Introduction: Customised Map Letters (on the Cheap!)

Picture of Customised Map Letters (on the Cheap!)

While I love map covered letters I don't love the £12+ that they charge for them online and urban outfitters. These letters are super chunky and come in at only £3.75 a letter but for wall mounted letters they would only work out just 75p each. (Website details at the end or in my profile)

Materials needed: Wooden letters, PVA, Computer and printer.

A lot of the letters out there use vintage maps and after looking in every charity shop I could find I was coming up short. This method is dirt cheep, looks cool and as you can print out anywhere totally customisable. I’m thinking:

- Words such as KITCHEN or HOME just for display.
- Initials for a wedding (maybe at the guestbook table)
- A child’s name for their bedroom shelf
- For a summer memento get the word TRIP, SUMMER or HOLIDAY. Print out the places you visit and mount them on different letters. For extra points make them with your child and discuss what you did, where they liked, what happened in each place etc.
- Teachers, when teaching units concerning the local area get each child to write their name on a wooden heart or wooden house shape (we can supply both). Get them to glue the relevant map section to the front and write their name and (possibly) address on the back. This can also tie into discussions such as transport to and from school.

Step 1: Print Your Maps & Letters

Picture of Print Your Maps & Letters

1. Find your map, although you can use a real map if you wish I’m assuming you wish to use a print out. Go online to Bing Maps. Type in your postcode. On the left hand side there is a little drop down which allows you to choose map style. I used the ordinance servy style as I think it’s the most interesting visually (and is why I used Bing not Google maps)

2. Use Bing to print off the maps, this gives you a square of map that fits on an A4 page. Put them aside for now.

3. I wanted to make my letters self-supporting, for this reason I cut out three of each letter from 6mm thick ply using 14cm Sassoon Infant (that’s the font they now use in Primary Schools and has a nice flat bottom except for the O which I tweaked). You will need to get your letters in Capitals as otherwise they won’t stand.

Step 2: Preparing Your Letters and Map

Picture of Preparing Your Letters and Map

4. Glue the three letters together, make sure you get them the right way round as even the O is subtly asymmetric. The back of the letter normally has some light brown marks on it which make it easy to tell.

5. Put something heavy on top of the letters and have a cup of tea.

6. Look at your maps, decide what features you want to be able to see. Get your letters and play around laying them out trying to get all your points of interest on. Do not put your letter upside down on the paper but have the front pointing towards you.

7. Cut the map piece out. There are a few ways to do this. I used a scalpel but if you have children doing this I recommend getting them to draw around the letters with pencil then cut them out with scissors. The finish won’t be as nice as with the scalpel but you won’t hurt anyone!

Step 3: Attatch the Maps and Finish Nicely

Picture of Attatch the Maps and Finish Nicely

8. Spread lots of glue all the way to the edges of your letter, position your map piece on and gently smooth it over working from one side to the next taking care to get rid of wrinkles. I recommend rubbing the whole thing with a soft cloth from the middle to the edges.

9. Soften the edges of your piece by putting a small bead of glue on your finger and running it all the way round the outside, don’t let your finger get dry and tacky as it will jog the paper. The adheres the edges really well and also makes the map look more like part of the letter as opposed to a separate layer stuck on top. This is optional but really does make a difference (and it only takes 2 secs).

10. Done! If these are going somewhere that they might be exposed to the wear and tear of day to day life I would varnish them. Also I left the edges of my letters plain but I think they would be really cute with the edges painted, maybe with colours that tie in with the map or maybe to coordinate with the room they are in. I would do this after sticking them all together but BEFORE sticking on the maps. I recommend acrylic paint and letting it dry very very well before any gluing.

As always I would love to see any examples that people make and the letters and shapes can be found at


thewriternerd (author)2013-01-03

I made a set of these that said "DAD" for a Christmas present. I found white painted letters at a Pat Catan's and glued sections of a world map onto them. It worked pretty well, though I probably could have done a better job cutting the map out. Thanks for the idea!

Etobic (author)2012-08-31


andyhuntdesigns (author)2012-07-31

If you go to you can find OLLLLLLLLLD maps of places all over the world. When you view them they open up on a different site that lets you download enormous hi-res copies if you're a (free) registered member.

