Large Format Printing as Wallpaper

Geek Culture

Last year, we decided to redecorate our kids’ rooms. We stumbled across the idea of “large format digital printing” while researching ideas for wall coverings. It seems print houses have discovered another use for the large format: turning photographs into wallpaper for your home. Dizzy with ideas for a photo-based wall, we decided to create some custom wallpaper for my son’s room.

We found a local printer offering the service and gave them a call. The details were pretty straightforward: the image had to be 150 dpi at full size and the cost would be just under $5 a square foot (not including installation). It wasn’t cheap, but nothing custom ever is.

So, I set to work putting together an image for my son’s wall. The options were staggering – a collage of every baby photo we had ever taken? A family portrait? Those ideas were nice, but I wanted something that would still be “cool” when he had grown out of his kindergarten years.


He and I love to watch Formula One together, so we decided to use some photos I had taken the last time I attended the U.S. Grand Prix. A little Photoshop work made the image more interesting, but I had a problem. Even using a plugin to blow up the photo, it was only half of the resolution I needed to fill the whole wall.

The solution was found in Illustrator’s Live Trace feature (links to .pdf).  With a little finesse, the photo was transformed into a scalable vector file. I emailed the image to the printer and – a short time later – the wallpaper was installed (in three sheets, pasted on like regular wallpaper). The final product had a latex coat for protection from crayons and juice and is expected to last five to seven years.

Along with some race-inspired paint and a border, the result was fantastic! He loves to talk about how he’s got Michael Schumacher on his wall and really enjoys showing it off to his friends.


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