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How to Enlarge Desktop Printer Graphics to Commercial Wide Format Sizes

Step 1: What Substrate are you using?

In our case, we're using a pre-sized frame from IKEA. It comes with a cardboard insert, which is what we'll lay the photo pages onto. It says it is 27 " by 19 ". I never believe measurements, though. I double-checked it, and the measurements are correct for the piece of cardboard, so they're correct in this case.

Step 2: How many panels will you need?

The useable dimensions of each sheet are 7.5″ × 10.0". Simply multiply these numbers and decide which direction gives you a closer fit without going under. In our case we placed the pages portrait-layout across the landscape-layout image we intended to create: 4 across, 2 down.

long dimensions - 9.75″
1 2 3 4
- 7.25″
1 7.5 x 10 7.5 x 20 7.5 x 30 7.5 x 40
2 15 x 10 15 x 20 15 x 30 15 x 40
3 22.5 x 10 22.5 x 20 22.5 x 30 22.5 x 40
4 30 x 10 30 x 20 30 x 30 30 x 40

(This table assumes that you will overlap past the edges of the substrate. If you are laying the outside edges flush with the substrate, then add on .25″ to both final dimensions for the extra material that isn't lost to overlap on the edges)

Here's the photo we're using:

Step 3: Resizing.

This is a very simple step. There's no use pushing the DPI up in Photoshop, it won't look any better in printing, and it will increase the file size greatly. First things first. Go to the rulers above your image. If there are no rulers, click CTRL-R (Elements: CTRL-SHIFT-R) and they'll appear. Right click them and change the increments to inches.

Then, go up to Image>Image Size. You'll get a window that looks like the window below:

Note that 'resample image' is unchecked. This means it will increase the relative file size by decreasing DPI. This is necessary for the next step. Resize your image so that the both sides are at least .5" larger then the intended finished mural size. Basically, all the pixels are still there, but it interprets the size differently.

Step 4: Dividing up the image.

You now have an image that will print to the correct size. Most printers will smooth the image during printing because of their drivers. If your printer doesn't, you can use Rasterbator (simply search for it on Google and you'll find it) to turn the image to a series of dots which will look more appealing, especially on very large murals. You can also simply increase the DPI in Photoshop, but this will make your computer run slower while working on this file. For our needs, we won't do either. Generally for murals below 3' x 4', smoothed pixels look much better. To divide up the image we will use guidelines in Photoshop. Go to View>New Guide. You want to place the first two guidelines at .25" horizontal and .25" vertical.

Continue placing guidelines, at each increment across your image (see the table above again for reference) adding .25" to each measurement. For our example we placed guidelines at .25", 7.75", 15.25" and 22.75″ vertically and .25",10.25" and 20.25 " horizontally. The picture should now be divided up into 10″ × 7.5" segments with a .25" space on the left and top edges, and whatever extra smaller segments are needed along the bottom and right edges, like so:

(An additional note: you can change the color of the guides by going to Edit> Preferences>Grids and Guides. Generally, if your picture has an overall color-scheme, such as this one being blue, change it to an opposite color that'll be easy to see.)

Step 5: Chop for Print.

Before we begin slicing up the image, go to View>Snap to> and select 'Guides'. Select the rectangular marquee tool from the toolbar. It looks like this:


Up at the top of the program, after selecting this tool, there will be several options. You'll want to click the filled single square in the left bunch of options to create a positive selection. Next, switch style to 'fixed size' and then right click on the input boxes and select the 'inches' increments again. Set the width to 10 " and height to 7.5". whenever you click on the image now, it will create a selection of that exact size which you can move again with that same selection tool. If the box is proportioned for portrait when you need landscape or vice versa, you can click the double-arrows icon between the two fixed measurements to swap them.

(Elements: This program does not seem to contain a 'transform selection' option. Instead, you must create a selection that is 10.25" 7.75″ and try your best to center the selection over the desired tile intersection. The bleed does not need to be completely exact, so this should produce just as good of results in the final stages of your Mural)

Next, click to create a selection and move it to the top left area divided up. It should 'click' into place neatly in the guides set up for it. Now either right-click the selection or go to Select>Transform Selection

Right-click on the W: and H: windows. Change them to inches. Replace 7.5" with 8 " and replace 10 " with 10.5". Double-click on the selection again, and it will now be .25" larger all the way around. This is your desired PRINT size. You want to print .125″ outside the pre-cut shape on the sticky-back photo paper so that you can minimize white edges, and you also want to print .125″ of overlap on every panel, which will become .25" overlap when panels are laid over each other, which will allow the print to look seamless when you assemble it.

(Elements users may skip this step, as Elements will actually show a preview of a selection in printing. Simply open the print commands while the selected area is on your screen and then check the box which says 'Print Selected Area') Click CTRL-C or right-click and select 'Copy'. Go to File> New. Don't change any of the settings. They will automatically set themselves to the size and proportions of the image in the clipboard. Click Okay, and click CTRL-V to paste the image. It'll fit the new file perfectly. You now have one tile for your print. Go to File> Print with preview. (Elements users: go to File>Print, and you will go to the Print Preview window automatically)

To test your printer, load normal paper. Print with the 'Scale to fit media' check-box filled. (Elements: Pull the scroll-down option to 'Fit On Page'). Under your printer's manual commands/Driver commands, scour the settings to see if there is a 'minimize margins' command. You do not want borderless printing, btu minimizing margins will help you. Print. Take your print-out and measure all edges of the paper. How close to the edge can your printer print? If it can't print closer then .5", you'll have problems. If it can print at least up to .375" from the right edge (that's 3/8″) you'll be alright. If you're having trouble with it cutting off the print on the bottom, you'll need to lie to your printer.

