DIY Wooden World Map Art

Last week while perusing the web I came across an amazing  Wooden World Map on Vivaterra (no longer available).  I thought that it would be a gorgeous addition to my son Jack’s room-he is very much a little geography nut.  The price tag however-a whopping $475-was not going to work.  I knew I could make my own knock-off.


I started by creating a wood base with scraps left over from my DIY Headboard build a while back.

I then printed off a map template online and began the painstaking process of tracing it onto the wood-the easiest way to do this is using carbon paper between the printed map and the wood. The stain you use later will cover the traced lines.

Here you can see the map traced onto the wood.  After I traced the map I prepared the wood with a wood conditioner and sanded it with a fine grain sandpaper.  (DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP-YOUR STAIN WILL BLEED IF YOU DO NOT CONDITION YOUR WOOD!!)

I then used the leftover Mission Oak stain from my headboard project and a small paintbrush to paint the map design onto the wood.

And here it is! I love it! I like that it has a distressed look to it.  It was quite the process to make but I am just tickled at how it turned out-so much so that I decided to make them to order through my Etsy shop as well! (Update: I am not currently selling these maps.)


Here it is with a darker stain:

Now I need your opinion-I had originally planned to hang this on the wall in my son’s room but one of the other projects I started this weekend was making him a headboard-my husband had the idea of framing this out and making it into his headboard…what do you think? I think it could look pretty cool but I’m not 100% convinced yet.  Your thoughts? (Update! I ended up not making it into a headboard and instead made my son a DIY Beadboard headboard that was soooo easy!)

Thanks for stopping by!  Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Pinterest so you don’t miss the fun!




previous post: Guest Posting!
next post: Master Bedroom Plan

Manage your shopping list and search for recipes from across the web at


  1. says

    I think this looks great! I can imagine that it took forever to finish.

    I think it would look fantastic as a headboard and I don’t even think it would need to be trimmed out (unless it’s a width issue). If it were me, I would make the decision based on if you have a specific empty wall you were planning to put it on. If there is a perfect wall, then a similarly styled headboard would give the room great rustic balance.

  2. says

    WOW! My hubby would love this (former history/geo/social studies teacher). I think it would make a great head board but agree with Miranda. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

  3. Anonymous says

    An idea is to go to a sign shop and get them to cut the map into thin tape like plastic. Stick it down, stain then peel. I want to make it and mark everywhere I travel :)

  4. Anonymous says

    Looks great! I was also wondering how you traced the map onto the wood and what website you got the map template from? Thank you!
    — Ade H.

    • says

      Hi Ade!

      I used this site to print the map I wanted-they have tons of options for maps and different sizes up to almost 6′ by 6′:

      Then I taped it to my wood panel and traced it with a pencil hard enough to leave an impression on the wood (I used a soft wood) After I traced the entire thing I went back and painted it with the stain using the impression outline as my guide.

      Let me know if you have any other questions, hope this helps!


  5. says

    Recently I saw another DIY project that required tracing onto wood. You might find this a bit quicker…this lady blacked out the back of her paper with charcoal, taped it to the wood and just traced over the image. That transferred the charcoal lines onto the wood and she was able to go from there. I hope that makes sense. If not…I’ll link to her tutorial on her project.

  6. says

    This is wonderful! I would keep the headboard and the art – that is use the headboard for the headboard and keep this for the wall. I think you should have at least one really cool thing to look at while you are in bed. This would be it.

  7. says

    Melissa — I love this project and I’m attempting it myself! I’m posting about it on my (very) new blog, and I’ve added a picture that leads to this page, if that’s alright with you!

  8. Lena Willis says

    When I first saw this, I immediately thought it could be my son’s headboard. He loves maps… I don’t know if I would make it, may just visit your etsy shop…

  9. Jerry says

    Would it have been easier to use carbon paper for the tracing? I would like to see you experiment with making each country a different shade of stain. I know that when staining concrete they cut the concrete outside of the design. Perhaps tracing the edges with an Exacto knife would prevent different stains from running into each other. Perhaps that would give it an inlaid wood appearance. This would make a great coffee table too. Also a link to the map you used would be great.

