Make an Engineering Print into Wall Decor
Engineering Prints: Showcase your line drawings and graphics with engineering prints. These over-sized prints promote high-quality black and white line drawings in a variety of sizes. Engineering prints are ideal for architects and builders.
I’m doing it. I’m jumping on the engineering print bandwagon. Apologies in advance to my photographer friends, but the truth is, wall art and high-quality photo printing are expensive. And our sad, bare walls needed something, so when I learned about the engineering print hack, I was intrigued. Engineering prints are black and white drawings on paper. They are not designed for photo printing. But they are cheap! I’m talking like, between-2-and-6-bucks-for-a-massive-print cheap. So what are people doing? Why, they’re printing photos on engineering prints, of course.
I read all of the warnings first. Printing your photos as engineering prints will:
- Degrade photo quality, so make sure you use a high-resolution photo. Even then, the quality will not be superb.
- Convert your photo to black and white (Staples has a color option, but I thought that would look like crap).
- Print your photo on regular printer paper, not photo paper.
I put an order in for four different prints on Staples.com. Staples explicitly states that engineering prints are not suitable for photo printing. I ignored that. At $2 a pop, I figured that it wouldn’t be a huge deal if they looked like crap. When I picked them up the next day, I was pleasantly surprised with the quality. Sure, they were not high-quality prints, but for &2, I was satisfied. Plus, if I screwed them up while mounting them, my experiment wouldn’t cost me too much.
So, with my four prints in hand, I gathered the rest of my supplies:
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- For mounting, I picked up a big piece of foam insulation from Home Depot. (I got this one, which barely fit on our Honda Fit.)
- 3M Multipurpose Spray Adhesive.
- Utility knife or X-Acto knife
- Double-stick adhesive or mounting tape.
- Optional: A razor blade.
- Optional: Krylon Workable Fixatif protective craft spray. I had some already, so I used it to give the final product a few coats for protection.
I decided to wrap my prints around the edges of each foam piece, so I didn’t need any paint. I think wrapping the prints around the edges gives a finished, “fake canvas” look. I preferred that to gluing each print on top of the foam and painting the edges. (Note: if you paint, don’t use spray paint. It will eat the foam!)
So, if you’d like to learn how to make an engineering print and turn it into inexpensive wall decor, read on!
Step 1: Cut your foam for mounting.
*As an aside: This is where, like a good DIY blogger, I tell you that this is super easy. It is not. It might not be hard, but it’s really, really frustrating. Have you ever tried to cut foam? Sure, there are probably easier ways than using a giant kitchen knife (one of those easier ways is definitely not scissors), but I had a knife and a razor, and I chose the knife. The scene looked like this when I was done cutting all four pieces, and I will probably be finding foam scraps for MONTHS.
To decide how big I wanted each foam piece to be, I measured the total photo size and subtracted one inch from each side. This accounted for wrapping the print around the edges. So, for example, if your print is 18in x 24in, you want your foam to be 17in x 23in. I marked the desired size on the foam using a marker. Then, I started cutting. I found that it was easiest to cut a little rough and then clean up the edges using either the knife or a razor blade. You don’t need your edges to be completely smooth. Wrapping the photo around the edges will help to hide some of the rough cutting.
Step 2: Adhere the photo to the foam. To do this, I first set the print face-down. Then, I took the foam piece into a well-ventilated area and gave one side a quick coat of the 3M adhesive spray.
After a few seconds, I gently put the sticky side of the foam piece onto the back of the print while it was still face-down on the table. This stuff is really sticky and dries quickly, so I gave it only about 3 seconds before I flipped it back over to smooth out any wrinkles.
Step 3: Now that the entire front is adhered to the foam piece, it’s time to fold down and adhere the sides. Think about it like wrapping a present. First, adhere the two long sides one at a time. To do so, do a quick 3M spray down the area you’d like to stick when you fold the side over; then, fold the side over and hold it for a few seconds (below, first photo). Once you’ve finished both long sides, it’s time to finish “wrapping the present” on the two short sides. You’ll spray each short side just as you did the long sides, but you’ll fold the corners (below, second photo).
You’re done! Let it dry, and give it a coat or two of the Krylon craft spray if you have it. Again, that’s optional.
Since I used foam backing, my prints are light enough that I can stick them to the wall using double-sided tape. I put two small squares of tape at each top corner and one at the bottom center.
Now it’s time for my honest take on using engineering prints for wall decor.
I actually think they look pretty impressive considering each one cost $4. That said, it’s kind of like saying “that ugly thing looks really good considering it’s an ugly thing…it’s really the best of the ugly bunch.” These prints look good…for $4. At the end of the day, they are still cheap-o wall decor. I don’t want to sway you from trying this. I am about 90% happy with mine, so I did put them up above our dresser, and I plan to keep them there. Just level your expectations before making these, especially if you regularly work with higher-quality photos.
The foam was really frustrating to cut. Maybe consider using something that you already have, like an old painting, frame, or piece of plywood, instead of foam.
Also, if you’re going go the engineering prints route, don’t use a photo that’s dominated by dark or light tones, like the one below. Since the prints are pretty low quality, the streaks in the printing will be noticeable. They were noticeable on the center dress picture I ultimately ended up mounting, but I just couldn’t pull the trigger on the one of Mike below. It was just too crappy. The two of us in the mountains look far better than the dress or suit photos.
If you’re thrifty, crafty, and go into this venture with your expectations leveled, you will be pleased with the outcome. Good luck!
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