We all know how a drop of water can completely destroy a printed document, and this is a problem that is often overlooked when printing out maps. While they could be stored in baggies, wear and tear can easily degrade the paper as well. One solution is to use special paper that is already water-resistant, but sheets can be expensive, and not all printers can handle this type of job. Another option is to laminate the maps, but then they may be difficult to fold and carry in a pocket. Let’s take a look at a trick that provides an excellent alternative and costs next to nothing to put together.
All you need for this project is a printer with ink, a white kitchen garbage bag (smooth, not flex), a quart-sized sandwich bag and an iron. Keep in mind that this project is meant for use with an inkjet, not laser printer. It’s also important to note that the maps will shrink a little bit after processing, and this can impact their scale.
The first step is to take a ruler or straight edge and place it over the kitchen garbage bag. Flatten the bag as much as possible before taking a razor or scissors and cutting the material into a 10” x 7” piece. Cut along the seam, and you will end up with two pieces. These dimensions are intentionally smaller than your standard piece of paper, and this is important to prevent the plastic from getting jammed up into the printer later on.
Next, you want to take your ruler or straight edge and measure 5 inches from the bottom of the freezer bag. Mark this spot and cut a horizontal line from side to side. This should leave you with a 10” x 5” section. Next, cut along the sides of the section so that it will unfold and what was once the bottom seam is now in the middle. The finished result is a 10” x “10 piece of plastic. Keep repeating the process until you have enough material plastic to print out the number of maps you want based on the steps below.
The next step is to take one of the garbage bag sheets and center it on a piece of white paper. Place another sheet on top to create a sandwich. Press the three pieces together with a hot iron, moving it slowly and evenly across the entire surface for at least 30 seconds. Let it cool down completely before attempting to peel apart the paper. Once cooled, you should be able to peel off the top piece of paper to reveal the plastic-coated one beneath.
However, don’t separate the sandwich until you are ready to print. It’s also important that you peel carefully so that you don’t accidentally rip up the plastic coating. Repeat the same process with the plastic from the baggies. Sandwich it between two pieces of paper, heat, allow to cool and then separate when needed. Keep in mind that you will cover the printed map with the clear plastic later, and it won’t be going through the printer.
When ready to print, insert the white plastic-lined sheet into the printer so that the plastic side will be the one that receives the ink. Choose a map that is not very detailed because some of the finer points may not print properly. Print it out and check the quality. Choose a different map if you are not satisfied with the results.
Once you’ve printed a map that you like, the next step is to cover it with the plastic from the bag. Peel off one of the sheets of paper to expose the plastic and paper backing. Place it, plastic side down, over the printed map. Take your iron and press evenly across the surface for at least another 30 seconds, or until the paper will peel off completely without taking some of the plastic with it. Turn over the map and carefully remove the paper backing from the printed side as well. If all goes well, the finished product will be a printed map on the white plastic that is protected by the clear plastic.
Keep in mind that this project will require some trial and error until you get things just right. You may also want to avoid using high-quality printing or colored ink in order to avoid clouding the map or wasting too much ink. In any case, once you get this technique down, it is a very practical and affordable way to create maps that can withstand adverse conditions better than printed paper that’s protected in a baggie. Try it for yourself, and see how this can be a valuable trick to have at your disposal.