  10. denise andrade says

    This is awesome…and really inspiring! An alternative to printing the map and tracing it would be to project the image onto the boards and trace it that way (using a laptop and LCD projector) I’ve personally tried this method with other projects, and it certainly saves a lot of time. Love this!

    • Melissa says

      Thanks Georgia! I take the map printout and rub pencil on the back, then turn it and trace so the pencil rubbings transfer to the wood. Let me know if you have any more questions!

  11. Kristen says

    For anyone looking for tips on tracing… I read this on another blog but newspaper also works as tracing paper. I found an ad in the newspaper that was almost entirely black. Put it dark side down on the wood then trace on top of it. It will leave an outline for you. I did it piece by piece of the 9 page map to keep track better of what I had traced. It only took me an hour to trace the entire map.

    • Melissa says

      Great tip Kristen! I’ll have to try that on my next one, I’ve been using a pencil to color the back of the lines on my printout then tracing to get the same effect but newspaper would be so much faster! Thanks for sharing!

  12. says

    Oh My Goodness!!!!! How amazingly cool! I am SO inspired! I would have never thought to use stain on plain wood like this to get such a great look! Thank you SO much for sharing! And to say I am tempted to order one of these on your esty shop is an understatement! Thank you SO much for sharing at Happy Hour! I am pinning your project to our Happy Hour Feature board right now!

  13. Amanda says

    How did you keep the stain from bleeding into the wood. I tried this and traced the map, but when I started to stain it, the stain bled past my tracing

    • Melissa says

      Hi Amanda, It’s very importance to use Wood Conditioner on the wood prior to staining. I’ve had numerous people contact me about their stain bleeding and all of them forgot that step. Did you condition your wood? I’m going to go back in the post to make sure that step is highlighted.

  14. Marissa C says

    You should know that site called stole your pictures and is using it to generate clicks via Pinterest

    • Melissa says

      Thank you SO much for letting my know, I’ve contacted them to ask it is removed. There were a lot of blogging friend’s projects on there too, I’ve let some know as well. Again-thank you so much!

    • Melissa says

      The sanding is so light that it doesn’t affect the tracing and to be quite honest you can skip it without affecting the final outcome. As long as you condition the wood you’ll be good-you absolutely can’t skip that step!

  15. Ben says

    To make the tracing easier you could cut out the stencil of the map on vinyl using a Silhouette Cameo. After the vinyl is cut, just use transfer paper to move the stencil onto the wood and trace!

    • Melissa says

      Hi Madeline! What I do is print off my template and tape the pieces of paper together. Then I turn the paper over and color over all the lines on the back to create my own version of carbon paper! Then turn it back over, tape in place on my wood panel and trace, I check periodically to make sure the design is transferring clearly. I considered buying carbon paper at one point but it was pricy in my area.This works well enough for me!

  16. Courtney says

    I LOVE THIS! My husband and I are travel nuts and so we are doing the guest room in a “travel the world” kind of theme with maps and pictures from all the places we have been and want to go! I think this would make an EXCELLENT addition! But I did have a question…did you sand and condition AFTER you traced the map onto the wood and did you ONLY do the areas you were going to be staining or the entire piece? Thank you so much!

  17. Kyrra says

    Quick question….I understand that I need to use wood conditioner before the stain, but do I put the conditioner over all of the wood or just over the wood that I don’t want stained?

  18. Alyssa says

    This has such a great design!!! I am doing an adventurer big boy room for my growing toddler and will be attempting to make this! May I ask what kind of wood you used? :)

    • Melissa Riker says

      Hi Alyssa! I just use regular white wood in the lumber section at Lowes. It costs under $3 for a 6′ section.

  19. Kate says

    I love this idea! I am attempting to make it for my best friend for a wedding gift. I had one question for you, the Minewax pre-stain conditioner’s directions said that the stain must be applied between 15 min-2 hours after being conditioned. Do you have to finish the painting of the stain within two hours of conditioning the wood?

    • Melissa Riker says

      You can use carbon paper to transfer the design but I just rub pencil on the back of my printed map then trace-sort of makeshift carbon paper I guess!

  20. Nina says

    Hello, I am in love with this project idea. I was wondering about the carbon paper transferring idea. Brilliant makeshift with the penciling!

