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DIY Oversized Vintage Map

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but I married a Leprechaun. I’m talkin’ does a jig around the house when the mood strikes him, randomly impersonates a thick Irish accent when telling a joke, and, truth be told, is a tad on the short side. Ahem. I mean he’s the same height as me, so not short at all. That’s usually his argument. 😉
From the time I first met my hubby’s family 5 years ago, they made it abundantly clear just how proud of their Irish heritage they are. And I gotta say, I love it! In everything that’s Irish, God and family come first, and every day can be made better with a bit of Irish spirit. It’s more than ancestral roots; it’s a state of mind.
DIY Oversized Vintage Map

So even though we are proud to be American, bringing in a bit of Irish heritage to our home was a lot of fun. And creating an oversized map of old Ireland seemed like the perfect way to personalize our living room.
Hold onto your hat and run for the hills because it required a few computer tricks. (Eek!)  But even if you’re like me and haven’t sprung for Photoshop software and are a bit technologically challenged, I have no doubt that you can do this one.
Here’s what you’ll need:
  • 1 piece of plywood (later cut to the approximate size of your map)
  • Wood stain (I used Rustoleum Weathered Gray)
  • Brown paint (optional)
  • Several sheets of parchment paper
  • A computer and laser printer
  • Mod Podge
  • Sponge brush and/or small paint brush
  • Scissors
  • A pen or pencil

 

Here’s what you do:
1. Save snapshot pieces of a zoomable map.
 
Whatever sort of map you decide to use, there are tons of resources online where you can find zoomable maps. The Library of Congress and Map History are great places to start. Just be careful not to use one that is copyright restricted.

Once you find the perfect map, zoom in (because zoomable will work best) and capture a snapshot of a portion of the map image. (PC users, you can do this using the Snipping Tool under your Start Menu.)

Continue capturing snapshots and saving each image as pieces of your map. The snapshots should be as close in size with each other as possible.
2. Piece together snapshots in Picmonkey like a puzzle.

Once you have saved all of the snapshots you need of your map, go to Picmonkey.com, hover over the tab that says Design, and click the size of the canvas you need. I chose 8×10.

Once you’ve opened a blank canvas in Picmonkey, click the Overlays tab on the far left toolbar (the one shaped like a butterfly).

In the Overlays toolbar, click Your Own at the top to open the folder where you saved your map snapshots.

Okay, I know. You’re probaby wondering why on earth would I tell you to take snapshot pieces of a map, just to piece them back together again. By taking snapshot pieces and putting them back together in Picmonkey, you are creating a higher resolution file. If you had simply saved the original map image as a whole, you would end up with a very grainy, pixelated map.

Taking apart the map and putting it back together creates a sharp, crisp image that can be blown up to large sizes. Technology is super annoying but amazing at the same time, isn’t it?

On your canvas, place and resize one snapshot at a time and piece them together like a puzzle as you continue to use the Overlay uploading tool. I pieced together one side and the top of the map to make sure my length and width were the right size for the 8×10 canvas.

After you’ve adjusted for the length and width, you can click the Combine All Image Elements icon at the top of the page to prevent any pieces from moving around as you place more pieces.

Once your map is all pieced together, save in as large of a format as possible. Picmonkey calls it “Sean”, which is the highest resolution file option.

If the file is larger than 1 MB, resize it to be just under that size. My file ended up being 995 KB.

3. Upload into Block Posters and print.

I had a hard time figuring out this part without having the capability of Photoshop, but this website was a lifesaver. BlockPosters.com allows you to upload an image and print a poster by dissecting the image into equal parts and creating a PDF. It might sound complicated, but just hang with me for a sec.

On the home screen of the Block Posters website, upload the finished map you saved from Picmonkey. If the image is larger than 1 MB, you’ll need to resize it to just under that size.

Here’s where you need to adjust the poster size of your image and determine what paper size you’re using in your printer. I needed my map to be about 24″ wide and 36″ tall, so I chose portrait orientation at 3 letter sized pages wide.

Once your poster size is configured, download the image and print.

4. Cut, place, and glue your printed map.
When the map finished printing, I double checked the size by laying out the pages and measuring.
Super sweet hubby, Robert, cut a piece of plywood to slightly bigger than the map size.
I stained the plywood piece using Rustoleum Weathered Gray. An hour later, I dry-brushed the edges using a bit of leftover dark brown craft paint.

 

Bless'er House | DIY Oversized Vintage Irish Map Restoration Hardware KnockOff
Then, I tested out the placement of my map so I could determine how much plywood I should leave showing as the frame. (That below shot there helped me see that I needed to pull the map pieces down about an inch.)

 

Bless'er House | DIY Oversized Vintage Irish Map Restoration Hardware KnockOff
From there, I cut any margins on the pages that would overlap.

 

Bless'er House | DIY Oversized Vintage Irish Map Restoration Hardware KnockOff

Concentrating on one page at a time, I marked each page’s placement.

