Jupe du Jour

Thrifty Thursday - Cheap Canvas Wall Art Using Public Domain Images

DIY, DecorHaley SwanComment

So, today isn't so much a Thrifted Thursday as it is  Thrifty Thursday, because it doesn't involve thrift shopping--just a really great deal on an easy DIY wall decor project. 

A little bit of backstory: I love Alphonse Mucha. (Well, his paintings anyway--I don't know that much about him as a person.) So when it came time to decorate our first apartment in Boston, I thought, hey, wouldn't it be great to have a framed Mucha print or a Mucha canvas on the wall? And then I Googled my options:

$79.99 for a 10" x 13" canvas?? I believe the look on my face is best described as "crestfallen." BUT wait, I thought, aren't most of Mucha's works in the Public Domain? .......They are indeed! Which means that if I could find a high enough resolution file, I could get it printed and framed or printed on canvas elsewhere. 

Finding High Resolution Works of Art

There is TONS of artwork that has entered into the Public Domain (meaning it's copyright-free) and is available to download for FREE from the web. Here are a few great resources for finding copyright-free artwork (including a lot of really famous pieces!):

Wikimedia Commons: This is a collection of user-uploaded files that are in the Public Domain. You can search for your favorite artists or subjects and see if anything matches!

National Gallery of Art (Open Access): The National Gallery museum in Washington DC has provided downloads of more than 40,000 works of art that fall into the Public Domain. Just make sure you're searching with the "Open Access" filter on.

Yale University Art Gallery: The Yale University Art Gallery has made much of their artwork available for download. Search for pieces you're interested in, or browse through their collections. Clicking on any of them will take you to the item's page, where there will be a download link if the item is in the Public Domain.*

The Getty Search Gateway (Open Content Images): Over 100,000 images available for download to the public! Just make sure that you've clicked the "Open Content Images" filter in your search.

The Met Collection Online: The Met has uploaded hundreds of thousands of pieces of their collections online, and many are available for download. Clicking on an image will take you to its page, where there will be a download link if the item is in the Public Domain.*

*As a general rule, items created before 1923 are in the Public Domain. So, don't waste your time looking for Warhol :)

Google image search is another great tool in helping you find high-resolution artwork, and is actually where I found the Mucha image that I turned into a canvas. Here's what you do:

Search for whatever image you're looking for, and then use the Search Tools to filter your results to only show high-resolution files. Depending on what size canvas or print you want, you probably need a file that's at least 2 - 4 MP. Once you've selected your size the results will narrow and you can see if anything matches your needs.

A note that you should ALWAYS check out the link that the file is from to make sure that whoever posted it hasn't claimed copyright on the image. Even though a work of art itself is in the public domain, photographs taken of it, for example, can sometimes still be copyrighted (and if you think that's confusing, it's only the beginning of the rabbit hole that is copyright law).

If you're not sure if the file you've found is large enough for the size canvas that you have in mind, don't worry, it's easy to figure out. Just look at the image's pixel dimensions (visible when you mouse over them in the Google search results or by looking at a downloaded photo's properties) and input them in a pixel - inches converter like this one. In general anything printed should be at 300 DPI.

Once you've found a high-res image, all that's left to do is pick a company to print it for you! I got sticker shock twice in this project--once looking up Mucha prints and again looking at how much different companies charged for custom canvas prints. YIKES. I wanted a square canvas, about 15" x 15". At Walgreens that would have been around $60, and at Shutterfly it was $95 (although they're always running some kind of sale).

In the end I went with CanvasDiscount.com, where I got TWO large canvas prints for $45 combined. They have great prices, and I think I used a promo code I found on Offers.com or RetailMeNot to make it an even better deal. And, while I'm sure the higher-end options are slightly better quality, I'm 100% satisfied with my wall art!

Hanging in the corner of our cute little Boston apartment.