Make Your Own Canvas Print for Less than $4 and Less than 30 Minutes!

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All of the inspiration from this post comes from Trendy Thrifting. She did a fantastic post about her DIY canvas. This is just an alternative method borne of her method. There are tons of methods for a DIY canvas print that you can find on Pinterest.

This is what I used for my canvas print size of 18″x24″.

What I Used:
Loctite Spray Adhesive ($4.38 at Lowes). Trendy Thrifting says this is THE adhesive to use as other adhesives may dissolve your foam. For that reason, I went straight for it. This can will cover a LOT of canvases, and I was very liberal with application. You can NOT find this at most local craft stores. They kinda scratched their head and looked at me when I looked. As far as I can tell, you can find this at home improvement stores such as Menards, Lowes, or The Home Depot. It was located near the paint section. There are multiple times of this adhesive; I purchased the General Performance bottle.

20″x30″ White Foam Board ($1.73 from a craft store). Partnered with a 40% off coupon that Jo-Ann’s, Hobby Lobby, and Michaels almost always have available (try the RetailMeNot smartphone app to easily access the coupons).

18″x24″ Staples Engineering Canvas Print ($1.99 at Staples). You can order this in-store with help of an associate, or if you’d rather get it all done at home, you can order it on their online platform. You can choose to pick it up in-store or have it delivered to your home. In-store pick-up is free, so I’d recommend that. Unless you want to pay a rush fee, it seems like they will take at least 24 hours to make your print. Mine was done 5 hours earlier than expected (they e-mailed me!), so I went in and picked it up early too. Engineering prints were NOT designed for photos, so there will be warnings about how your photo wasn’t designed for it, but it still usually prints just fine.

Items You Already Own (Free!). Depending on what you’re doing with it, I also found it helpful to have Scotch tape (any tape type would work), an Xacto knife, scissors, and a ruler handy.

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Things about Engineering Prints You Should Know:

  • Standard (and cheap) engineering prints only print in black and white. You do not need to make your photo black and white. Their system will do it on its own.
  • Your photo will not be crisp and very high-quality. It will look good, but it isn’t going to be as crisp as an actual photo print would be. Remember, these are printing on printers that weren’t designed for serious photo quality.
  • They may look like canvas, but engineering prints are honestly just really-light paper. For that reason, as soon as you get it home, get it unrolled and flattened to avoid the paper fighting with you later when you start your DIY canvas. This also means you need to be careful with your paper as you can easily crease it or tear it.
  • If possible, try to view your photo in black and white before submitting for an engineering print. You want to make sure that you enjoy the appearance of the black and white version.
  • Choose a photo with a higher resolution. The higher, the better. Printing off Facebook or off a cell phone picture is going to make the photo look even lower quality. Shoot for at least 2000×2000 pixels for the smallest size engineering print (18″x24″). You can always choose lower-quality ones, but be prepared for your engineering print to match that quality. (To be fair, though, $1.99 is not a high price to pay to experiment and find out if you can tolerate the quality. Some of my favorite photos were taken on my lower-quality cell phone.)
  • I’ve heard that some Staples may refuse to print photos as an engineering print. If you think about it, this makes sense. They can offer these prints so cheap because these prints are designed to only use a slight bit of black ink when printing enlarged floor plans and design plans. Printing a photo uses WAY more ink. If this is the case, please respect your Staples’ stance and order elsewhere. However, if it seems that the employee is just trying to tell you that it may turn out a bit pixelated, say that you’d like it printed anyway. This is the difference between the employee trying to help you get high-quality prints or them telling you that their policy doesn’t allow printing photos on engineering prints. If they won’t print it, I’d recommend Photojojo who will print and ship you the largest size that Staples offers for $25. You can also try other office supply stores such as Office Max.

Alternatively, you could order a 24″x36″ print and use the same foam board size, and make sure that the edge of your photo doesn’t have anything important on it. That way, you can just do a “large wrap” around the sides to utilize the entire white foam board and, honestly, make this entire process easier. You’ll be skipping every step about trimming the foam board which makes this way easier.

You can do this DIY canvas in a larger size. Staples prints Engineering prints in 18″x24″, 24″x36″, and 36″x48″. Most craft stores sell foam board in 20″x30″ and 32″x40″. To go with the largest size available at Staples, I recommend checking out Trendy Thrifting‘s original post as she uses home foam insulation from a home improvement store instead of craft foam board (but I think it ends up costing a bit more that way as you can’t use a coupon from most home improvement stores).

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How To Make (Takes 30 minutes at most)

  1. Get all of your supplies. Depending on if you need to trim your foam, you’ll have more or less supplies.
  2. If possible, have straightened your engineering print before-hand. Staples will roll them up and rubber band them after printing them. I left mine out flat overnight underneath my foam board with a couple medium-weight objects on it. In the morning, the engineering print wasn’t trying to “roll up” anymore. It stayed flat which made everything so much easier.
  3. Decide how large you’d like your DIY canvas to be. I used the size of my engineering print and kinda eye-balled it. If you want to be professional, you should get out a ruler and measure out the size of your engineering print. Remember that you need some excess “edge” of the engineering print to wrap around your canvas, so if you have a 18″x24″ print, you may want to trim your foam board to 17″x23″.
  4. Use the Xacto knife to gently trace a line where you’ll be cutting the foam board. You can press hard, and it will actually cut it, but I find it easier and more accurate to press lightly, fold on the crease, then lightly cut the other side as well. Then the piece just comes off really easily.
  5. Decide on placement of your engineering print. You’ll want the print face-up with the foam board underneath it. Check the edges. You’ll need to be able to “wrap” the print around the sides to tape on the back, so ensure that you have enough print left on the edges. If not, retrim the board.
  6. Lift up the bottom part of your print and use your spray adhesive liberally. Ensure the print is where you want it, and gently press down. The adhesive doesn’t “adhere” right away, so you have some wiggle room to lift up and reapply if it turns out it’s slightly crooked. No matter how much of the ‘adhesive” I sprayed it one spot (I even had a tiny puddle in one area), it didn’t seem to wrinkle or soften the paper, so you can apply pretty liberally. Smooth from the inner area towards the outer edges to ensure the print is smooth.
  7. Lift up the upper half of your print and repeat the process.
  8. Finalize that you like where everything is, and let it dry for a bit. I let mine dry for an hour, but I doubt it needed it.
  9. Flip the DIY canvas print face-down, and fold in the edges. Go one side at a time. Make sure you have a nice, smooth crease at the edge of your canvas, and pull it slightly taut. Tape down one spot at a time until you’ve finished an entire edge. Pretend you’re wrapping a holiday gift, and that’s about the type of folding you’ll be doing. I preferred the tape as I find the adhesive to be a bit unwieldy in small areas, but you could use the adhesive if you have a lot of excess print that needs to be folded. I only had an inch at best.
  10. That’s it! Now you put it on the wall!

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