In this post, I’m sharing how we installed and framed a giant engineer print onto canvas. This large scale DIY is a fun way to display a favorite memory, and it can be completed in an afternoon!
You know that I’ve been craving the addition of family photos in our entryway-slash-staircase-slash-hallway-slash-landing (we use all those descriptors interchangeably!), and while I still have every intention of hanging more, I wanted to start with something eye-catching. The landing at the top of the stairs was the perfect spot to hang something large, and I knew an engineer print would keep it more budget friendly. To kick things up a notch, we mounted the print onto stretched canvas and created a custom oak frame!
The Trick to Selecting a Photo
Engineer prints are inexpensive black and white prints, traditionally used for – wait for it – engineering and architectural plans. I liken the quality and look to that of a photocopy print. Slightly grainy, instantly nostalgic. With all this in mind, I find that the less visual clutter a photo has, the better the engineer print will turn out. Think: sparse backgrounds, or a low depth of field. We took this family photo a month ago, and it felt like the perfect fit!
Tip: If you’re still unsure of the best photo, I recommend playing around with your favorite images and seeing how they look in grayscale. If you don’t have photo editing software, you can do this from your smartphone by applying a black and white filter!
Where to Make Your Print
I use the FedEx online print center, and I upload a full color print in the highest resolution I have. You can also search locally for companies that make construction prints or architecture prints. A 36″ x 48″ engineer print typically costs less than $10.
Now that you have your print, here’s the rundown of how we mounted ours to a stretched canvas and made a custom frame!
Tools + Supplies Used
- 36″ x 48″ engineer print
- 36″ x 48″ stretched canvas
- Mod Podge Matte
- 2 – 1″ x 3″ x 8′ oak boards
- miter saw
- nail gun
- Polycrylic in matte
- 220 grit sanding block
- wood glue
- corner clamps
- measuring tape
- grey paint + foam brush (optional)
What We Did
Trim the white border and brush the edges of the canvas with grey paint | This first step is optional, but I figured it couldn’t hurt! When I received my engineer print, there was a slim white border on the paper that I trimmed off with scissors. This made the print slightly smaller than the canvas, so I diluted grey paint and used a foam brush to paint the edges of my canvas – just in case the canvas would be visible when I was done.
Spoiler: The engineer print stretched enough during the process that this step wasn’t completely necessary, but I knew it would always drive me nuts if it hadn’t covered the canvas!
Apply the print to the canvas with a generous amount of Mod Podge | This next step is easiest with two people, because you need to act fast! I started by brushing a 3-4″ section of Mod Podge onto the top of the canvas. Scott and I very carefully placed the top of the print onto the Mod Podge, and then he continued to hold up the print while I continued to brush on the gloop.
We worked in thirds, pressing and smoothing down the print as we went. Be generous with your Mod Podge application. I used a paint brush to get it on nice and thick. It’s better to have more than not enough!
Once the entire print is on the canvas, take some time to smooth it out as best you can. There will be wrinkles! Some will like this, some won’t. I’m in the former camp; I think it adds an interesting canvas-y texture that looks intentional. It’s the nature of the thin engineer print, but stay calm and focus on smoothing any large pockets of air. Use gentle pressure so that the print doesn’t rip.
Liberally apply Mod Podge to the print | With the print in place, it’s time to Mod Podge again! Applying Mod Podge to the top of the print will create a clear barrier and give it a nice sheen. We chose to use a matte finish, but I’d say that it dried down to an eggshell. Be liberal in your application here, too!
The Mod Podge will go on white (much like school glue), but it dries completely clear. Once you put it on, don’t touch it again, or risk smudging the Mod Podge. Here’s how our print looked after brushing it on:
Meanwhile, make the frame! | A canvas this size will take a few hours to dry (to the touch), so it was time to make our frame! We wanted a light wood finish, so we used 1″ x 3″ x 8′ oak boards, which allowed us to cut one short side and one long side from each board. Scott mitered the corners and used a sanding block to knock down any rough edges.
Brush Polycrylic onto the oak frame pieces | Then I took over and brushed Polycrylic (also in a matte finish) on all four sides of the four oak frame pieces. One coat is more than enough for a frame, since it’s not an item that will get touched all the time.
Tip: We love using Polycrcylic, because it never, ever yellows over time. The matte finish is our favorite for a super low sheen!
Once dry, glue and clamp the frame together | We added a dab of glue to each corner and used corner clamps to keep each corner in place. Then Scott popped a nail into each corner to keep things secure. If you don’t have corner clamps, have a second person hold the frame tightly together before you pop in those nails!
Nail the frame to the canvas | Your canvas should be dry within a few hours, or you could wait overnight for this step. Once it’s ready, wedge it into the frame carefully. If it’s a tight fit, you’re doing it right! We popped three nails along the long sides and two on the short sides.
We wanted our canvas to sit almost to the very front of the frame, but you can play around here! It’s personal preference, but we think that having the canvas near the front gives it a more high-end look.
Hang and enjoy! | We used two drywall screws about 2′ apart to hang our finished family portrait in the landing. Remember to use a level!
As it turns out, we have an affinity for this location! The photo below was taken by our friend Renee when Lucy was 6 months old.
You can see that the wrinkling is still apparent in the finished product, but again, I like that! (The big thing to avoid is air bubbles, which can happen if you don’t apply enough Mod Podge.) The large print makes our almost 10′ ceilings feel even taller, and it makes us smile every single day.
PS: If you decide to create your own canvas engineer print, we’d love to see! Make sure to take @yellowbrickhome #YBHDIY on Instagram.