Tutorial: How to turn Google map images into throw cushions

JUN 18, 2012

This week guest author Emma Jeffery from the blog Hello Beautiful shows us how she used satellite images of her neighborhood to make some very cool throw cushions.

Google map pillows

Emma: I must be getting sentimental in my (not so) old age as I’m increasingly drawn to surrounding myself with meaningful and thoughtful items. Sure, I’m inspired by designs and trends I see in stores online and locally, but I’m often searching for ways to translate these ideas into something more than a passing fad. I love it when items or objects in my home have a story to tell or a memory to share. They seem to give a depth and richness to my environment that store-bought items cannot.

Ask my husband, and he’ll probably share with you his opinion that we have more than enough throw pillows in our house, but anyone who enjoys fashion, design and sewing as much as I do knows that cushions are a great and easy way to change the look and feel of a room.

Have you noticed the prolific array of map designs at the moment on all kinds of home decor items, stationery, wall coverings and clothing? I’ve been thinking about how nice it would be to incorporate this design element into a fabric that actually portrayed a familiar and special part of the world — a favorite vacation spot, a childhood home, a mountain range once conquered…

I went to Google Maps and typed in the zipcode of the house that my husband and I own, where we were married and into which my eldest child was born. I actually ended up switching to the satellite view, but you could of course use the map view instead.

Next I zoomed in to get a view of our house and its surrounding area. I don’t recommend zooming in too closely as the image will become pixilated when you enlarge it. I did maximize the image on the screen by ‘hiding’ the large directions/places sidebar on the left and turned off all of the map annotation so only the satellite view remained.

Google Maps screen capture

I then took a screen capture of this image, saved it to my computer and opened it in Photoshop (you can also use Picmonkey), where I cropped it and brightened the colors to really make that lovely patchwork of fields pop.

Cropped satellite image

Once I was happy with the image, I then needed to make it the right size – big enough to make three 16” x 16” cushions. To do this in Photoshop, just go to “Image” > “Image Size” then type in the dimensions you want. If you don’t have Photoshop, you can also open the saved image in MS Paint where you can easily increase or adjust the size of an image.

Paint screen capture

I had this printed onto Spoonflower’s linen-cotton canvas (15% off until Monday, Feb 6, 2017) which has a printable area of 54” wide. I wanted each of my cushions to be unique and to have a different part of the satellite image printed on them so that no two were alike, and I kept that in mind when resizing my image. Spoonflower prints a good quality image at 150 dpi, so to resize you need to do the following math:

Desired fabric width (in inches) x 150 = ___

Desired fabric length (in inches) x 150 = ___

In my case, I wanted the printed fabric image to measure 17” x 51”, to give me a enough fabric to sew the cushions with a ½” seam allowance.

17 x 150 = 2550 pixels

51 x 150 = 7650 pixels

I had my image centered and printed onto 2 yards so that I could use the excess white, unprinted fabric around the edge of the image, for the back of my cushions. Adjust the sizes according to your own preference and projects.

I then sewed them up in one afternoon, and suddenly my couch became not only a comfortable place to relax, but also a great talking point with our children and visitors.

Of course, these cushions will still get thrown around the room and end up on the floor as the kids makes camps and play games (that’s why we have so many cushions!), but it’s so nice to know that we have a few little reminders of a special place that is very dear to our hearts.

Satellite cushions


About Our Guest Blogger

Emma Jeffery, Spoonflower guest bloggerHi! I’m Emma, and as well as working on the Fiskars Design Team, I blog over at hellobeautifulblog.blogspot.com/

I’m an obsessive sewer, often leaping into projects with more enthusiasm than talent, more bravado than skill and more good luck than anything else. This technique has worked well for me so far and more often than not, I make things I love, even if they’re not absolutely perfect. And though I’m no expert, I have a passion for fabric, color and design. I know what I like and what I like makes me smile.

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  • Thank you, that was what I was going to comment on. I hate seeing DIY ideas which suggest people just take images from the internet irresponsibly. Especially in situations where the DIY’ers intent is to sell a product.

  • This sounds like fun. Can you do it with a street view-how do you get rid of all those map icons/dialogue boxes?

  • How exactly do I print on the canvas after I have saved the image? Do I need something more than a regular or photo type printer?

  • Useful notes from Google on the use of images from their Maps and/or Earth services:
    Printing for Private Use
    Google Maps and Google Earth have built-in print functionalities. You may print Content from these services for personal use and enlarge them. We cannot provide high-resolution or vector screen captures of Google Maps. For high-resolution imagery from Google Earth, you must use Google Earth Pro.
    Understanding Fair Use
    Your project may fall under ‘fair use’. Fair use is a concept under copyright law in the United States that, generally speaking, permits you to use a copyrighted work in certain ways without obtaining a license from the copyright holder. There are a variety of factors that affect whether or not your use of Content would be considered a fair use, including:
    the purpose and character of your use
    the nature of the copyrighted work
    the amount of the copyrighted material used
    he effect of your use upon the potential market for the copyrighted work.
    For example, there are differences between use in a for-fee service and use in a work of scholarship, or the use of a single map screenshot and the use of detailed map images for an entire country. There are similar, although generally more limited, concepts in other countries’ copyright laws, including a concept known as “fair dealing” in a number of countries.
    Please do not request that we interpret whether your use of Content is a fair use. Google cannot tell you if your use of Content from our products would be a fair use or would be considered fair dealing; these are legal analyses that depend on all of the specific facts of your proposed use. We suggest you speak with an attorney if you have questions regarding fair use of copyrighted works and go through our permissions wizard.