Thank you so much for all your lovely comments on my home office makeover! I was blown away by how kind you all were about the end result, and now I want to invite everybody over to work with me in there and I'll make us all pumpkin spice lattes* for our 4 o'clock treat. (What, you don't have a 4 o'clock treat? Why, sometimes I have a 4 o'clock treat and elevenses—which is, as you might expect, an 11am treat.)
*My pumpkin spice lattes aren't really pumpkin spice lattes, by the way, they're just the poor man's version: basically, I heat up some milk in the microwave, pour in some of the leftover morning coffee, add a vigorous shaking of cinnamon and allspice, whisk everything up with a fork, and—if I'm being really wacky—add a dollop of that whipped cream in a can, although I tend not to be able to be trusted around that in general, really, because I do awful things like spray it onto the back of my hand and then lick it off. (Why did I just confess that? That's what we should be warning the next generation against sharing on the Internet, you know. Never mind those photos of you doing topless Jagerbombs in Cancun, my dear, just don't confess to eating whipped cream from the can. Google never forgets!)
Anyway, this is not what I wanted to talk about. What I wanted to talk about is how easy it is to take an old photograph you love of your grandmother and blow it up to become a pretty cool thing you can hang on the wall of your office. This is what I did, of course, and I really like how it turned out. And the best part is: it was so easy! No, wait, the best part is: it was so cheap! Okay, those are both the best parts. Either way, I advise that you do this immediately, and now I would like to show you how. Do you remember what mine looked like? It looked like this.
And with that visual reminder, we are ready to begin.
1. Choose Your Photo
So first of all, you need to find a photograph you love. I've had this one of my German grandma (the one we call Omi) on my desk for a few years. Look how glamorous she is! Isn't she just so glamorous? So gorgeous in her cat-eye sunglasses and her white shorts! I think she must have been just around my age when this was taken, or maybe just a few years older (but with three kids!), and I love absolutely everything about it. If you have a photograph like this—one that makes you simultaneously happy and sad when you look at it—this is the one you want to blow up.
The next step is to measure the space you want to hang your photo in, so you can decide how big you want to make it. Here is the caveat: if you are printing this at Kinko's, which is the way I am about to tell you to do it, the widest you can make it is 36 inches across. The good news, however, is that you can make it as long as you want; mine, for example, is 36 inches wide and 55 inches long. Bear in mind, of course, that you will be paying to print this by the square foot, so the bigger you make it, the more it's going to cost, but also bear in mind that you'll only be paying 75 cents a square foot, so it's pretty unlikely that you're going to be bankrupting yourself if you go a few inches longer.
2. Scan Your Photo
Once you've chosen your photo and figured out how big you want to make your final print, it's time to scan it—and, if necessary, crop the scan a little to make the shape you want. As you can see, my original photo was a square (with a border), but my final project was going to be a rectangle; this meant that I had to crop the image and get rid of the border to make sure it would print at 36x55.
3. Print Your Photo
Once you've scanned and cropped your image, save it on a disc and head to your nearest Kinko's (or, if you're not in America or don't have a nearby Kinko's, your nearest equivalent: some sort of office/printing store.) Something amazing that I never knew about Kinko's is that they have these crazy big printers; they're just like your normal home printers but they're totally on steroids. Walk in, take your disc to the counter, and tell the person behind it that you want to print the image on a large-format printer. The person will ask you how big, and you—having already determined this, and knowing in advance that the widest you can print on a Kinko's large format printer is 36 inches—will tell the person your measurements. The person will press a button, walk with you over to the large format printer, and hey presto, there's your crazy-big piece of paper coming out of the printer already, just like magic.
