A huge thank you to SnapBox for sponsoring today’s post and project! Today’s post may contain affiliate links, which means if you make any purchases through these links I may receive a commission. As always, I am committed to only partnering with products and companies that I really truly love and SnapBox fits the bill perfectly!
You guys probably know that I’ve been doing monthly themed image roundups for Remodelaholic for the last seven months (you’ll find a link to the newest roundup at the end of the post!). I have found some absolutely incredible vintage images in my searches and I have been dying to put them to use in some way.
When SnapBox contacted me about a possible collaboration, I had a good feeling that this might be a match made in heaven. As I pored over their site and social media (check out their super fun Instagram account), I was loving what I saw – their art-based approach to photo printing, their outside-the-box applications for their products, their love of donuts! I shared with them my vision for creative projects involving cool vintage images and I was so psyched to hear back that they were as excited about the idea as I was!
I decided to go big or go home – SnapBox offers peel and stick fabric posters as large as 36” x 54” at some pretty incredible prices. I’ve done my research on large-scale posters (I’ve had this idea kicking around for quite a while!), and not only is hard to find posters around the 3’ x 4’size, but color posters that big can get pretty expensive. Then, once you get the poster printed, you need to figure out how to mount and frame it. That has always been the sticking point for me – I’ve definitely ruined a few posters in my time with spray adhesive and modpodge!
So the idea to print images on fabric with an adhesive backing? Absolutely genius.
I knew at once what image I wanted to work with. When I first found this amazing vintage patent image from 1889 – “Patent Drawing for R.J. Spalding’s Flying Machine” via The National Archives – I just knew it was destined to be blown up to a ridiculous size. I fell completely and totally in love with its whimsy.
A mustachioed gentleman in a suit, manning a contraption made of feathered wings and a floating dirigible… The beginning of an adorably rhyming children’s book (R.J. and the Fantastic Feathered Flying Machine) or the spirit animal of a Decemberists’ album?
He’s just impossibly delightful either way!
So let’s jump right in! I’ve documented every step of this DIY – so intensively, in fact, that I needed
to split it into two parts! Today I want to take you through my process of preparing a vintage image for printing. Tomorrow, I’ll share how I DIYed a floating frameless mount to display it!
Part 1 – Preparing a vintage image for large format printing (using Photoshop Elements)
This is the step by step process I took to get this particular vintage image ready for its large-format debut. If you are working with a different image, you may need to tweak each step slightly, but the general process should be the same. I actually sat down and worked through the steps on several other vintage images just to double check my advice – this is a good guideline to get you started and then you can adjust or omit steps as needed.
I used Photoshop Elements 11 because that’s what I use for all my photo editing. If you don’t have Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, GIMP is a free photo editing software with similar functionality, although the tools/filters may have slightly different names.
I am also not a photo editing expert – I’m a self-taught layman, but this is the method that worked for me and I hope it can help you too!
Step 1: Download and save your image.
When you’re looking for a vintage image to use, size is an important factor to keep in mind. Some images are just too small to successfully enlarge past a certain point without becoming massively pixelated or blurry.
To give you an idea, the flying machine patent image I used started out at 2390 pixels wide by 3888 pixels high with a resolution of 96 pixels per inch. When I blew it up to print size, 36” by 54”, it did get very pixelated, but I was able to fix that through editing.
You might find a smaller image with a higher resolution that you can enlarge with no problem, or a larger image with a smaller resolution that may not work… Check out this helpful link for an explanation of how resolution affects print quality. Long story short: it may take a little playing around with editing to know how much you’ll be able to successfully enlarge the vintage image you’ve found.
A note about copyrights: There are many vintage images out there in the public domain and many that are available with Creative Commons licenses that give you permission for their use. I double check that all the images I share in my vintage images roundups at Remodelaholic are permitted for personal (and some even for commercial) use, so those are great sources for finding your own vintage art to print! If you find a perfect, wonderful vintage image online that you’d like to enlarge and print, please just double check that you aren’t violating any copyrights by doing so.
Step 2: Open your image in Photoshop and crop if needed.
The vintage patent image I used had some charming handwritten notes around the edges, but ultimately I decided to crop it to keep the attention on Mr. Spalding’s fantastic feathered flying machine.
Step 3: Time to resize/resample.
First of all, here is an incredibly helpful article that explains resizing and resampling in depth.
Basically, you make an image larger or smaller by simply resizing it. This will not change the resolution at all. However, resampling changes the number of pixels in an image, which is really helpful when you have a low-resolution image that you want to print – resampling will actually generate new pixels to give the image a higher resolution!
Select “Image” > “Resize > “Image Size”. Keyboard shortcut: Ctrl-Alt-I.
That pulls up this box with all the information on the image’s current size.
Now, for this project, the finished size I wanted for my image was 36” x 54”. And according to SnapBox’s help section, the print resolution is 150 pixels per inch. That means that for each inch of the finished product, there needs to be 150 pixels in the image you use.