At least, I know the ones that are hosted at the David Rumsey Map collection let you print them in extremely hi-res. I can't speak for the other ones.

nickshum (author)2012-06-20

Hi! What material did you use to make your letters? Was it simply cardboard? And if it was wood, what did you use to cut them out?

gmjhowe (author)2012-05-20

Map letters are the best.
We should start a club.

I wish I had access to a laser cutter big enough to have done my Ampersand.

Infinite Crafts (author)gmjhowe2012-05-20

lol, I know I still love them and they seem to be everywhere. How big was your Ampersand? since writting this we've got a new milling machine and the other day I made a giant (meter and a half) one for someone. I almost kept it for myself...

gmjhowe (author)Infinite Crafts2012-05-21

This is mine taken directly from my company logo.

That milling machine sounds lovely, does it take your standard CAD files?

I see you are also based in the UK! Even if it is a long way from myself.
Do you have plans to visit/attend any of the Mini Maker Faires this year?

Infinite Crafts (author)gmjhowe2012-05-22

Wow your ampersand is pretty huge, I must confess I'm oddly obsessed with the & sign and whenever we have miscut ones at work I squirel them away so I can add to my collection so a giant carpet one sounds pretty cool to me! Maybe I should have a wall collection but I'm afraid visitors would be mildly concerned about my mental state.

We've actually been looking into doing craft faires for a while and have been trying to pursade my boss to go to some as a punter for 'research purposes' but I don't think he's bitting :( Where abouts are you based?

Ps - little bit obsessed with AT too.

gmjhowe (author)Infinite Crafts2012-05-23

You see, having an ampersand in my logo, and being a graphic designer, it's a requirement for me to have them scattered everywhere.

People would think me insane if I didn't.

As for the maker faires, regardless of your boss, you should make an effort to go to one yourself! This year there is a increased bloom of maker faires popping up.

There was three newcastle maker faires, I attended the 2nd, then exhibited at the 3rd. I throughly recommend it.

Last year saw our first 'Mini' maker faire based in Brighton.

This year there are mini maker faires in Derby, Brighton and Manchester.
Pretty much all three are being organised/co-organised by local hackspaces.

bagnitsch (author)2012-05-22


TXTCLA55 (author)2012-05-19

Looks like bing no longer offers different map viewings. At least not in my region :(

Infinite Crafts (author)TXTCLA552012-05-20

Oh that sucks. They have actually changed how to get to it on mine - where it says roads (in the top left) there is a little arrow and when you hover over it then it gives you a drop down with the options. Hope that you manage to find some maps to use. :)

TXTCLA55 (author)Infinite Crafts2012-05-20

Yea still no luck on my end. When I hover over the Roads arrow I get only two options. A standard road map view, and an automatic view. Thanks for your help, I think what I'll do is just go to my cities archives and copy some of the old road development maps.

Infinite Crafts (author)TXTCLA552012-05-22

The sounds really cool. Do post a picture up of yours when you've made them, it'd be interesting to see what different effects you will get. I actually made these ages ago and as they are sitting in direct sunlight and I didn't have expensive ink they have faded a bit and was considering staining/roughing them up to look more like old archieve maps!

akcook (author)2011-09-25

Was thinking of doing this to a bookshelf, thanks for the post!

morlin (author)2011-07-31

These look fantastic! I can definitely see doing these with maps and also photos in b&w and sepia tones. I think I would include a thick coat of varnish or modge podge whether made for a gift or not. Thx for the instructable!

Infinite Crafts (author)morlin2011-08-01

Hi Thanks for commenting. First one ever :o) Yeah I was going to varnish them but am still having an inner debate about if I should paint the sides of them or not! (you can't see in the photo but some of the letters are overcuts from a customer's order and so are a bit bashed on the side). Great idea for the photos - have something writen with lots of other things you could stick on and will credit you for that one.

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Bio: Hi! We are Inifinite Crafts, a small craft company with a big range of manufacturing equipment, including lasers, routers, and die casters. We specialise in ... More »
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