An(other) Engineer Print DIY to Try!

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!

DIY engineer print art hanging in our staircase landing, split room view | via Yellow Brick Home
planter (similar) | navy rug | faux fur throw | hall light (similar) | drum pendant

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!

Family photo for our DIY engineer print art | via Yellow Brick Home

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
  • paintbrush
  • Polycrylic in matte
  • 220 grit sanding block
  • wood glue
  • corner clamps
  • measuring tape
  • level
  • grey paint + foam brush (optional)
  • scissors
  • pencil
Supply list, overhead shot | DIY engineer print art | via Yellow Brick Home

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.

Trimming our print and adding grey paint to canvas (close up) | DIY engineer print art | via Yellow Brick Home

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.

Adding Mod Podge to canvas | DIY engineer print art | via Yellow Brick Home

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.

Smoothing our engineer print that we Mod Podged onto canvas | DIY engineer print art | via Yellow Brick Home

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!

Mod Podge before it dries on our DIY engineer print art | via Yellow Brick Home

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:

Mod Podge before it dries on our DIY engineer print art | via Yellow Brick Home

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.

Making an oak frame for our DIY engineer print art | via Yellow Brick Home

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.

Using Polycrylic on an oak frame for our DIY engineer print art | via Yellow Brick Home

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!

Making an oak frame for our DIY engineer print art | via Yellow Brick Home
Making an oak frame for our DIY engineer print art | via Yellow Brick Home

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.

Nailing the oak frame to an engineer print mounted to canvas | DIY engineer print art | via Yellow Brick Home

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.

Detail of oak frame | DIY engineer print art | via Yellow Brick Home

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!

Large engineer print hanging in the hallway | DIY engineer print art | via Yellow Brick Home
hall light (similar) | globe lamp | wall clock

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.

A close-up of a family photo with an engineer print in the background | DIY engineer print art | via Yellow Brick Home
Large engineer print hanging in the hallway | DIY engineer print art | via Yellow Brick Home
Large engineer print from the perspective of walking up the stairs | DIY engineer print art | via Yellow Brick Home
stair runner

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.

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  • Norah4.15.20 - 7:22 AM

    this is wonderful! a great idea and tutorial. thank youReplyCancel

  • at home with Ashley4.15.20 - 8:49 AM

    I love the finished product! The wrinkles look like they belong with the concrete setting of the photo. Such a cute famReplyCancel

    • Kim4.15.20 - 10:09 AM

      That’s what I thought, too! The wrinkles add something unique.ReplyCancel

  • Dave Vargo4.15.20 - 8:50 AM

    Scott, what is the largest nail that can be used in the Porter Cable nail gun?ReplyCancel

    • Scott4.15.20 - 9:18 AM

      It can drive 16g 2 1/2″ finish nails, but I’ve found that 2″ is the practical max into harder woods.ReplyCancel

  • lak4.15.20 - 9:08 AM

    Thanks…this is something I will do!  ReplyCancel

  • Sherry4.15.20 - 9:17 AM

    It’s beautiful. I definitely want to create one. Can I ask, what resolution was your picture? When you say “use the highest”, what do you think would be the minimum resolution you could use? I hope my questions make sense. Thank you for the post and your time.ReplyCancel

    • Kim4.15.20 - 10:09 AM

      Hi, Sherry! I took the photo with my DSLR at the largest file size it would allow, so my engineer print has virtually no graininess. BUT! I think that the imperfections in an engineer print are what make them so awesome. Let’s say you’re choosing a photo you took with your phone, you would want to make sure to download the ACTUAL file size, which would be the largest.ReplyCancel

      • Judith4.15.20 - 10:56 AM

        To add to that, anyone wanting to use a picture sent to them by someone else via Whatsapp, Instagram, Facebook etc. is best off with asking the sender for the original file, sent as email-attachment or with a file-transfer service that doesn’t change the files it sends (to make it simple, I’d stick to email). Only that way will it have the original and largest possible resolution.All the messenger services make the files smaller and lower resolution (and pictures taken directly through them instead of with the native photo-app on the phone itself will also have lower resolution from the get-go). But modern phones actually can take photos with very high resolutions (unless someone manually changes that), and a native file from them will be more than enough for a print like this. ReplyCancel

