Honey, I Blew Up The Kids | Tips for Making Engineer Prints Look Their Best

I mentioned in yesterday’s post we were switching some art around in the living room. I purchased a few new prints that I’ve been eyeing for awhile and we are moving the main art wall to the larger wall behind the couch in the coming weeks. And while I love art, I love our girls more (obviously) so I wanted to make sure we had a prominent place for some photos of them, too. I was worried framing a bunch of smaller photos and creating a gallery would be busy and compete with the adjacent wall when we’re done with it, so I went for my favorite–engineer prints. Update: I got these printed at my local Alphagraphics. They are nationwide so maybe you have one near you, too? Staples also prints these for a similar price. The process is the same.


This isn’t my first time using engineer prints, (check out this one with just typography for Faye’s nursery) I just love them. And seeing our girls larger than life has made our living room much more personal. Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way to achieve something similar.

1. A light plain background is best for portraits. Engineer prints aren’t the best quality printing method. That’s why they are so cheap! Like, a couple bucks tops, cheap. So eliminating the ink that appears on the paper will really go a long way in creating a crisper looking image. Not to mention, the subject really stands out like this.

Here are the originals (straight out of my camera), next to the one I sent to the printer:

Honey, I Blew Up The Kids | Tips for Making Engineer Prints Look Their Best-prints

2. Think about the size of the actual subject. Faye is little compared to Greta, but Greta is still a little girl, too. So when I was taking Faye’s photo, I made sure to keep a lot of blank space above her so when I framed her photo, she would still be baby-sized in comparison to Greta. And when I cropped Greta’s photo (this is one I took of her while we still lived in our old house that I’ve always loved) I made sure to keep plenty of negative space again to keep that little girl feel to it. Negative space is so important.

3. Make it black and white before you send it to the printer. After I brightened and cropped each photo, I made them black and white so I have a better idea of what I am going to be picking up. I love using Pioneer Woman’s B&W Beauty action for this (free here!). Things look so different in black and white–really! In both instances, I deleted the action momentarily, messed with the contrast a little more and then added the filter again to send it off.

Screen Shot Honey, I Blew Up The Kids | Tips for Making Engineer Prints Look Their Best-10-06 at 8.33.50 PM

4. The last thing I would recommend doing is to adjust your resolution. I did this in Photoshop CS4, but you can do it in Preview on a Mac, too! (I have no idea how to even operate a windows based computer anymore, sorry.) Both of these photos came out of my Canon camera, but the resolution was only in the 90s. A lot of times, you might see a 72 px/in there. I shoot it up to 200 so that the image is far, far FAR less pixelated. This will really cut down on the graininess that is typically associated with Engineer prints.

Screen SHoney, I Blew Up The Kids | Tips for Making Engineer Prints Look Their Besthot 2014-10-06 at 8.46.56 PM

Honey, I Blew Up The Kids | Tips for Making Engineer Prints Look Their Best

I put each print into the largest Walnut Ribba frame from Ikea which really warms up the black and whites, and I already had them. Nixing the mat really allows the subject (my cute girls) to shine. There’s a time and a place for a mat, I just don’t think portrait engineer prints are it.


I do realize these prints aren’t new or ground breaking, but I hope these tips help bring about your best ones yet. $2 prints never looked so good. Really.

See more of the family room here. See something else you like? You can shop all the sources in our entire home right here (scroll down for the family room).


  • Reply October 7, 2014


    Great pictures Julia ! Your girl are so lovely. These prints are meaningful and very modern at the same time. Well done !

  • Reply October 7, 2014

    Laura @ Rather Square

    These came out so beautifully, hard to believe they are so inexpensive!

  • Reply October 7, 2014


    Where did you get the prints done? They look lovely!

    • Reply October 7, 2014


      I better add that to the post. I got them printed at my local Alphagraphics. They are nationwide so maybe you have one by you?

      • October 7, 2014


        I have the perfect photo to go ahead and print and there’s an alphagraphics right down the street from us! I feel like I’ve been all through their website, but I can’t find an option for engineer prints. What print option did you choose? Mine keeps working out to around $30 and I know that’s not right!

