Home Decor

How to use old maps of your favourite country to personalise your home

If you’re anything like us, you can lose hours poring over old maps. From street maps of an area you know well to country maps from centuries past, it’s fascinating to see what used to be on your road or how national borders have changed over time.

Hang an old map on your wall and you’ve got a conversation piece as well as a lovely bit of home decoration. You could go out and buy a ready-made map but, if you have something specific in mind, you can also get exactly what you’re looking for by adding an image to one of our canvas prints or wall art products. And there are plenty of free maps out there if you know where to look…

How to find old maps online

Lots of modern maps, images and artworks are covered by copyright law, meaning they can’t be used commercially. The London Underground map, for instance, is copyrighted by Transport for London and some people have got into trouble with lawyers for adapting and publishing their own versions. You should also never use work produced by living artists without paying; not only is their art copyrighted, it’s their livelihood!

We like the website Mapsland, which offers non-copyrighted old maps of different countries and regions to download for free. We especially love this late 17th century map of the world with beautiful illustration around it – it’s fascinating to see how much of North America and Australia was still largely unknown to Europeans.

Pixabay has lots of copyright free images of all kinds, from photography and illustrations… and, of course, old maps! Here’s another gorgeous 17th century map which claims to be a ‘new and accurate’ map of the world. We could spend hours looking at how much the map-maker still didn’t know.

Jumping forward to the late 19th century, this map of Europe from Mapsland shows Austria-Hungary at the height of its empire, as well as the newly-formed German empire – and Finland still part of Russia, and Ireland still entirely part of Britain.

In the UK, Ordnance Survey maps are out of copyright 50 years after they are first published. The National Library of Scotland has a series of old maps ranging from the 1840s to the 1960s which cover parts of the whole country. They’re not free to download in a format that can be used on our Canvas, but you can buy digital downloads that do work for a relatively small fee. Perfect if you absolutely have to have an old map of your street!

How to use images of old maps on a Photobox Simple Canvas

You’ll need to make sure the image of the map you’ve found is high enough resolution to print well on a Simple Canvas. As a general rule of thumb, the bigger the file size, the higher the resolution – and we’ll tell you if your photo will print well (or not) by showing you a smiley (or frowny) face in our creation studio.

Another general rule is that the bigger the Canvas you want, the higher the resolution (so the bigger the file size) should be. Lower resolution images can look grainy and pixelated when they’re enlarged, and we want your map to look fabulous.

The image will also need to be a JPEG format. Some maps are downloadable as PDFs but unfortunately, we don’t support that file type – sorry! You can convert other types of image file, such as PNG or TIFF, in most image editing software by clicking ‘save as’ and then selecting the file type as JPEG.