Lying to your printer: simply change the page size under 'Page Setup' to be 8.5″x14″ or legal-sized. It will now print as close to the bottom edge as it possibly can.

Second test: De-select 'Scale to fit media' and do not alter any of the size settings in Print with preview (Elements: pull the scroll-down to 'Print actual Size'). Look at the 'Position' options. If you have to lie to your printer, immediately de-select 'Center Image". The measurements will remain the same, though. Decrease the top to .25" and leave the left measurement the same. You'll likely HAVE TO WASTE ONE GOOD PHOTO SHEET. This is a good point to select strips of the print and adjust colors. We won't be covering that in this tutorial. There are countless color-adjustment tutorials online to help you with that, also it varies a great deal from printer to printer and from version to version of Photoshop.

Print the page. Once again, with a ruler, check the measurements. The print should be .25" from top and left edges, and hopefully just as far from right and bottom edges. Likely they AREN'T. You'll have to guesstimate a little and adjust. This step is easier if you have an accurate ruler, such as a seam-guide used in sewing. If you can measure down to 1/32", this is best. If the print is actually at .125″ instead of .25", increase the number in the Photoshop window by .125″ so if the top is short, .375" would increase to .5" to print properly. If the sides are inaccurate, increase or decrease the margins to fix this. Once you have adjusted the margins to fit your particular printer's quirks, WRITE THE INPUT MARGINS DOWN. You'll need to re-input these numbers for every tile panel you print. Also, we recommend not having more then one page in your printer at a time, or they will be pulled while overlapping through the ink tray, and so it will print half of one and half of the other, and basically wreck your prints.

Select, transform selection, copy and paste. Repeat this process on every panel divided on your image. Preferably, work your way from top left to top right in rows, and print in order. This way, you can merely can pick up the stack and number them in the corner with a pen before beginning your mural.

Step 6: Setup to Create the Mural. You'll want to have a utility knife, a pair of scissors, and the substrate ready. Make sure its surface is dusted off, cleaned if possible, and flat and in a location with lots of workspace. You'll want all the pieces of the mural printed and numbered to guide you. Here we have all eight of our panels printed, and our substrate prepared:

Take your first panel. Peel away the outer face stock edge. Peel away the long edge peel strip from the back. It should look a lot like the picture above. Line the panel up to the top left edge of your substrate, allowing it to extend past the top and left edges by .25″.

Press across the edge where the liner is peeled back (this photo shows the short edge). This was a preliminary material; the actual material peels along the LONG edge of the paper. Holding lightly where the adhesive anchors the panel, flip the material up so you can see the backing, and peel the backing back, beginning at the point where the liner was removed (see photo above).

Now press with medium force against the picture, either with a soft, smooth rag or with the edge of your hand (your hand will possibly leave oil, which can degrade the picture, but the rag can leave scratches across the surface that catch light unevenly. It's a toss-up), pressing in a back-and forth and slightly diagonal motion as shown by the drawing on the left. Press across the picture until it is completely adhered, removing the backing as you go. You should have something like this:

Step 7: Finishing the Row, starting the next one.

Now you know how to lay down one panel. The real trick becomes lining up MORE panels. Prepare the next panel just as the first, and hold the panel at a point where there is backing, trying to hold evenly and tightly across the paper. Be aware of the warmth of your hands, as you may curl, bend, or distort the paper if you hold too long or too hard. You will want to look for areas on the right edge of the first picture, and the left edge of the next picture, which have objects that are distinctive and easy to line up.


Hold the second panel over the first one, and line up from top edge to bottom edge, trying your best not to completely touch the two together. If they do touch before you are ready, peel upwards slowly for paper products, and pull quickly to pop apart vinyl products (vinyl will stretch if you pull slowly). Once you are fairly certain you've got them lined up, press down at top and bottom edge, and press down in between, checking several definable points to see that they match as perfectly as possible. Once again, peel up the backing and press down the panel. Repeat this with all panels across this row.

At the end of the row, you'll have a sheet with some white space on it, and you'll go past the edge of your substrate. Simply cut this edge off with a pair of scissors, like so. After you complete the mural, you can go back and flip the substrate and run along the edge with a sharp Exacto blade.

For the second row, you must the backing from the top edge after peeling off the peel strip. Cut back the backing until it is level with the bleed edge of the picture. This is so you can line up to the top edge and left edges at onceHolding the next panel by places where the backing is still intact, hold the panel where it should be place, lining up along the top and left edges at once. Do not press down until both edges are lined up! Once they are, press down and adhere the panel as before. With a careful eye and a steady hand, you should have a finished product much like this:

Using the Mural Grid file:

Step 1: Download the file.

Download the 100″ × 100 mural file from here: muralgridp.psd (portrait-layout) and muralgridl.psd (Landscape layout). Open it up in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements.

Step 2: Open your mural design

Look at the image you want to convert to a mural. Resize it to your mural's size by unchecking 'resample image'. Once you see what dpi it will become, re-check 'resample image' and input your desired dimensions and input a new DPI. Take the DPI it would have converted the file to, and round up or down to the nearest 10 dpi. Example: 137.256 dpi > 140 dpi. Hit CTRL-A or Selection> Select All. Hit CTRL-C and open the grid file.

Step 3: Scale the grid to fit

Open the Grid file, and resize the grid file, WITH resampling turned on, to the same DPI as your final mural design. Make sure you have 'snap to grid' checked on the menu, and 'show guides'. Hit CTRL-V, and it will paste your mural-image as a new layer. Move so that the mural uses the least number of panels possible, and so it doesn't leave little 1" segments trailing off one edge. Now, follow the directions in the How-to-resize-to-Wide-Format guide, and you're set.