      • October 7, 2014


        The first time I did it, I emailed my local store and they sent me back this response:

        For quantities of 1- 20, our standard engineering prints are:
        18×24 – $1.25 per print
        24×36 – $2.25 per print
        30×42 – $3.25 per print

        (those are all black and white prints on the butcher paper)

        For these large Ikea frames, I get the largest one. Try emailing or calling your local store!

      • October 7, 2014



      • October 7, 2014


        oops…didn’t mean to post as anonymous, or AGAIN. you’d think that I’m completely internet incompetent! haha rough day. lots of toddler. lots of coffee.

  • Julia, your girls are so cute. And the prints look fantastic love that they’re a slightly more artistic/modern portrait.

  • Reply October 7, 2014


    OK, yeah, I had a picture selected to make a print out of but I think I will totally copy you instead and do portraits of our little ladies! Love them.

    Ps. New follower here. Enjoying all of your content :)

    • Reply October 7, 2014


      Welcome Jeni! Thanks so much!

  • Reply October 7, 2014


    These look SO amazing! I looooooooove the negative space.

    Engineer prints scare me. I would be so scared that they are pixely but yours look great!

  • Reply October 7, 2014


    I’ve been wanting to pull the trigger on some engineer prints. This might have been just the thing to push me over the edge.

  • Reply October 7, 2014


    I just love these!!! They turned out so good. I don’t have any kids (yet) but I’m dying to do engineer prints of my pups…if only my friends wouldn’t make fun of me! :)

  • Reply October 7, 2014

    Meagan Briggs

    LOVE this. Love it. Want to do it now!

  • Reply October 7, 2014


    Lovely! But just so you know, the phrase is “larger than life”, not “larger than light” :)

    • Reply October 7, 2014


      Haha. Not sure how that slipped by me and my proofreader, Chris. Thanks, Claire!

  • Reply October 7, 2014


    I love these prints! You’re girls are adorable. I work at an AlphaGraphics location and just wanted to point out that not all locations take walk ins. The one I work at usually only works with businesses as well. AG is franchised so the locations are all slightly different.

    • Reply October 7, 2014


      Good to know, Brittany!

  • These turned out stunningly! I love being walked through the process. I have yet to try an engineer print but I have some pretty large walls to fill. And thanks for sharing that action—can’t wait to try it!

  • Reply October 8, 2014


    genius! we printed some artwork at the local printer in our last house. I need to try this stat!

  • Reply January 5, 2015


    Great idea! Curious what frames did you purchase? Thank you so much !

    • Reply January 5, 2015


      These are the biggest Ribba frames from Ikea. Work like a charm.

  • Reply January 18, 2015


    I just did a huge engineer print today for our 2015 goals and it was sooooooooooooooo cheap and it looks great. I definitely want to try it again but with photos this time. Thanks for sharing all your tips and for including the link to Pioneer Woman’s photoshop actions. I just dowloaded them and have been playing around — they are GREAT!

  • Reply March 21, 2015

    Karen Moreno

    Support a local/family-owned business, and have your prints printed at a reprographics (aka blueprint) shop! My family owns one, and most of the other reprographers in my area (So Cal) are family-owned too. At my shop, 24×36 b&w prints from a full-size PDF are just $1.08/each (though we have an $8 printing minimum).

    • Reply March 21, 2015


      Amazing! Thanks for sharing the word, Karen!

  • Reply March 21, 2015


    Adorable! Great tips :). Just what i needed. Thank you. Absolutely gorgeous!!!

  • Reply March 22, 2015


    Wow! I LOVE these!
    I’m 40, but I feel like I’m 106 when it comes to technology. I’d love, love, love to have these of my kids, but the process looks too daunting….
    Do you think I could email the pictures somewhere and pay someone to create?
    It’d be the perfect Mother’s Day dream-come-true!
    I’d love to know if you have any suggestions.
    Thank you,

  • Reply March 25, 2015


    Inspired – I adore these!