Word to the wise, by the way: print in black and white. If you print in black and white, your photo will end up being 75 cents a square foot at Kinko's. This meant that my photo—as enormous as it was, at 36x55—cost me just $9.74 with tax. (If you print in color, it's $7.50 a square foot. The caveat here, however, is that you can print as wide as 60 inches across. So on the one hand, you can make a crazy, crazy big print if you print on the color printer. On the other, it will cost you a whole lot more to do it. These are California prices, however, and I am unsure about whether they would be the same across the country. And obviously, if you're not doing this at a Kinko's—though if you have one nearby, I promise it is super easy and painless—your mileage will vary.)
4. Buy Your MDF
Once you have your blown-up photograph rolled up in your hand and you are feeling very pleased about only paying $9.74 for it, it is time to buy your MDF. You can buy a sheet of MDF at a hardware store—I bought mine at Home Depot for $25—and have them cut it right there to the size of your photo. You will undoubtedly have some MDF left over from this, of course, which you should keep for when you make another one of these after you love the first one so much. (If you're really good at planning ahead, make two at once from the same sheet of MDF!)
5. Prime Your MDF and Paint the Sides
Once you are home with your MDF—I used MDF, by the way, because it was so smooth and a nice half-inch thick, but plywood would be fine too as long as didn't have lots of bumps and gnarls—you are going to want to prime that bad boy. Your priming can be super messy, because you just want to create a surface for the paper to stick to, but you should also paint the edges of your MDF whatever color you want them to be, because those are the parts you're going to see. I painted mine white.
6. Drill Your Holes
Once everything is dry, which should only take a few hours, you want to drill a hole in each corner of your MDF. This is because you're going to hang it up just like this before you paste your photo onto it. Just work with me here: this way, you're not going to be drilling through paper and risking ripping the whole thing. Even better, if you decide you hate it in a few months, you can just rip this photo down, print something else, and paste it right over the top with the whole thing still drilled into the wall. So go on: drill your holes now. Make them about an inch in from each corner.
7. Drill Your MDF Into the Wall
Or just get someone else to do it in their gym clothes while you take unflattering pictures of them. You know, either way.
8. Paste On Your Photo (Yay, This Is The Fun Part!)
Have you ever put up wallpaper? I haven't, but I imagine it's a fairly similar process to this. Basically, you want to cover your MDF—which is now mounted to the wall—with some kind of glue. We used Mod Podge and a roller, but I'm betting you could use spray adhesive if that's just what you had around. Pay careful attention to the edges, because that's really where you want it to stick the most.
As soon as you've done that, and not a moment after, unroll your printed photo and line it up with the top of your MDF. Get it as straight as you can, then slowly unroll it down over the MDF, pressing and smoothing all the way.
9. Trim Your Edges, If There Are Edges To Be Trimmed
Somehow, we had a little extra paper on two sides of the MDF, despite the print and the wood both being 36x55. It was only a teeny-tiny amount, but we—by which I mean I, because I'm the one who'd have to look at it all day and let it annoy me—decided to trim it anyway. You can just use a razorblade for this and slice really, really carefully.
10. Smooth Out the Bubbles
Look, you're not Martha Stewart: there are going to be some bubbles. It's just science that there would be some bubbles. Smooth them out as best you can with your Safeway club card and make peace with the fact that you're not going to get them all. Some bubbles will remain. They won't bug you half as much as you think they might.
And there you have it: you're done! It's not a complicated process at all, despite me managing to break it down into ten steps: it's just printing a really, really big image and sticking it to a piece of wood that you've drilled into the wall, basically, but it does—if I do say so myself—create a rather large impact and for not a whole lot of cash. This project came to about $35 total for me: just under $10 for the print, plus $25 for the wood (of which I only used about half.) I had the primer, white paint, and Mod Podge already, although even if you had to buy those things from scratch, you're probably looking at no more than $50 tops to make this entire thing (with the bonus of supplies left over for other projects.) And it doesn't take a whole lot of time either: you could do it all in a day.
Any questions? Any thoughts? Any ideas for which picture you might use if you decide to tackle this project yourself? I'd love to see it if you do. As for me, I'm now entertaining ideas of making a whole room full of these. Can you imagine? One grandparent on each wall!