April 11th, 2013
We swapped Daniel’s office and the guest room last summer. I fixed up the new guest room right away, but I wasn’t inspired to do anything with Daniel’s home office until recently.
I’m sure you’ve seen those big black and white (cheap!) engineering prints from Staples all over the internet lately. I got it in my head that I wanted to cover a whole wall with them, but when I mocked it up in Photoshop it looked too busy and cluttered. Instead I decided to blow up a single photograph and divide it into sections so I could print it large enough to fill a whole wall (aka tiled printing).
I chose a photo I took at Doubtful Sound, which was one of Daniel’s favorite parts of our New Zealand trip. The photo mural ended up looking pretty sweet, and it only cost about $50. I pulled Daniel’s instruments out and put them on display too. Daniel doesn’t usually notice his surroundings much, but when he walked in and saw what I did with his space I heard him yell, “Awesome!!” Now if only I could convince him to trade in that ugly PC for a pretty Mac…
Disclaimer: That’s not Daniel’s actual desk chair. I couldn’t bear to post his big ugly brute of a chair on my blog. ;)
To make your own photo mural you’ll need:
a high resolution digital photograph
a reasonably fast computer
a newish version of Photoshop (I used CS4)
basic Photoshop skills
a tape measure
a nearby Staples
1. Choose your high resolution photograph. High contrast shots work well since they look good in black and white. Your image will be pretty fuzzy up close once it’s enlarged to wall size, but from across the room the loss of image quality won’t be as noticeable. I think landscapes work well, since they look good even when they’re a bit blurry.
2. Open your image in Photoshop and convert it to black and white. Adjust the levels, brightness, and contrast until it looks the way you want.
3. Measure the wall you want to cover to determine how tall and how wide your mural should be. Remember not to block any outlets or vents.
4. In Photoshop, resize the photo to the width of the wall plus 5 inches to allow for some overlap when you hang the prints. Then crop the image vertically to the height you want the mural to be. When I resized my image to 130″ wide Photoshop warned me that some old versions couldn’t handle files that large, so keep that in mind if you’re using an older version of Photoshop. I used CS4.
5. If you’d like, you can sharpen the enlarged photograph a bit, but even with sharpening the quality will be pretty crappy at 100%. That’s just the way it goes when you blow up an image this big! Have a cup of tea handy to sip on while your computer processes the huge file (my file was over 1GB).
6. Place guides to divide the top of your photograph into 36″ x 48″ sections, since 36″ x 48″ is the largest black and white engineering print Staples can produce. You may have a section at the end of the row that isn’t the full 36″ wide, but that’s not a problem.
7. Use the marquee tool to select a section and copy it. Create a new document, and paste the selection into the new document. Save it as a high quality jpeg and number it so you’ll remember where to position it in the mural.
8. Repeat step 7 with each section across the top of your image.
9. Now move your guides around to divide the bottom of your photo into sections as close to 48″ x 36″ as possible, and repeat step 7 for each segment.
10. When you’re finished you should have individual jpeg files that complete your photo mural.
11. Go to Staples print and copy website right here, and create an account. Then click “Engineering Prints” and a window will pop up where you can upload your files. It’s a little glitchy, so I recommend uploading and adding each file to your shopping cart one at a time. Under print options make sure to choose size 36″ x 48″ prints for each file you upload and select the correct orientation. Do not check “fit content to paper”, otherwise your photo sections that are smaller than 36″ x 48″ will print larger and won’t fit together with the rest of the mural. After you’ve uploaded everything complete the check out process.
12. Your prints will be ready to pick up from your local Staples store in a day or two. Make sure you check them in the store before you bring them home. Two of my prints were torn and one was printed incorrectly so I had to reorder it. Ugh. Staples—not the best customer service, but these prints are dirt cheap so I shouldn’t really complain.
13. Use scissors to trim the blank edges off your prints.
14. Starting with the top left section of the mural use clear thumbtacks to pin the first print to the wall where you want it. Work from left to right along the top of the image, pinning each photo so that it overlaps the previous one a little bit (I overlapped about 1/2″ or so). Overlapping the prints means you don’t have to be as exact about your placement.
15. The last image in the row will likely need to be trimmed to fit the wall, since you printed the mural a little wider than necessary to allow for overlapping. Measure how much you need to trim off, mark the print with a pencil, and trim it to size.
16. Once you’ve pinned the top row of prints, pin the bottom row starting at the left and working your way to the bottom right. As in step 15, trim the last print to fit the wall.
17. Don’t stress about perfection, this is one of those purposefully imperfect projects. Embrace the slightly disjointed, layered paper look!