How to Create a Large Map to Paint at Home

If you’re doing a U.S. State Study or just want to create your own map – this is the perfect project. Get your kids more excited to learn about the states with their own hands-on project.

How to Create a Large Map to Paint at Home

When we started our U.S. State Study this year I wanted to get a scratch off map. I thought it would be so much fun to scratch off each state as we went.

But as much fun as that sounded, I wanted to give Royal more to do with the map. I wanted to to really be his map.

So when we found canvas at Michaels for 75% off, I jumped at the change. We were able to get a large piece of canvas for about $7. Both Micheals and JoAnns have these sales often. So keep your eye out.

The next step was to just figure out how to get the map onto the canvas.

How to Make Your Own Projector

There are multiple ways to make projectors at home. But I was pretty excited for this method because I already had everything I needed.


  • Sheet protector or laminator page (already laminated so it’s transparent)
  • Print out of map
  • Sharpie/Permanent Marker
  • Box
  • Canvas (or other surface – foam board would almost work)
  • Masking tape
  • Phone with a flashlight. A regular flashlight might work, too, but you’ll have to play with it

First, trace the map onto the sheet protector or laminator page. Use a dark marker – black is the best – to make sure it shows up.

Next, get out your box. It should be wider than your paper. Or at least, wider than the part you want to trace. Tape your sheet protector to the top of the box so it hangs freely.

I had to use extra boxes to position my phone high enough. You want the flashlight/phone at about the same height as your map. Otherwise the picture will be distorted.

Turn on your flashlight and place it in the box. Then face it towards your canvas.

You will need to adjust the position of your box to get the picture just right on your canvas. Also, keep in mind that if you canvas is slanted at all, the picture will be distorted. I had to hold mine upright while tracing.

Now, trace! My lines were pretty blurry so I did the best I could. And then I used the map app on my phone to correct some parts. For instance, I couldn’t see Delaware at all so I had to correct that.

If you trace in pencil fairly softly, you can erase it and correct.

The last step (for now) was to trace it in black. I used permanent marker for this.

How to Use the Giant Map in Your State Study

I think there are so many ways a map like this could be used. I’m going to outline some ideas I have and then share what we will actually be doing.

If you have a creative kid, a kid who loves art or painting, or a kid excited about geography – they might want to do a lot more with this than a child who isn’t as excited about those things.

Some fun ideas:

  • Mark the capitals and/or large cities
  • Draw landmarks in each state
  • Color the states like their state flag
  • Draw common animals from each state
  • Create a topographical map
  • Trace your own U.S.A. road trip
  • Make it colorful and sparkly
  • Label the states

What we’re actually going to do:

I’m not sure how interested Royal is going to be in personalizing his map. He did say I was the best mom ever when he saw it but that doesn’t always translate to ‘excited about doing the thing’. So we will see.

My hope is that he will paint each state, label is, and mark the capital. If he also wants to include an animal and/or landmark, I will be thrilled.

I will update as we get further into our state study to see how it looks all painted in.!

If you need more state study resources, don’t miss the U.S. State Trading Cards.

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