Our favorite shot of Basil by the river ended up hanging out atop the dresser in Stephanie's bedroom upstairs (this lime green room is on the agenda for re-painting):


The shot of Tim, me and Basil in the orchard ended up in our bedroom leaning against the wall atop of our dresser for the time being (blue walls in here also on the agenda for re-painting):

That little print of a dress form is actually an etching I did back in college when I took an intro to printmaking at VCU. It's always been one of Tim's favorites, so it's hung out and around the house instead of staying in hiding in the portfolios we keep up in the attic, haha.

And those pink peonies take on a whole new look and feel in this large-scale black and white format, am I right?

These guys are hanging out on the fireplace mantle in the tiny room next to our bedroom that we currently use as an overflow closet/dressing/workout room (that was a mouthful).

Along with the shot of the flowers we've got another mixed media painting I did back in art school and a framed photo of my very young grandmother back when she won the beauty contest title for Tobaccoland Queen here in Richmond. Yes, Tobaccoland Queen was a real thing. Crazy. And Awesome. I was named for this magnificent woman.

There's also a piece of driftwood Tim's parents just brought us over the holidays — his Granny pulled it from the shore of the Potomac River in Coal's Point, VA back in the early 80's (I was still in diapers and Tim was just about out of his teenage years). It's been a sentimental staple in the Vidra house since Tim's mom can remember Granny pulling it off the shore and it was a meaningful gift they gave us. We're still trying to decide where it will end up — maybe a centerpiece or even mounted on the wall down the road.

All in all, this has been such a fun way to create some large scale artwork to play with around the house without breaking the bank. The large images really do fill up a space in a neat way and the family photos really make those areas a lot more personal for us.

It's also an idea we've kept it in our back pocket as we think about blank wall spaces in the house and take new photos we love.

A couple tips I wish I'd known first in retrospect:

1. Almost all pre-fab frames only go to about 27 x 40 inches large before really getting into expensive and custom zones. If I'd known this, I might have just gone ahead and had the images printed in that smaller size — doing so would have made the images that much clearer, captured the entire shot, and save a few buckaroos (slang for cash) per print at the same time. That being said, there are several different tutorials for making your own frame from matte board and other creative ideas for hanging and displaying the larger size prints — these are all things we might consider as we continue to figure out where we want to put our prints around the house (we've got 5 left). For now, we're happy with our black frames that we cut the prints down to fit in.

2. It helps to think about how your images are oriented — meaning horizontally or vertically. If you want to pair images together, it's nice to have several vertically oriented, etc. I just printed out a ton of shots that I wanted to see in large scale without giving too much forward thought to how and where they'd end up around the house.

3. I've heard you can ask for those "engineer prints" from places like Staples and Office Max and they will only run around $4.99. Haven't tried this, but it's worth researching ahead of time if you have access all of these different places in your area.

Outside of home decor, we thought these large scale prints could be an inexpensive but fun way to decorate for a milestone event, wedding or party — surrounding the space with giant prints of the person or group of people being celebrated. They also might be a great tool or visual aid for presentations or school projects (man I wish these were around back when I was doing the school science fair!). I'm sure with a little creativity, the possibilities are endless — so if nothing else, you can slip the idea in your back pocket for a rainy day!


  1. I'm so glad you guys tried this out! I went to our one and only Fedex inside Office Max last year and they looked at me like I was crazy when I said Engineer print. But I'm going to take my phone in with your post and show them :)

  2. these are AMAZING! do you remember where you bought those frames?

    1. Shannon! Thanks so much! The frames are awesome — we got them the largest size at Michael's craft stores. If you sign up for their emails you can regularly get a 50% off coupon to use on them (don't pay full price, haha). They also run regular sales on all their frames where you can get them for a great bargain! Let us know if you try it!

  3. These are beautiful Mary !

    Since long time i want my sons photos with frame , I will put them at my atelier , black and white always beautiful :)

  4. Check out Framesforlife.com. They can make any size frame.

  5. Mary & Tim - Take a photo of your entry way grouping and print that to hang in place of all of those small photos. It might really knock your socks off...

    1. Too funny Karen, we just might have to give your idea a go :)

  6. We typically call the prints Oce (pronounced "o-say") or you can refer to it as an architectural print on bond paper if you are going to a Kinko's or Fed Ex. If you have any friends in the architectural/landscape profession you may be able to talk them into printing you one for free! Most offices have these printers....in fact, I may just try one out her in my office right now! (don't tell!)
    But, you can also get it printed onto mylar or vellum which would give it a vintage look too! I love all the pictures you framed, but the peonies are beautiful!

  7. Awesome post, I want to check out a couple of your other messages. Thank you!

  8. Thanks for the post! I searched around and found something at OfficeMax (only store in the area) that will print at 33x45 for under $7.00! The specs from my order form were: 20# White Oversize Printing: B&W - Single-Sided. I haven't picked it up yet, but once I do I will buy some cheapo MDF moulding and use it to "frame" the print. It won't last forever, but it will make for a nice image that I can swap out easily as season or mood dictates.

  9. I'm saving all the information for the time that I decides to go on with the project. I never hear about those prints before, good to know , thanks.

  10. Anyone who makes these, make sure to tell the employee at the Fedex Office to make it high quality! If they don't turn it up to the maximum quality, the printer will leave enormous black lines across any part of the image that is remotely dark. I wasted a couple of prints because the employee there the first time I went didn't know this.


© 17 Apart. Design by FCD. Privacy Policy.