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Map Art How to Make a Unique Pet Portrait

Map art: Would you love to have some personalized original artwork on your walls but don’t think your painting skills are up to it? That’s me!

You’d love a portrait of your pet or a loved one but know that when you finished painting, it would probably look nothing like them. Have you ever thought about making some map art by doing a collage portrait instead of using maps? Collages are much more forgiving than painting.

Ok, I admit it I have a bit of obsession with map crafts. Not only have I decoupaged furniture and lamps with them, but they are also now even on my walls.

I didn’t just frame an old map and hand it on the wall (that would be too easy) but I have even created some unique map art. I made a map portrait of our family dog Toby.

Vintage maps

Create Some Unique Map Art With A Pet Portrait

This map art portrait of our beloved scruffy Foxy Russel is probably one of my most admired pictures on my wall. Well, it’s my favourite anyway!

Anyone can make a map portrait, it doesn’t have to be a pet you can create map portraits of people too. However, pets aren’t critical of your artwork so no risk there.

I got the inspiration for this artwork after visiting an exhibition of the English collage artist Peter Clark in London a few years ago. My map art maybe not be quite as fabulous as his. But the map portrait is of my own dog so I have a sentimental attachment to it.

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What You Need to Make Map Art Pet Portrait

what you need to make map pet portrait

How to Make Your Map Art Portrait

Altering the photo

1.. First, once you have decided on the photo that you are going to base your map art on you will need to make a few adjustments to it. To simplify your photo, digitally posterize it by using a filter in a program like Photoshop.
If you don’t have photoshop don’t worry. There are lots of free tools on the internet where you can posterize any picture for free like

A face on photo of your pet will work best and make the art work more interesting and recognizable.

Posterized dog photo

2. Next, enlarge and print your photo the same size you would like your map art. My map portrait was A3 size as I don’t have an A3 printer, I printed my picture of Toby across 2 sheets of A4 paper and taped them together.
I could have sent the A3 file to my local print shop and got them to print it for me, or just enlarge it on one of their photocopiers. But for the purposes of this art project, it was just as easy to work with the photo printed across 2 smaller pages.

Preparing the Map Art Portrait

3. Next, I used tracing paper to transfer my pet photo to my paper. I just traced around the outline of Toby and then each posterized section. The posterization of the photo helps you pick out the most distinctive sections of your portrait. I kept my outline quite simple with not too much detail.

Tracing round dog photo

Top tip: When tracing use a soft pencil and go over the back of the traced image with the pencil otherwise you will end up with a mirror image.

Picking the right bits of map to use.

4. Next, to construct the map art portrait you will need to cut out bits of maps to fit into your posterized shape. It’s a bit like constructing a jigsaw.

Place the tracing paper over the maps you are using and trace around the shapes. Then cut these out and stick them on your paper outline.

Tracing round maps for map portrait

5. When selecting the different bits of the maps to cut up for my map art, I don’t just pick any old bit. I look carefully at my original photo and if it’s a dark bit, I then try to look for a dark bit of the map.

For example, if you look at Toby’s ears the maps used for this are a slightly different colour than the ones used for his body. This is when it’s a good idea to have a variety of maps to use, like road maps.

Creating a dog portrait out of maps

Adding the detail to the map art…

6. I didn’t only just use maps for this dog portrait. I used some bits of newspaper and stamps. To make the eyes and nose distinctive I cut out black bits from an old newspaper. I used a bit of red paper for the dog collar. It is these little fine details that will bring your map art collage to life.

Map art collage dog portrait the fine details.

Toby is a scruffy-haired Foxy Russell and I wanted to reflect that with this collage. To do this I frayed the edges of my paper before sticking them down. Especially for his beard where I fringed the map with some scissors.

Dog map portrait collage fringing the beard
Map art dog collage portrait s

Once you get going on your portrait you will actually see how easy it is. You don’t have to just stick to pets you could try and do a map art portrait of a loved one. If you want to start off with something much simpler with regards to map art then try out my map paper moths.

It is really lovely to have personalized artwork on your walls that you have created yourself. It will add interest to your home and become a conversation piece as well as make you smile every time you look at it.

A masterpiece portrait of your pet deserves a grand frame. I framed my Toby map art in an ornate gold frame I had. Thrift stores and junk shops are great places to pick up old frames cheaply.

Make some gorgeous unique map art by immortalizing your pet in a map portrait.
framed-map-art-pet-portrait 3 s

Putting a photo through a posterizing filter to simplify it really helps when creating your own artwork. I have used this technique before to actually paint a giant wall art of a dog.

How to paint your own giant wall art _

If you like making your own wall art you may want to check out my map angel wings, pineapple paper flower wall art or my giant Marimekko Christmas wall art.



Friday 30th of December 2022


Claire Armstrong

Saturday 31st of December 2022

Thank you

Annette in New York

Monday 17th of July 2017

Greetings Claire, Thank you for sharing this splendid craft. My art collecting partner has two delightful Cairn terriers, getting on in years, and I cannot think of a gift that would mean more to him! Best wishes, Annette

Claire Armstrong

Monday 17th of July 2017

Thank you! I think they would look awesome with a New York map and make a lovely gift.

Linda L

Wednesday 14th of June 2017

You are brilliant! Love this!!!!

Claire Armstrong

Wednesday 14th of June 2017

Thank you Linda, that is really nice of you to say so.

Sandra L Garth

Sunday 14th of May 2017

You are the Queen of Map Crafts and this is so darn cute and creative! Thank you for sharing with us at Celebrate Your Story, and I hope you’re having a great weekend.

Claire Armstrong

Sunday 14th of May 2017

Thank you so much, hope you have a great weekend too!

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Saturday 13th of May 2017

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