I have been seeing lots of tutorials on Pinterest for using engineering prints (extra large copies designed for blueprints) to make extra large family photographs. The tutorials usually explain that this printing process is designed for line drawings and may suffer a little in detail. They stress the importance of starting with a high quality image, although most don't mention exactly how big. And they explain various methods for gluing the thin paper print to various backgrounds to create a finished, and often framed image. (Sugar Bee Crafts has a great tutorial that even explained a what NOT to do) I didn't need a giant family photo, but I did want some high impact, low cost decorations for Lydia's "Four and Fabulous" birthday party. I decided to give engineering prints a try.
The tutorials I found referenced several office supply stores as providing engineering prints, but when I looked online, Staples was the one that popped up in the easiest format. The tutorials I found also referenced taking your digital image into the store and having them upload it. Because was searching online, I stumbled onto Staples Over-sized Print Online Ordering Center. I was able to upload my image directly from my computer, see that it fit on the largest 3 foot by 4 foot size, see the $5 price (UNBELIEVABLE!), and then place my order and schedule pick up! So Easy! There were a few hick-ups, but pretty minor. First, not all Staples are equipped to print this large. Second, not all Staples that can print this large will print photos. I am worried that with the influx of Pinterest inspired projects, copy places may enforce the idea that these prints are for blueprints and engineering (line drawings) only. The first location that I placed my order called me a few hours later to tell me that they would not print a photo. The guy blamed it on a bad drum in their printer and referenced that they can only do line drawings. He did suggest an alternate store which was close to my work and able to help me. The only other issue was that the online order form automatically suggests payment when you place the order. This meant that I paid for the print BEFORE finding out that the one store won't print a photo. They guy is still checking on how to do a refund through the Internet. If you look closely, there is an arrow that will switch it to "pay at pickup" and I think that is a MUCH better option.
OK, now that we worked out the process, I got to play around with what I wanted to print. I decided, partly because the theme is glamorous and fabulous and partly because they only print in black and white, to stick with vintage movie stars. I did a google search for LARGE images and just typed in different names that I thought were "fabulous". I love this picture of Audrey Hepburn from "Breakfast at Tiffany's" but didn't know if that long cigarette holder was an issue for a preschool party.
So, I photo-shopped it out and added a line drawing of a noise maker!
I found this great image of Marilyn Monroe with a birthday cake. It never hurts to search for the random image you want for your birthday party and the word "birthday" or "cake". That is how I found the Alice in Wonderland image where Alice is holding a cake (with a dagger in it, but who cares!) I used the photo-shop clone tool to multiply the one candle into four!
I decided that I didn't really need each image to be 3 feet by 4 feet in size, so I used photo-shop one last time to put both photos into one image. The Staples u- loader only seems to understand vertically oriented images so I had to rotate my pictures to make it work. I also had to set it up in photo-shop to already be 36 inches by 48 inches to have everything line up without any problems on the Staples site. It took a few tries to get everything set correctly, but once I figured it out I was all set.
I had several other ideas for more posters, but decided to do a trial run first to check the quality. Because I never saw information on how big the picture file needed to be I was only willing to risk $5 to test everything out. The original Marilyn picture was 61KB (dimensions 940x1024) and the original Audrey image was 459KB (dimensions 1700x2100) if that helps make any sense to anyone. When I placed my online order, the Staples site showed same day (and sometimes next day) pickup as a $5 rush charge. I ordered at 8am on Monday and was prepared to pick it up late Tuesday or on Wednesday. I got a call two hours later that they were ready! I don't expect them to always be this fast, but I wouldn't pay the extra for the rush service.
Here is the finished print. There is a little wonkly pattern on the bottom edge from the printer, but considering that they aren't even supposed to work on photos, I was happy! It probably all depends on how old and in need of service or how full of ink or toner or something your particular store's printer is, so be prepared for variations. Because I split my images, each picture is 2 foot x 3 foot, which is PLENTY big enough for preschool decorations!
For a quality check, here is a close up of Marilyn (the smaller of my picture files). I placed the ruler in the picture so you could get a sense of scale.
And here is the extreme close up of her face. A little blurry, but for party decorations, that are high impact and LOW cost, I a SO thrilled with these FABULOUS engineering prints! Thanks Staples for providing the "Easy Button" for my party decorations! I have already ordered 3 more posters, which will provide me with an Eiffel Tower, a Paris Metro station, Fred Astair holding a birthday sign, and a few french signs for various locations! I am so excited to NOT have to paint decorations this year; I can't WAIT to tape these prints up at the party; and with the low cost I won't mind throwing them away when we are finished! FABULOUS!