Friday, January 17, 2014

DIY Photo Canvas

With over 68,900 pictures stored onto my Mac I'm constantly looking for different ways to creatively display our photos. I mean really, what good are these memories if they're just sitting in a virtual file somewhere, right?! Whenever I'm in someone's house and I see family photos on canvas I think to myself I've got to do this! And while I love the way a black and white family picture looks on canvas I always hesitate at the high cost. What if I don't like the way the end product looks? What if I get tired of a certain picture and want to change it out but end up keeping it on the mantle forever because the damn thing cost me $300.

Every single time I looked into ordering one, I chickened out.

And thank goodness that I did--because friends, I have discovered how to make my own photo canvas for next to nothing.

Exhibit A: The two pictures seen here cost me less than $20 to make. Yes, that's right LESS THAN $20!!

Here are the steps I took to create bigger than life family pictures.

What You'll Need-- Picture print, foam insulation board, razor blade, spray adhesive and spray Modge Podge (optional.)

Step 1-chose pictures that have meaning and would look good converted to black and white. Using your computer's photo software convert your picture to black and white (most have this option) and look for good tonal quality. You may need to adjust your contrast or brightness to find the best look. The above picture on the left already had great contrast with the kids in the forefront and the trees in the background. The picture on the right, however, has awful tonal quality.

For example my face is washed out and way too bright. The walls of the hospital room are flushed and don't provide the greatest of textures but it doesn't matter to me, this was the first picture we took as a family of 6 and that has more meaning to me than the quality of the photo.

Step 2- E-mail your pictures to your local FedEx/Kinko's and order "architectural prints" of each. The cost will range between $4.95-$9.95 for each picture depending on size. Why is the cost so cheap? Architectural prints are printed in high quality onto plain paper not photographic paper which costs so much more. Also, the pictures have to be black and white. You cannot complete this project with color photos, sorry folks but large color prints are expensive. Both of the above pictures were $4.95 and were printed up in a 24 x 36 inch size. You can also print a 36 x 48 and the cost is $9.00. Like this canvas we did for our bedroom. What an inexpensive way to cover such a large, lonely area! 

This Metro sign was the first thing we saw in Paris as we ascended up the stairs from underground. Our entire bedroom is filled with black and white pictures from our Paris trips so this big abstract photo fits in.

Step 3- Purchase a $12 foam insulation board from your local home improvement store. Foam insulation boards can be found in the drywall/insulation area and can range anywhere from $9-$12 depending on thickness levels. I went with a 1.5 inch thick board. Here's a picture of the one I bought and to see it online click here Home Depot.

Now watch out because these boards are HUGE! They typically come in 4ft by 8ft sizes so unless you have a flatbed truck, I recommend buying or bringing a retractable razor so you can split it up for easier transport. Even after splitting it in two pieces I had to tie it to the roof of my minivan and drive ever-so-carefully home. But if you've got more patience than I do, cut it up into the estimated sizes of your prints while still at the store and it will make transport that much easier. The $12 board you see above was enough to make all 3 of those pictures, and I even had a little left over!

Step 4- Using your razor blade cut the board about 2.5-3 inches smaller than your print. This allows the picture to cover the sides of the board and onto the back for secure installation. Beware--cutting a straight line into foam isn't all that easy. And fyi the little foam balls get everywhere.

Step 5- Spray glue the picture to the foam board. Lay your cut foam piece on a tabletop or the ground and carefully place the picture on top. Starting on one side, lift up the picture and spray a section of the board with your spray adhesive.

Any spray adhesive will work

Carefully lay picture back down and with your palm or a spreading tool smooth out the paper so no air bubbles get trapped and make sure picture is securely glued to board. Lift another section of the paper and continue spraying and ironing until the entire photo paper is glued to the board.

Step 6- Wrap the picture around the board like a present. If your calculations were right, you should have a 2.5-3 inch border of paper all around the board. Here's the fun part. Start on one side and fold the corner in and wrap the paper around the back of the board.


Once you've folded over the paper secure it with either a staple gun or even duct tape,
which is what I used.

Here's what the back of mine looks like all taped up!

Step 7 (optional)- Spray a protective coating on top.
I say optional because I could not find spray Modge Podge anywhere.

I tried Michael's and Hobby Lobby with no luck, so I ended up not spraying the family photos. In fact, I had an old bottle of acrylic spray that I attempted to spray on the Metro picture, hence all those white spray marks you see (that kind of look like graffiti). I'm not sure if it's because the bottle was old or if I sprayed too close but either way I didn't want to attempt it on the smaller ones. If I can find Spray Modge Podge then I will definitely spray the smaller ones. I think a glossy coat will give it a little shine and bring out the contrast even more!

But the best part about this project is that I can EASILY change these pictures out whenever I want. All it takes is an email and some duct tape since I'll always have the foam board. 

Now if only I had more wall space :)

Good Luck!

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