So I multiplied 36” x 150 to learn that my image needed to be 5400 pixels wide. And I multiplied 54” x 150 to arrive at a height of 8100 pixels.
Multiply your desired height and width by 150 to see what pixel dimensions you will need.
Now, you can use the image size box to change the pixel dimensions to your desired size.
Note: when I typed 5400 in the width box, the height became greater than 8100, because my image dimensions weren’t the same ratio as 36” by 54”. So if I set the width to 5400 pixels, the image would be too long and would get cut off vertically…
So the number I actually need to edit is the height. I changed it to 8100, and now the width is smaller than 5400. That’s fine – we’ll deal with that later.
Now, don’t hit “Ok” yet, because we still need to change the number in the resolution box to our desired resolution of 150 pixels/inch. When you do that, it will probably change the numbers for height and width – just change the height back to 8100. Notice that now the width and height in inches are about where we need them to be?
Make sure the box that says “Resample Image:” is checked and in the drop down menu below, choose “Bicubic Smoother (best for enlargement)”.
Now, you can hit “OK”!
Step Four: Create a new blank file with the dimensions for the finished product.
Keyboard shortcut: Ctrl-N.
I created a blank file sized to 5400 pixels wide by 8100 pixels high and with a resolution of 150 pixels/inch. (Remember, we multiplied the height and width in inches by 150 pixels to arrive at these dimensions).
Next, I pulled the resized/resampled image into the new blank file.
I left blank margins on either side since my image width was smaller than my canvas size. I planned to have the margins print blank and simply trim them away when hanging the print. However, the image ended up getting stretched slightly horizontally during the printing process, resulting in no margins on either side. This actually didn’t affect the image noticeably at all, so if you end up with slight margins, I would see how simply stretching the image to fit looks. If stretching it causes too much distortion, I would use a solid color in the margins that you can trim away later.
Now. Let’s zoom in and take a look at the image quality…
Yikes! Not fantastic! There’s a lot of pixelation, jpeg artifacts, and noise. Now, I am by no means an expert, but I did spend quite a bit of time playing around in Photoshop Elements and I found some ways to greatly reduce these effects…
Step Five: Reduce Noise.
Select “Filter” > “Noise” > “Reduce Noise”.
These are the settings I used. You can click the image inside the preview box to see the effect toggle on and off and tweak the sliding controls as needed.
The noise reduction was definitely an improvement!
Step Six: Despeckle.
Select “Filter” > “Noise” > “Despeckle”. The effect of this step was minimal, but it did help clean up the image slightly.
Step Seven: Median.
This was the really game-changing step! Select “Filter” > “Noise” > “Median”.
You can play around with the number in the radius box and watch the effect it has on the image. I chose a radius of 3 pixels.
Look at what a big difference this makes! The image is a little softer now, but the edges of the graphics are smoothed out considerably.
However, you can see on this portion of the image that there are still some rough spots – like those pesky white fuzzy outlines around the darker lines.
Step Eight: Replace Color.
Select “Enhance” > “Adjust Color” > “Replace Color”.
I used the eyedropper tool to select the white color around the black lines. Then, I clicked inside the “result” box and use the eyedropper tool to pick a tan color from the background. The preview box shows you what the image will look like if the white section is replaced with a different color! You can play around with the number in the “fuzziness” box to fine-tune the result – I set it to 30.
Now, when I zoomed throughout the image, I was thrilled to find that all the fuzzy white borders were gone!
Step Nine: Levels.
Finally, I wanted to give the darker colors in the image a boost since all the lines got softened with the previous editing steps.
Select “Enhance” > “Adjust Lighting” > “Levels”. Keyboard shortcut: Ctrl-L.
I brought the black slider up just a bit to help the design stand out a little more.
Step 10: Final Result – Save your Image!
After these steps, the end result was a huge, perfectly sized image that’s much less blocky and pixely! Since very few people view art with their noses pressed against it, and a piece this big requires a little bit of space to properly appreciate it anyway, I wasn’t worried about the slight softness of the finished image.
Save your image as a jpeg, as high-quality as you are able. Photoshop Elements let me choose between “Low”, “Medium”, “High” and “Maximum” quality – you don’t want to lose all your hard editing work by compressing your image into a low-quality jpeg now!
Step Eleven: Upload & Order!
Now the hard part is done! After these steps (once I figured them all out, they were actually much quicker than they sound, I promise), uploading to SnapBox is as simple as can be! Literally, just a few clicks to choose your product, upload your image, and add it to the cart.
My fabric poster arrived within five business days from placing the order and when I got to see how it actually turned out, I absolutely could not wait to get it installed on the DIY floating frameless wall mount I dreamed up for it…
P.P.S. You can find me over on Remodelaholic today, sharing this roundup of over 25 Free Vintage Bird Printables. Some of these would be absolutely fantastic printed in a large format, don’t you think?