    I’m confused about step 1. Can you please explain how you made the backgrounds all white? I cant wait to try this!

    Ps I use a Mac too and dint have speccial software.

    • Reply March 26, 2015


      When you use a plain, relatively light wall for your background, when you make the image black and white and brighten it a bit–it will look white.

      • March 30, 2015


        Thank you! I am going to try this. Really appreciate the detailed post and the notes on how to do it!

  • Reply April 18, 2015


    Great post! Love your tips–and LOVE how beautifully you’ve portrayed your girls! I did something similar with pictures of my kids, but I love your ideas for how to make them really shine. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply April 24, 2015


    Did you mount your photos to foam core or anything before framing? I just got photos of my three gals framed, and I love them, but the paper looks pretty rippled still under the glass. I’m wondering if mounting them first might be necessary? Did you have this issue?

    • Reply February 7, 2016


      You probably just have too much space within the frame (between the print and the frame back). Adding something behind the print (like a sheet of foam core or cardboard) should help, but you probably don’t need to stick the photo to it.

  • Reply September 24, 2015


    This is so awsome! I have wanted to try this for so long and have the perfect pictures of my girls. I tried a few different ways and it was so expensive. Thank you so much for the detailed post

  • Reply January 17, 2016

    Whitney Shortt

    These are so sweet! Thank you for the tips!!

  • Reply January 18, 2016


    I wandered over from your feature on The Nester’s website. LOVE how they turned out. Love that I already have the action. Think I will redo an engineer print I did of a buffalo photography I took a few years ago.

    Thanks for this post!!!!!

  • Reply January 25, 2016


    I am so so impressed with this idea and so glad I stumbled across this tutorial from Michele and happycamperlife.com! I never would have thought to do this, and I love the soft walnut finish against the high contrast black and white. I can’t wait to do this when I have kiddos of my own!


  • Reply January 26, 2016


    I just want to clarify… did you send your photos in as B&W or color? I’ve been wanting to do large prints of my kids for a while and I’m finally reading your tips on this!! We just bought our first home and wall space is a little interesting, so hopefully the hall is a good spot!

    • Reply January 26, 2016


      I sent it in black and white so I could control the values better.

  • Reply January 28, 2016

    Bethany R

    I’ve printed out engineer prints before, but they’ve always turned out pretty meh. But I followed your instructions today and my print turned out great! I just tagged you on Insta so you’d see it. : ) THANKS so much!

  • Reply May 8, 2016


    Is there any way that you could do this with photos you take with an iPhone? I have some amazing pictures that I’ve taken with the iPhone camera, but every time I print them out, they look blurry. Thoughts? Recommendations?

    • Reply May 8, 2016


      Try uploading them to your computer and changing the ppi to around 220.

  • Reply May 13, 2016


    Thank you so much for sharing this! I am a photographer and LOVE how these turned out! Going to do this for my 3 boys:) just looked though and cannot find the frames on ikea site. Is the actual frame size 30×40? Or did you have to cut some of the prints? Thanks again

    • Reply May 16, 2016

      Emily Olson

      Kat, the RIBBA frames are still available but sadly the walnut finish was discontinued in 2012. Sad as it was definitely my favorite!

      • May 19, 2016


        Thanks Emily! That is sad:( I cannot even find them that large 39×40 online in any color… I may just need to go to the store! Thanks for your help!

      • May 19, 2016


        Oops I meant 30×40

  • Reply June 29, 2016

    Lexey Burkett

    Hi I have two questions. What size frame did you buy? Also where’s that coffee table from?

    • Reply June 29, 2016


      Hi Lexey, the frame is the largest Ikea Ribba frame. I can’t remember the exact size, but it’s close to 40″ tall. The coffee table is from Shop Candelabra. You can see where everything in our home is from right here.

  • Reply June 30, 2016

    bella moore

    Omg these are absolutely amazing! I adore the technique! Thank you for the step by step process! Def will be trying thank you!!!

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