You Were Here: How to DIY a Google Maps Throw Pillow

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It’s bittersweet to remember where I grew up and observe how big the trees have gotten since I moved away. In my search for ways to decorate with items that spark memories of past homes and places I’ve visited, I think I’ve found the answer. You will be able to create a pillow and a cherished gift at the same time with this project.


Emma Jeffery of Hello Beautiful worked with us at Spoonflower to create a tutorial that explains how to create place-based pillows to sprinkle around the living room and remind you of home. I’ll turn it over to Emma guide you through the details…


Emma: 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.


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 zip code 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.

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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 pixelated 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.

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I then took a screen capture of this image, saved it to my computer, and opened it in Picasa, where I cropped it and used the “boost” option under the image-processing tab to brighten the colors and to really make that lovely patchwork of fields pop. Find out how to take a screenshot, if you’re not sure.

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Once I was happy with the image, I then needed to make it the right size — big enough to make three 16-by-16-inch cushions. I opened the saved image in MS Paint where you can easily increase or adjust the size of an image.

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I had this printed onto Spoonflower’s linen-cotton canvas, which has a printable area of 54 inches 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, so 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 inches by 51 inches, to give me enough fabric to sew the cushions with a half-inch seam allowance.

  • 17 x 150 = 2550 pixels
  • 51 x 150 = 7650 pixels

I had my image centered and printed onto two 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. You can also purchase matching blank fabric from Spoonflower at a lesser cost if you would like.


I then sewed them up in one afternoon, and suddenly my sofa 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 forts 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.

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Other Useful Tips:

  • Google Maps cannot provide high-resolution or vector screen captures. 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. 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.