DIY Wooden World Map Art

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Lately I’ve been having a slight obsession with maps. So when my roommates and I were discussing what to do with the large, empty wall in our kitchen, I knew exactly what I wanted – a giant map. On one of my many IKEA trips I saw this huge wall map that would have worked perfect on our wall. The problem? The price tag. The map cost about $150 which just was not in our budget. So I did what any good Pinterester would do — decided to do it myself! My original idea was to print out a world map that I found online at Kinkos on individual papers and decoupage it on a canvas to make a 4′ x 6′ map. However, when I went to print it out at Kinkos, part of the map kept getting cut off on every page and they didn’t know how to fix it. Luckily I got a refund. I checked out some maps on Amazon and the really really big maps were a little out of my price range, as well. I did see some 3′ x 4′ maps but we were pretty much set on having a map that was at least 4 feet tall. Then, I saw a tutorial on how to stain a world map onto a piece of wood. I went to town. The tutorial didn’t tell me how to do the tracing part, so I had some trial and error there. Let me tell you, this project is not quick. Overall it took me about 25 hours to complete. Granted, it was kind of huge… 4 1/2 feet by 6 feet, so there was a lot of space to cover. Here’s how it looks in our kitchen:

For this project, I used a piece of mahogany plywood, but you can really use any soft wood you want to. I liked the red undertones of the wood and the way the grain looked. Amy and I went to Home Depot when it was super rainy to get the wood. We ended up having to tie it to the top of my car. Stupid us, with the help of a guy who worked at Home Depot, tied it through the windows and then realized that we weren’t going to be able to get the doors open. So obviously the only logical thing to do was get in the car Nascar style. Quite humorous. It was quite the adventure but we got it home safely somehow. Like I said, this project takes a long time to complete, but in my opinion, it’s completely worth it. We love our giant world map and it only cost me around $26 to do (depends on what you already have in your house). All you need is a steady hand and a lot of patience. My recommendation is to watch a few movies on your laptop while you do it and you’re good to go!


Piece of mahogany plywood, cut to 4 1/2′ x 6′

world map outline (I got mine here, and used the 6 pages x 6 pages map)


transfer paper or graphite paper

kneaded eraser

rubbing alcohol (optional)

wood conditioner

wood stain

polyurethane spray



Lay your map on top of your piece of plywood. Carefully tape it to the wood. Lay a piece of transfer paper or graphite paper in between a section of the map and the wood. Trace with a pencil the map. Make sure not to press your hand too hard on the graphite paper because it will smudge a lot. Repeat until the whole entire map is traced onto the wood. This will take awhile, so have patience.

When finished, you will have the outline of the world map traced onto your piece of plywood. If you look really closely you can see the outline on my piece of wood.

I tried not to push too hard on the pencil because I didn’t want to see all of the lines when I was done staining. If you do have smudges from the graphite paper, use a kneaded eraser to remove the smudges. For more severe smudges, use a Q-Tip dipped in rubbing alcohol to rub the smudges out of the wood.

Now, let’s condition the wood. What the wood conditioner does is make sure that the wood absorbs the stain more evenly. Follow the instructions on the can of wood conditioner for application. However, here’s a tip. Most conditioners will say to apply the stain within 2 hours of using the wood conditioner. There is a 99.5% chance that you will not be able to do that. Therefore, I recommend applying the wood conditioner in sections. You will be able to tell the difference between using a wood conditioner and not using one, it bleeds a good amount without the wood conditioner. To apply the stain, all you need is a really small paint brush and a steady hand. Use a combination of even strokes and uneven strokes, applying the stain more heavily in some areas for a distressed look. Let the stain dry. Apply a few coats of polyurethane spray to protect and finish the map.

Source: Idea from The Happier Homemaker

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    1. I attached two pieces of one by one to the back with finishing nails, and then attached picture wire between the two pieces of wood. I used two nails in the wall to hang it up. Hope this helps! 🙂

  1. Thanks so much for this tutorial. I first found the same website instructions you referenced and couldn’t figure out how to do the tracing…which was a crucial part! So thanks for troubleshooting that and providing and even better “how-to”! I’ll let you know how it goes!

  2. That looks awesome! I’m nervous to try it but can’t wait to see how mine will end up. I have a question about the wood conditioner though – do you condition the entire plywood piece, or just the areas inside the traced lines?

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