Bless'er House | DIY Oversized Vintage Irish Map Restoration Hardware KnockOff

I brushed on a layer of Mod Podge where I had marked the page and used the placement marking to position and smooth the page onto the plywood. I used an old credit card as sort of a squeegee to smooth out any bubbles as I went.

Then, I repeated the same position, mark, paste, place method on the rest of the map pages.

Bless'er House | DIY Oversized Vintage Irish Map Restoration Hardware KnockOff
And voila! Up close, I can see a few lines but they’re hardly noticeable. And it sure beats the pants off of the Restoration Hardware oversized maps that cost about $1,000. Plus, RH doesn’t have an Irish map as an option.

 

Bless'er House | DIY Oversized Vintage Irish Map Restoration Hardware KnockOff

My in-laws visited Ireland recently, and brought back this Gaelic plate. It translates to “A Thousand Welcomes”. Robert got the idea to screw it into the top of the map, and it’s perfect!

vintage map (2 of 2)
So now the lower wall of our stairway isn’t looking so naked anymore.
vintage map (1 of 2)
And you know what Robert did when I showed the map to him after it was finished? A good ol’ Irish jig. I have to admit, I danced along too. 🙂
Seashell Printer Tray Shadow Box (8 of 15)
I’ll have to figure out a way to weave in some of my Swedish heritage in our home next.
So even though it seems weird that I’m saying this the week of Halloween: Peace, love, and shamrocks, friends!
And lots of Irish blessings,
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25 Comments

    1. Hi Gwendolynn! We got the plywood from Lowe’s. I don’t remember how much it cost, unfortunately. They’ll even cut it to the size you need for you if you ask. 🙂

  1. Hi Lauren,
    I just found your blog and have spent all day drooling over your projects! I have a couple of questions. I am technically challenged and got a little lost on the pic monkey directions. Your engineered print of the sheet music inspired me and when I saw the Irish map I thought of a project combining the two hopefully. Could I take a map I want to make for my husband and do it in an engineering print and tea stain it like your sheet music to get that vintage look like your Irish map? I am new to this so I really want to get it right to surprise him! Would I need to do the pic monkey steps above to do the engineered print so it would be in th e best resolution? I want to make the map in the 3’x4′ size. Thanks for any help you can provide, I appreciate it!

    1. Aw thank you, Kris! So glad you’re enjoying it. I certainly think you can make this on engineer print and tea stain it. I hadn’t figured out that trick yet when I first wrote this map post. The reason I had to piece the image together into Picmonkey was to increase the resolution of the image. Otherwise, if I blew up the image into a large print without using Picmonkey, it would have been very pixelated. I hope that explained any questions you had. If not, let me know. 🙂

      1. Thank you Lauren for getting back to me.
        Would I still need to save the image I want to do in Picmonkey for the engineered print to make sure when it is enlarged the map will be crisp as well? It is a picture I saw online of a map it is not one of my own pictures. I guess I have to see also since it is not mine if I can change it. I am sooo not good at this technology stuff! Thanks again! Oh and just incase it is not my phone and a glitch on your site I thought you might like to know. When I am typing I can not see the letters it looks blank but the curser moves a long I just can’t see what I have typed! So excuse any typos etc!

  2. Beautiful. I love maps so we have a map in pretty much every room in our house! I’m excited to steal this idea and put yet another beautiful old map somewhere!

    1. You’re a girl after my own heart. 🙂 I’m a map fanatic too. Maybe I should make that a goal- a map in every room of our house.

  3. LOVE, LOVE LOVE IT! AGAIN THANK YOU FOR ALL THE STEP BY STEPS!!! YOU SAVE ALL OF US FROM HAIR PULLING!!!! :0)

    1. Thanks, Sandy! So glad to save you from those hair-pulling moments. I’ve had many myself. 🙂

  4. This is completely brilliant! I have spent serious time myself trying to use The LIbrary of Congress and other resources to get bigger, oversized pieces of art. I know this must have taken you so much time. Thank you. This will help me so much.

  5. You are so talented, Lauren! This looks like something straight out of the Pottery Barn Catalog for $200! I didn’t know anything about Block Posters but it looks like a fantastic website to use!

    1. If you want to make one, I’ll help you with it. Maybe my instructions aren’t the most clear. I’ll have to tweak them. I stole the lamp from our office. I found it at Goodwill several months ago (where else? Haha)

  6. Love it Lauren! Um I think we read each others minds this week…cause I posted my DIY map this week too : )
    Miss visiting your page on a weekly basis…this full time job is taking over ahhh!!! so glad I got to see this though…turned out awesome!

    Deb

    1. Haha I just commented the same thing on your map post but for some reason it didn’t show up. Too funny though! And hey, life happens. You’ll find your balance soon, I’m sure. It’s gotta be tough. Thanks for the love girl!

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