Finally! Here is the tutorial for these simple engineering print portraits you’ve been asking for. I love what a statement they make in any room and at under $14 a piece (including the frame), the price can’t be beat.
I shared them initially as a part of Adelaide’s mid-century modern nursery reveal and they have since been hung above my desk and then packed up and moved across the country where they’re still sitting in packing paper.
Each print is 2 feet by three feet, so they’re pretty massive as far as pictures go. I printed them at Staples, framed them in cheap $10 poster frames from Target and hung them using command strips.
I love this project so much I want to do them for every room in our new apartment and for the kid’s nursery I’m putting together right now at my parents. Next I’d like to try them in more substantial frames and will check out a few options over the next couple of weeks (I’ll update this if I find something good).
I tried to provide an exact step by step below of my editing, exporting, and printing process so it’s simple enough for you to do the exact same thing but if you get to a part that is confusing or you have a question, PLEASE just let me know 🙂
Start with the pictures.
Your background for these images is less important than I originally thought, if you’re comfortable with a little bit of editing. I read this tutorial online that recommended starting with a neutral background and so I spent months putting off this project because I didn’t have the pictures I thought I needed
But, I found myself in a bind with a short amount of time to finish the nursery so I decided I’d try my hand at editing a less neutral background image.
If you’re not Lightroom or Photoshop savvy and you still want these prints, I found a few people on Fiverr.com who could edit out a busy background for you. If you send your images and the instructions from this post to someone like this, they should be able to send you back photo files for you to upload for less than $5 a photo.
*disclaimer: I haven’t used Fiverr.com for this specific job and haven’t vetted the account I linked to. But, if I didn’t know how to edit, this is who I would hire, so I thought I’d share the resource. Let me know if you try them and it works!
You can see the before and afters of each image in the editing section to show that background is a little less important if you’re willing to edit (or pay someone to edit). If not, stick with a light/ white background. The one of Adelaide is of her snuggled in my white bedding or you could sit the subject (your cute kids) in front of a white wall with natural light coming in from a window.
I shot both of these with a DSLR and a 50mm prime lens in RAW format. I shot both of them in natural, indirect light (no harsh sun directly on my subjects but still well lit with light from a window).
Play around with posing but make sure to leave space around the subject. Is is easier to crop in than to try and add a few inches of space above a child’s head.
I kept both my subjects centered but next time I’ll play around with the rule of thirds for a visually pleasing composition. The rule of thirds says that the human eye is naturally drawn to the areas highlighted in pink on the shape below. By placing the subject of your photo there, it is easier for the viewer to interact with it (aka: it looks nicer to them).
I edited both of these in Lightroom in just a minute or two (but you could do the same thing in photoshop).
- First, I converted the image to black and white.
- Next, I increased the sharpness and contrast (you can see exact numbers for each picture in the images below).
- Then, I used the adjustment brush tool to increase the exposure all around my subjects so everything else was whited out. This was the most time consuming part of the edit I zoomed in so I could get more precise. I kept the feather on the adjustment tool to almost zero and the exposure turned all the way up.
- Finally, I adjusted the blacks to make sure that I had some true black in the photo (by dragging the black to the left a little bit).
Time to Format/ Export:
I’m going to walk you through exactly how I exported but keep in mind that I used a 36″ x 24″ poster frame for my prints. I’d love to do more prints in nicer wood frames for our new place but for a different size, the export dimensions will be different.
Now that your photos are edited, you’re ready to export your photos from Lightroom (or photoshop) to your computer. Click “file” and select “export” from the drop down menu and then make these adjustments:
- Set the resolution to 300 ppi.
- Select inches and use your exact frame measurements to size your photo. I selected 24 by 36 inches.
Let’s Upload + Print
Now that my photos are exported, I went ahead and uploaded them to Staples.com so I could just pick up my prints in store. You can also save your photos to a flash drive and bring them to your nearest Staples (check that it has printing services). If you’re doing this with unusual sizes, I’d opt for the flash drive option.
Once on Staples.com
- Click on “shop services” – “printing” – and “engineering prints.”
- They offer a few different sizes of engineering prints at different price points
- 18″ x 24″ for $1.79
- 24″ x 36″ for $3.59 (the size I picked because they fit in a standard poster frame)
- 30″ x 42″ for $5.29
- 36″ x 48″ for $7.29
- Choose the 24″ x 36″ size and click “design now”
- Click on “Engineering Prints in B&W BUY NOW
- I know, it says “NOT SUITABLE FOR PHOTOS” and there’s a different option for photo enlargements but I’m walking you through what I did, and I ordered the Engineering Prints B&W and they made for great photo enlargements 😛
- Add your first file.
- Now that your file is uploaded, make sure your orientation is correct. I used portrait orientation for both of my images.
- Give your job a title and hit “add to cart”
When all your prints have been added, hit “proceed to checkout” and you can pay online or opt to pay in store. Most places are 1 hour printing and you can go pick up your beautiful prints that same day.
If your frames are odd sizes (not one of the options listed above for engineering prints), bring your flash drive with your saved images into the store and ask for B&W Engineering Prints in your specific sizes. They can print and then cut your images. They will (likely) charge you for the closest print size that is bigger than your image and then charge you per cut.
Time to Frame:
I wanted to keep mine SUPER budget friendly because I knew we were moving in a few short months and wasn’t sure exactly what our new decor would be (and who wants to haul more heavy frames than necessary across the country and up 4 flights of stairs to a new apartment?). I ordered these poster frames from Target. They are cheap plastic frames but I’m really impressed with how they look up on a wall with the engineering prints in them. I initially thought I’d upgrade frames in our new place but, at least for a nursery with little kids playing and throwing things, I’m keeping these $10 plastic frames.
You can also get an assortment of poster frames on Amazon if you’re looking for prime shipping:
If you try these let me know! I’d love to see how they turn out 🙂