April 26, 2017


Like many young families, we are on a tight budget.
The cost of living in the San Francisco Bay Area is ranked the most expensive place to live in the nation.  If it hadn't been our strong family connections here, my husband Kacey and I might have considered moving to a more affordable location.  Take Hawaii for example.  I can picture myself enjoying the gorgeous tropical weather, surf, and white sandy beaches.  Oh well, maybe when we retire some day.

Last year, we moved into our new home and became parents all in the span of one month.  Any extra income went towards the baby.  There wasn't a whole of funds left for me to channel my decorating skills.  So this main focal point in our family room was left blank until I could find a way to DIY affordable artwork.

The Before Shot  ::  The wall was left blank up for a year before we decorated 
with paper cutouts for my silly little Jace's 1st birthday luau.  

The limited budget challenged me to think for a whole year before deciding what kind of artwork I wanted.  Inspired by Chris Loves Julia post on how to create an engineer print, I wanted to create black and white poster in a wood frame.

The term "engineer print" comes from the printing of architectural or engineering plans that are printed on thin white paper in a large format.  One set of plans contains many detailed pages including architectural design, elevation, structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing drawings.  These plans are to instruct the contractor on how to build the home or building structure.  The engineering prints clearly show a fair amount of detail.  The print quality is sharp.  However, the paper quality is not the greatest.  This makes it fairly affordable.

These two 24"x36" framed posters only costed me $41 to create.  I found the frames on sale at Michael's for $16 each and the prints cost me $9.  

My husband Kacey and I have a natural affinity for Hawaii.  Kacey grew up visiting his grandpa's family in the Big Island, and I lived in Oahu for two years in my 20s.  I wanted to incorporate that tropical feel in our home decor without it being too kitchy.  We recently had a Hawaiian luau for my son Jace's first birthday where I cut out palm leaves and his 1st year of photos.  This is what made me think of using these palm tree images.  



First, decide what size you need.  I was on the hunt for two affordable poster-sized frames to fill this area since it was such a large wall.
  • The 16"x20" IKEA Ribba frame is a great choice at $9.99.  It's available in black or white.   
  • Another good option is the Craig Frames 24"x36" solid wood frames from Amazon.  At $22.99, it's slightly more expensive but there are over 50 colors and finishes to choose from.
I wanted a warmer toned wood frame and picked up this one on sale for 70% at Michaels (from $49.99 to $14.99 each + tax).


I have a large wall that would require 2 posters to fill.  Since I needed 2 images, I wanted to make sure they had a common theme.  I found it tough to search for two separate images, and decided to crop 2 photos out of 1 large image using my iPhone.

To create a black and white image, I then changed the filter to "Tonal" for a greyscale effect.  Greyscale has a softer tone than just black and white.  Make sure the image has a high resolution.  Otherwise once the photo is enlarged, it'll be very grainy.

The Original Photo

Image #1 that was cropped & converted.

Image #2 that was cropped & converted.


Since this is going to be a large print, I would recommend increasing the resolution in order to avoid the picture from being too pixelated.  I adjusted my resolution in Preview on my MacBook up to 200 pixels/ inch, which makes for WAY less blurry photos when printed on a large scale.


Our local printer Altos Digital Print & Copy recommends saving your file as a PDF, not a JPEG, for a sharpest image quality.  Any larger print shop like FedEx/Kinkos, Staples, Office Depot or your local printer will be able to help you with this.

Warning: The engineering printer paper quality is not great, hence the affordable price.  It feels like a thin butcher paper.  But I promise you.  Once it's in the frame, you can't even tell.

So, what do you think?

The Finished Result

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