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Using Engineering Prints as Wall Decor

Learn how to print your photos on engineering prints to use as wall decor!

Learn all about using engineering prints as large-scale decor!

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 apartment 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 designed to showcase line drawings and graphics on oversized prints and are ideal for architects and builders. 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.

Can you really print photos?

I read all of the warnings first. And there are a lot! 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. You can also mostly only print in black and white (Staples has a color option, but I thought that would look like crap). And finally, engineering prints are printed on regular paper. Not photos paper.

I put an order in for four different prints on 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 garbage.

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.

engineering print of a wedding photo

Supplies I used…

(Affiliate links below; read more about those here)

Step 1: Decide on mounting mechanism

I decided to wrap each of my prints around the edges of a foam piece. Like, foam insulation. So it would be reasonably thick while also being lightweight. Plus 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!)

There are other ways you can mount these. You could build frames for them, attach them to a canvas, put them in frames, put them on wood, etc. But as renters, I wanted to use foam because it was lightweight and would all us to hang them using sticky strips. No holes!

Step 2: Cut your foam for mounting

Cutting foam is easy if you have a straight edge and a sharp blade like a utility knife or an X-Acto blade. You can use a straight edge and the knife to slide the foam. If you can’t cut through all the way, you can use a “score and snap” method.

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.

engineering print of a wedding photo and foam insulation

Step 3: Attach the photo

Next it’s time to attach the photo to each foam piece! To adhere the photo to the foam, 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.

Luckily we do have a small balcony, so I ran out there, sprayed the adhesive spray, let the aerosol dissipate, and ran back inside. Probably not the best, but it’s apartment living. Don’t spray this stuff inside.

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.

foam insulation

Step 4: Adhere and wrap the sides

Once the entire front was attached to the foam piece, it was 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).

And with that, you’re done! Let it dry, and give it a coat or two of the Krylon craft spray if you have it. That’s optional.

foam insulation
folding an engineering print onto foam
engineering print of a wedding photo mounted on foam

Step 5: Hang the prints

Since I used foam backing, my prints are light enough that I can stick them to the wall using double-sided sticky tape. I put two small squares of tape at each top corner and one at the bottom center.

Even Command strips would have been overkill. That’s how lightweight these are. Perfect for renters or someone who just doesn’t want to deal with hanging something heavy!

how to make an engineering print

My honest take on engineering prints for decor

I’m really happy with how this experiment turned out. It’s perfect for us right now. Do I think that I would prefer my photos printed on canvas? Well, yeah. But this is also a great option.

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!

engineering print of a wedding photo mounted on foam

Pin my tips for using engineering prints as wall decor!

collage that says can you use engineering prints to print photos with images of the process

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  1. Amanda M says:

    I don’t know exactly how big engineering prints are, but you can get good-quality photo enlargements at Costco for only a few dollars more! $6.99 for a 16″x20″ or $9.99 for a 20″x30″ print! Spread the word! 🙂 I’m definitely getting mine at Costco, but your wrapped look has inspired me and I may try my hand at that!

  2. PenelopePPitstop says:

    I appreciate your honesty on the details of the engineering prints …. I have been tempted to try out this process. You have inspired me to press forward! As for the foam – I have a tip for ya …. I have not ever used the pink foam that you linked to – just the plain white rigid foam you can get at Home Depot (think GIANT bulletin board in my craft room!) …. and my husband was the one who came to my messy – foam bits everywhere – attempt at cutting. Take a dry wall cutter/box cutter/sharp blade cutter and just cut thru the top layer of plastic, then you SNAP the foam on the line! It should break cleanly – you’ll just have to go back with your cutter and slice the back layer of plastic. (I hope I make sense – it’s the same process that is used to cut drywall.)

    • Brittany Merth says:

      Hi! Glad you found it helpful and are going to give it a go. Thanks for the tip about the foam. I’ll have to remember that because that was by far the most frustrating part. Still glad I did it and happy with how the finals turned out. Good luck!!

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