    Beautiful work!

  21. says

    This is beautiful! I want to use stain with a vinyl stencil. Do you think the wood conditioner would prevent the stain from leaking under the stencil?

    • Melissa Riker says

      Hi Jen! I condition the entire piece and then trace the design after it’s dried at least 2 hours. I’d love to see how yours turns out when you finish! Have a great weekend, Melissa

  22. Garnadipa Gilang says

    I just found this out and instantly fell in love!

    I was thinking of making one of these and fit some tube lights on the back, giving it a dual decor during the day and night light during the night

    Just one question though, after you traced the map did you sand the entire surface area of the wood or just the area within the map lines?

  23. elena says

    Awesome work! I would attempt this, but any thoughts on how i could make the map in different colors?

  24. Andrea says

    I’ve been searching high and low for a nice world map that I can mark all the places I’ve been, my husband has been, and we’ve both been together. This is it! Iive always wanted to frame a world map but never did because I was never thrilled about the looks of a traditional world map. I just doesn’t go nicely with our homes style. I think this will be a great way to do it. Looks beautiful!

    • Melissa Riker says

      I’m so glad you found it Andrea! I hope it works out for you and if you make your own I’d love to see a picture of the finished product!

  25. Jeff says

    I saw this idea and had to try it, or at least a version of it. I made a headboard using 8 inch wide boards, 40 inches wide. I found a map 24 x 30 inches and traced the outline of the continents on craft paper by taping the map to a well lit glass door, cut out the continents and spaced out on the headboard. The cutting out did take quite a while- about 5 hours and the staining of the landforms took another 5 hours. All in all, about a 20 hour project to complete; but WELL WORTH THE RESULTS.

  26. Ellie says

    You’ve probably answered this question before, I’m sorry if so! When you conditioned the wood before staining it, which part of the board did you condition and sand? The whole thing? Only the part where you were going to add the stain? Or in the parts where you didn’t want the stain to touch?

  27. D says

    Ok, or wood is EXTREMELY cheap in America. Or I am missing something here. 6 + 2 planks for the back (but lets say one cut in half for the back if you are lucky) planks of that size thickness. Here that would costs you a 250€ or 279$ for the wood alone. And that’s with thinner wooden planks then the planks shown here =/

    • Melissa says

      The wood planks I used are not finished, they are very rough and used for outdoor projects-they cost under $3 a board here in the States. I made these for multiple years to sell online and would search through the wood for the best/straightest pieces. I could get the entire thing made with 4 boards (The boards were 6 feet long and I cut into 30 inch pieces), so it cost under $12 for the wood. I then sanded the wood down myself to smooth it prior to staining so it looks like a nicer plank than I started with.

  28. Another Point of View says

    I think it is cool that you made this for yourself, but not so cool to be selling it since it was someone else’s original idea. Just sayin’

  29. Marissa says


    This diy certainly turned out amazing! I have a question: where I’m from (the Netherlands) blue carbon paper is easier to get and cheaper, is there a reason to go for black carbon paper to trace the map or will blue work also?

    I’m not staining the map but cutting it out of plywood and burning in the countries borders into the wood. I’m hoping to make it into a massive statement piece :)

    Thanks in advance!


  1. […] Designing…the media center, still. Although we did find the final pieces we need to finish it. Re-Use Hawaii had just finished deconstruction on a house/mansion in Kahala and pulled out all of the mahogany paneling {that someone had – shudder – painted!} but they were giving the paneling away…for free! We found an organic citrus paint stripper that’s doing wonders, peeling away the paint so that we can use the fresh wood to cap off our media center. I’m also using some of it to make that family travel map I keep talking about, something like so. […]

  2. […] Nothing increases a girl’s lust for travel like a majestic display of the places she’s been. This project is for the DIY-loving traveler; it’s tedious, time-consuming, and takes tons of patience, but (I promise) your efforts will be well-rewarded if you set aside craft time for’s Wooden World Map.  […]

  3. […] pinterest and a blog. the blog i found, Ugly Duckling House was inspired by the original post here. she changed a few things to create a gold leaf world map on canvas. i loved this idea, but wanted […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>