As travelers, it’s easy to obsess over the stamps collected in your passport, take hundreds of photos during trips and adorn your home with trinkets from around the globe. However, there’s no better place to showcase your travels and plan for the next destination than with a push pin travel map. Sure, you could purchase a pre-assembled version, but they’re often costly and lack the sentiment that goes into creating your own. Our DIY push pin travel map with a customized legend is the perfect addition to any traveler’s home.
Whether you make one for yourself or as a gift, we have you covered with our “do it yourself” guide. Learn how to create a push pin travel map from scratch using our step-by-step guide that walks you through the process, and print out one of our free legends to match the aesthetic of your map.
DIY Push Pin Travel Map Step-by-Step
Project Time (2-3 hours)
- Map: The size of your map will determine the other materials you need for the project. While there are many options out there, we chose a 24 inch by 36 inch map, which is considered the size of a typical poster.
- Cork roll: Since you will be using push pins to mark each location, consider the size and thickness you will need for your cork backing. Cork comes in rolls, squares and pre-made boards. For the 24 inch by 36 inch map, we used a cork roll at one-fourth inch. Another option is to use a foam board, however, we found that cork holds up better over time.
- Plyboard: Cork is not sturdy enough on its own to support the map while hanging, so you’ll need a plyboard backing. Consider the thickness of the plyboard, so it doesn’t take up too much space in the frame. It should also be the exact dimensions of your map. If you’re unable to find your desired size through online retailers, you may need to cut your own or have it cut for you at your local hardware store.
- Frame: Your frame should match the dimensions of your map.
- Scissors: You will need scissors or a precision knife to cut the cork to match the dimensions of the plyboard. Make sure the blade is sharp to prevent tears.
- Paint: Choose a paint color to match with the details of the map. For our map, we used a gold satin paint to give the appearance of a metal frame.
- Paint brushes: The size and material of the frame will determine what kind of brushes you need. We used 1 inch foam paint brushes for this project.
- Paint roller: We recommend using a foam paint roller to apply the glue to the cork board. It helps save time and allows you to generously apply the glue to a large surface area with ease.
- Adhesive: Use a strong adhesive that dries flat and doesn’t expand. We used two kinds of glue — wood glue to adhere the cork to the plyboard and spray adhesive to bond the map to the cork.
- Hanging hardware: This often comes with your frame, but if not, purchase hanging hardware at your local arts and crafts or hardware store.
- Smoothing tool: This is used to remove any air bubbles or lumps from the map when glued to the cork board.
- Push pins: Use these to pin each location on the map. Consider what kind of pinning system you will use: different shapes, matching pins, color-coordinated pins or a combination of both.
Step One: Cut the Cork
Spread out the cork roll and use a tape measure to match the dimensions of the cork to those of the plyboard, which in our case is 24 inch by 36 inch. Mark the dimensions on the cork and begin cutting.
Cork has a tendency to be rather delicate, so be sure to take extra care when cutting the roll to prevent unintended rips or tears. Make sure to use sharp scissors or a precision knife to create a perfect edge.
Step Two: Adhere the Plyboard to the Cork
Pour glue into a plastic container and then use a small paint roller to apply generously to the plyboard. This will help evenly distribute the glue and prevent lumps when it dries.
Pro Tip: Cork is very absorbent, so make sure you apply a generous amount of glue. Use an adhesive like wood glue to ensure a strong hold.
Step Three: Adhere the Corkboard to the Map
Use spray adhesive for this step as it will dry evenly and prevent the map from warping. Be sure to spread the glue evenly so there are no visible lumps when the glue dries. Since cork is very porous, make sure it’s tacky to the touch before you place the map down, however, be cautious of excess glue, so it doesn’t bleed through the map.
Step Four: Smooth Out the Air Bubbles
Run a smoothing tool over the surface of the map to evenly distribute the glue and remove any air bubbles. Be extra gentle so as not to tear or puncture the map. Be sure to use a tool that doesn’t have sharp edges and won’t leave marks on your map.
Step Five: Place Heavy Items on Top
The weight of heavy items will help bond the map to the cork and the cork to the plyboard while preventing any indents or tears in the map. You can use the glass piece of the frame to keep the map flat and add weight with books. Let this sit for approximately an hour.
Step Six: Paint Your Frame
While you leave the map portion of your project to dry, it’s time to paint the frame. Depending on the type of paint you use and the material of your frame will determine how long it needs to dry — let sit for 30 minutes to an hour.
Pro Tip: Have a variety of brush sizes will allow you to get in the crevices of the frame. It’s always a good idea to give the frame a second coat for a finished look.
Step Seven: Place Map Inside the Frame
After your frame has dried, it’s time to place the map with the attached cork backing inside the frame. This step will look different depending on the type of frame you buy. Be cautious to not scuff or bend the edges of your map during the process.
Step Eight: Determine Your Pinning System
There are many ways you can pin your travels like using different colored pins that correspond with past adventures, locations you plan to visit soon or dream destinations. If you travel often, your map may get congested, so consider only pinning countries versus every city.
Step Nine: Print Your Pinning Legend
Once you’ve established your pinning system, it’s time to download and print out one of our pinning legends to add to your map. With six unique styles to choose from, use your home computer to print out the legend color and theme that best matches your map’s style. Glue it to the corner of your map and mark with push pins to represent your past travels, upcoming adventures and dream destinations.
Once you’ve established a pinning system and chosen one of our pinning legends that correspond with your map, you can start mapping out your travels and planning for upcoming adventures. As time goes on, you can watch the collection of pins grow and remember your trips around the globe.
Step Ten: Hang up Your Map
Now the moment you’ve been waiting for — it’s time to hang up your map and show off your wanderlust! Choose a space where your map can be clearly seen and decorate it with household items and trinkets you’ve collected throughout your past travels.
A DIY travel map gives a unique touch to your home. It’s a reminder of favorite travel experiences and those that are yet to come. Whether you’re going for an antique, mid-century or modern look, there are a variety of prints and frame options out there that can help make a map unique to your travel style. From road trips to overseas adventures, you now have a single location to display all your travels. Happy pinning and remember, not all who wander are lost!