Vintage Topographic Wall Art

Introduction: Vintage Topographic Wall Art

About: I like fixing up old technology in my spare time!

Hey everyone! Today we are going to print a vintage topographic map from 1893 and mount it on a piece of cardboard. I love the look of old hand drawn topographic maps. There is just something mesmerizing about them...



-Ink jet printer

-Printer paper





Step 1: Find the Map You Want to Print

First we need to find a map to print. There are several sources of free topographic maps on the internet. My favorite for the United States is the United States Geological Service website: If you are in another country you might try: for some modern computer generated topo maps.

The cool thing about the USGS website is that they have tons of old topo maps available for download. So lets check their site out( ).

To navigate to the topo maps we need to click the link for “Topographic Maps” under the “Products” tab.

Next scroll down and click on the link titled “Topographic Maps”.

It should open a new tab where you can click on “View and download maps now”.

This should finally open up a map browser where you can zoom into the particular part of the U.S. you want to print a map of. I chose the Omaha area.

Next click on the area you are curious about. Various maps should appear on the right side of the screen. The oldest one for the area I am interested in is from 1893! The map downloads are in several different file formats. If you want to edit the image before printing, download the JPEG version. I like the way the map looks already so I downloaded the PDF version of the 1893 map.

Step 2: Print Your Map

The next step is to print the map.

First open the PDF file up with your favorite PDF viewing software.

Next get some paper loaded in the printer. I like to use matte photo paper for this kind of print. I think any old paper would probably be fine though!

Remember to check your print settings and make sure they are set to the quality level that you want. I set my printer to maximum quality and changed the paper type to matte photo paper since that is what I’m using.

If you wanted you could print the map over multiple pages and have a really big topo map for the wall. It would require some careful use of scissors and tape to put together though. I’m going to keep it simple for this tutorial and just print my map on one page.

And print it!

Step 3: Prepare the Print and Cardboard Backing for Assembly

Alright now that we have our map printed we need to get our cardboard backing ready.

The idea here is to use the cardboard as a backing to make the map more substantial and a bit more interesting looking than just a sheet of paper on the wall. To do this we are going to cut the cardboard so it is slightly smaller than our map print.

So trim the cardboard piece until it is a few cm smaller than the print on each side.

After cutting the cardboard down to size use the cardboard piece as a guide and mark the back of our print on all four corners.

Next use scissors to cut out the four corners of our print. We need to do this to make it easier to fold around our piece of cardboard. Use the dot on each corner to tell you how much to cut out.

Next use the cardboard backing to help fold the edges of the print around the cardboard. Just to kind of get it in the right position and shape for taping.

Step 4: Tape Them Together

After you have folded all the edges of the print to the back of the cardboard carefully tape them in place. This can be tricky, so go slow and be patient. You want to catch just the edge of the print paper with the tape. Try to keep the tape on the back of the piece or at least the sides. You don’t want tape on the front part of the print! It helps to kinda pull the tape as you attach it to the cardboard.

Start with one small piece of tape on each side to hold the print in place. Once the print is secure on the cardboard tape the rest of the edges and corners of the print down.

Next take a look at the front and see what needs fixed.

My print is looking pretty good, it just needs a bit cut off of the bottom right corner.

You can make a nail hanger out of some scrap cardboard if you want to hang it on a wall.

Step 5: Conclusion

And you are done, enjoy your vintage topographic map!

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