Do It Yourself!

How to Make a Large Scale Image for Google Earth

1. Select your location. Rooftops are the best location for vinyl images. However, more natural materials have been used on fields. Based off my experience these instructions will apply primarily to paintings made of vinyl or a similar material. Make sure the location you wish to use shows up clearly on Google Earth/Maps as some areas have much higher resolution than others.

2. Measure and map out your location. This will help you know how big you need to make your painting and how much material you will need to buy. My image was 54 feet tall by 24 feet wide. Make sure to note your negative space and  subtract for your total materials needed. 

3. Secure a place for painting. If you wish to paint it outdoors, that is the cheapest option. Keep in mind however that it will need to dry overnight. If you live in a city with no outdoor space to use overnight, consider sharing a cheap studio. It shouldn’t take more than a month to finish your project.


4. Buy your materials. I found that if you tell people about your project they are excited and willing to give you a discount. For the material, I used a discount vinyl from a local sewing and craft store. My reason for choosing  this material was that it has a shiny side and a porous side. The porous part is important so that if you need to roll up your image the paint will not chip off. It also is durable outdoors and will not go transparent when wet. It cost $2/ square meter which is very reasonable. For the paint I used exterior acrylic house paint. I found I needed 4 gallons, 2 black, 1 blue, 1 red. Each gallon cost $18 with discount.

5. Construct a grid based off your image. Take your image and enlarge it in Photoshop. Overlay a grid on top. Give each square a coordinate (example A1, A2, A3)

6. Apply your grid to the material. If your painting needs to be 60 feet tall and you have divided your grid into 20 squares vertically, you will need to make each square the equivalent of 3 square feet.  Mark out these squares on your material and give each square a coordinate based off your grid. Since most material comes in roll, it will save you a lot of work if you construct your image in strips.

7. Begin drawing/painting. Print off copies of your grid image. For this stage it will go by a lot quicker if you have helpers. Assign each person to a group of coordinates and they will begin drawing based off the grid. Be sure that lines on each strip lines up with the next. Begin painting.

8. Make Weights. You will want to weigh your painting down somehow. You can do this in many ways. You can use painted bricks, painted discarded materials, or I made sandbags. I took black garbage bags, filled them with sand and rolled them up to make long black tubes. 

8. Transport to location. Once your painting is dry, you will want to roll it up and transport it to your location. Make sure to transport your weights at the same time, so you don’t risk your image blowing away/shifting during installation.

9. Set up your painting. Un roll your image and put each piece in its place. Make sure to sand bag as you go. Cut out the excess material from around image. Adhere the strips together. I chose to use grommets and pull ties so that it will be easy to take down in strips and re-install elsewhere. You may also chose to use a staple gun, however this may cause more damage if you have plans to re-install it. 

10. Photo document and or/ blog about it! People will be excited to hear about what you have made. 

11. Wait for your Image to appear. It could take an hour or it could take years! The important thing is that your painting is durable and  that you are patient!

If you have any questions you can email me!


21 responses to “Do It Yourself!

  1. Pingback: birdiz » Blog Archive » Ou est Charlie sur Google Earth?

  2. Emma

    Hi there,

    we are in Midrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. my offices are huge and i would love to build Waldo on the roof. are the Google maps detailed enough and updated often enough in my area for me to do this?

    thanks 🙂 and it’s an AWESOME idea.

  3. Hi emma! You can check this by typing in the address of the roof you want to use in google, then clips maps, and then choose the satellite view. I would not be able to tell you because it really varies depending on what part of the city you live in! But if you do chose to create a Waldo please let me know so I can blog about it! Good luck and I hope you find my instructions useful!


  4. Rafael

    olá, eu sou de São Leopoldo, Rio Grande do Sul, Brasil.
    tipo: onde ele está?! qual o nome da rua?! será q não rola uma pista?!
    ele está em Vancouver mesmo?!
    ajudem-me por favor!
    muito obrigado

  5. Where On Earth Is Waldo?

    Site is located in DownTown/Vancouver/CA, but Google Earth still is not updated [at least for the users from America of South….] 😉


  6. moderntypewriter

    Hey, I’m Rochester from the blog, the Modern Typewriter. My team and I were wondering if we could copy/paste the directions here to a post on our blog and advertise about your project? We really love your idea. Your brilliant for thinking about this!


  7. Hi Rochester, yes please feel free to post these on your blog! Thank you for the kind words!

  8. Pingback: Buzzbizweb, du buzz, du biz et du web | Benjamin Mercadier » Blog Archive » [ web + map ] Où qu’il est Charlie ?

  9. Hey, I’m a staff member at Naked Eye Magazine – a Montreal-based pop culture magazine. I’m currently working on a feature about Google Earth and some of the interesting things people are doing with it.
    I’d like to hear back from you and talk to you about you own project.

  10. Pingback: :) » Where On (Google)Earth Is Wally?

  11. moderntypewriter

    Thanks for letting us use your writing, we really appreciate it. I just got to posting it a few minutes ago, so check it out. I think it came out well.

  12. Pingback: Where on Earth is Waldo?

  13. Pingback: Wheres Wally now? « Dirty White Elephant

  14. Pingback: Που είναι ο Waldo? « Μαργαρίτες σε Βάζο

  15. Pingback: SeyrWeyr » Where’s Waldo on Google Earth?

  16. Lisa

    my daughter love Mr Wally so much, and she wants to print Mr Wally on her wall of living room, can I have a pdf. file so that we can try to make it for her, thanks

  17. Pingback: Le fafablog » Archive du Blog » Où est Charlie ? A Vancouver !

  18. I think your project is a great idea and it can be developed on more paintings! I love it. ¿May we find it is spain? 😉

  19. hola no entiendo nada.
    chau. soi argentina y flogger are.

  20. emile ghorayeb

    Hi there, I found a huge Waldo on the rooftop outside my office window in Montreal! Is there something you’d like me to do? (other than fly and take a pic of it!)


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