        • Kim4.15.20 - 11:31 AM

          That’s a REALLY good tip! Thanks, Judith!ReplyCancel

  • Suzanne4.15.20 - 9:51 AM

    My photos are all taken with an iPhone. Is the resolution good enough to bother giving it a try? (Only $10-not the end of the world…)ReplyCancel

    • Kim4.15.20 - 10:01 AM

      I know that people have definitely used iPhone photos for engineer prints! There is a beauty in the imperfect-ness of it all. Worth the $10 risk, I think.ReplyCancel

  • Cathy4.15.20 - 10:13 AM

    As your photo taken by a professional?ReplyCancel

    • Kim4.15.20 - 11:31 AM

      We took it on a tripod with a timer! Scott gets annoyed that I don’t call myself a professional, but I suppose I am. (I have a photo degree and freelanced for many years!)ReplyCancel

      • JULIE MARQUEZ4.15.20 - 1:47 PM

        I’d definitely call you a professional, and a great one!ReplyCancel

  • Judith4.15.20 - 11:02 AM

    This looks lovely! And you picked a great picture for this kind of application. I’ll have to look into  having engineer-prints done. Around here, they don’t seem to be a standard offering for print services, but our engineers must be getting their prints somewhere after all!Usually, I’d worry about fading, but with a print as affordable as that, it wouldn’t bother me. And afaik, applying Mod-Podge or bookbinder glue or similar will help with blocking UV rays and making it more light fast and less prone to fading, so apart from making it look more finished, it has an added bonus. Well worth doing. ReplyCancel

  • emily4.15.20 - 11:05 AM

    Love this!  Been trying to find a couple of family photos to replace the NASA moon photos I made engineer prints of that are hanging above our bed.  The canvas and frame really elevates it.  Where in Chicago is this location?ReplyCancel

  • Brandy4.15.20 - 11:10 AM

    Love this tutorial. I’ve been wanting to try something like this but I don’t have a nail gun so that’s been stopping me. Do you think it could work with just a regular old hammer and nails? I know it wouldn’t be as easy but maybe worth a shot?ReplyCancel

    • Kim4.15.20 - 11:34 AM

      I think it would be much more difficult with a hammer and finish nails, but doable. Another option is to use small screws and drill from the inside of the canvas into the wood frame – probably 2 on each side! Make sure to use pilot holes so you don’t crack or splinter the wood.ReplyCancel

  • Tiffany4.15.20 - 11:21 AM

    You can also flip it upside-down and the ink will transfer with modge podge. You then juntly scrub the paper away using water only. I think that works better on wood though. I love how versatile modge podge is!ReplyCancel

  • Kristen4.15.20 - 11:32 AM

    I love this project! I’m going to spend the day looking for the perfect pic!ReplyCancel

  • Janet hines4.15.20 - 11:42 AM

    I love it! I noticed in one of the photos the floating shelves and the pipe like supports. Where did you get those?ReplyCancel

  • Ann4.15.20 - 1:32 PM

    Love this! May I ask where this picture was taken?ReplyCancel

  • Christine4.17.20 - 1:47 PM

    Do you think it would work to use spray adhesive to adhere the photo to canvas, then use mod podge on top of the photo to avoid the wrinkles?ReplyCancel

    • Scott4.17.20 - 2:13 PM

      Hi Christine! We tried spray adhesive the first time we did this for our friends’ basement reveal. The challenge was that that when the adhesive attached to the canvas, it provided absolutely no wiggle room to reposition, so we had to abandon the idea. Spray adhesive may work if you were attempting to mount onto a harder surface. Let us know if you give it a try!ReplyCancel

  • Michelle4.22.20 - 8:48 AM

    I love this! I live in the Chicago area, would you mind sharing where you took this photo? I would love to take a photo of my kids there!ReplyCancel

    • Kim4.22.20 - 10:20 AM

      It’s under one of the overpasses for the 606 Trail. :)ReplyCancel

  • Adele5.4.20 - 11:09 AM

    This is amazing!! ReplyCancel


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