If the boring wall posters at Spencers aren’t tickling your fancy and you’d rather have something more customized to your tastes, you can actually make and print your own posters using a method called tiled printing.
Tiled printing is when you print out a large image over several pieces of paper, with each piece of paper acting as a “tile,” hence the name. From there, you line up the tiles to form a grid, thus creating your huge wall poster.
There are several free online tools that can convert images into a format suitable for tiled printing, but my favorite one (and the most popular service by far) is The Rasterbator. But before we continue, it’s important to know about a couple of terms.
Vector Images vs. Halftoned Images
Before you can take any image and blow it up into a wall-size piece of art, you first need to convert the image into either a vector image or a halftoned image, because it’s likely that the image doesn’t have a high enough resolution to be enlarged. A photo taken with your smartphone, for example, can be blown up to around 13″x10″ (a bit larger using some editing tricks) before the quality starts to diminish. Anything larger than that and the photo’s resolution is just too small.
Without going into an entire confusing explanation about how these types of graphics work, I’ll just say that the benefit of a vector image is that you can blow it up as big as you want without the quality suffering at all. If you take a regular .JPG photo and zoom in a ways, you’ll notice it gets pretty blurry and pixelated pretty fast. This won’t happen with a vector image.
A halftoned image has mostly the same benefits (i.e. you can blow up an image and still have it look sharp and crisp), but the image uses halftoning to accomplish this. In other words, the pixels of an image are converted into a series of tiny dots that, when viewed from a distance, looks like a relatively-crisp photo, depending on the size of the dots.
The image you choose for your wall art needs to be either a vector or a halftoned image. The Rasterbator has a built-in converter for halftoning images, but if you want to go the vector route, you’ll need to convert your image into a vector graphic first. I personally like Autotracer, which is a free online vector conversion tool.
A word of warning, though, as you may have noticed from the examples above. Converting a photo that you took with your camera or phone to either a vector or halftoned image will make it look a bit animated (almost like a painting of sorts) and you’ll lose some of the quality. This is because vector graphics rely on lines and shapes (and halftone graphics rely on dots) rather than pixels. And all those pixels need to be converted to the proper format.
Halftoned images can still look good (and they’ll look a bit artsy if you’re into that style), but if you’re wanting to retain full photo quality, this probably isn’t for you. It’s recommended to at least stick with graphic illustrations (because they can be vectored naturally) or photos that are super high-resolution if you want to create huge pieces of wall art. For this tutorial, though, I’ll be using a graphic illustration (this poster image file from iFixit) and will only be printing out a reasonably-sized poster.
Create Your Giant Wall Art
Start by visiting The Rasterbator website and clicking the “Create Your Poster” button to get going.
Next, under the “Upload” field, click the “Choose File” and select your image. Then hit the “Upload” button.
You’ll now see a preview of how your wall art will look and how big it will be. However, the webpage shows metric measurements by default. Click the “Inch” link on the bottom right to convert everything to imperial units.
Now it’s time to customize how your wall art will be printed. Under “Paper Settings,” use the dropdown to select the paper type. Choose “US Letter” if you’ll be using regular printer paper, but you can choose other sizes as well.
Next, choose whether to have the tiles laid out horizontally or in portrait. This doesn’t really matter much, and is more of a preference than anything.
After that, you can add margins (and adjust the size), as well as add an overlap. The margin governs the size of the blank border on each tile. The margin allows you to overlay tile edges on each other to glue or tape them together. Adding an overlap print a bit extra from the previous tile so that you can line them up without the risk of the blank border peeking through. Both of these options are a personal preference, but I at least recommend adding margins to make it easier to put all the tiles together come assembly time.
You’ll use the “Output Size” section to customize the overall size of the wall art by changing how many sheets wide or tall to print.
On the right side, you’ll get a preview of your wall art with dimensions on how big the poster size will turn out, as well as how many sheets of paper will be used. In this example, I’m only making the poster about two feet wide by three feet tall, but you can make yours as big as you want. Hit “Continue” to move on to the next step.
On the next screen, choose the style of your wall art. You can choose from several styles (including halftoning), but in this case, since the image is already high resolution and I’m not making it super huge, I’m going with “No Effects.”
If you choose one of the other styles, you can click “Preview” to see what your wall art looks like in that style. Click “Continue” after you choose a style you like.
The next screen lets you choose colors if you chose to go with halftoning, but since I opted for no effects in this example, I don’t need to bother with these. Hit “Continue” to move on.
Next, you’ll select the output type, and there are a few to choose from. In my case, I’m just going to choose “Enlarge,” but if you went with halftoning, you could select from the other options for a more customized look.
Under the “Other” section, you can include crop marks (which let you more easily line up the tiles) and page positions, which places a small number in the corner of each tile to tell you where they go. Both of these are helpful during assembly.
Click “Complete” when you’re finished.
Give it a few seconds to create your wall art, and eventually it will automatically download the .PDF file that you’ll print out. Go ahead and print it out whenever you’re ready.
The printout is ordered so that you can take the top sheet from the stack and place them out from left to right, top to bottom.
Next, you’ll need to cut away some of the blank border so that you can line up the tiles seamlessly. You only need to do this on certain sides of each sheet, since you’ll overlay one on top of the other as you go. Scissors work fine for this, but a guillotine paper cutter is highly recommended. This is also where setting an “overlap” can come in handy, as you can cut off a bit more than the white border and still be okay.
Now it’s time to start assembling the tiles. It’s up to you on how you want to place the sheets on your wall, using glue, thumb tacks, sticky tack, whatever. I’m just going to use clear thumb tacks for this. You’ll notice from the photo below that I cut away the border on one sheet, but left the border on the next sheet intact so I can connect them together using my thumb tacks.
Take your time and be patient while lining up the tiles, but eventually you’ll end up with a sweet-looking poster that you made with just regular sheets of copier paper.
How cool is that?