In the past, I printed it in pieces and then used double-sided tape to put it together. However, wanting to take advantage of the large print posters available at many copy shops and stores, I decided to go that route.
First, after a survey of the sizes and costs, I determined Sam's Club near the Maplewood Mall in the Twin Cities was the lowest cost at about $9.25 for a 20x30 inch color poster on nice thick glossy paper. Walmart had the same, but at about twice the cost and you had to order it and wait a few days for delivery (and postage to home added another $8 above the $18 cost). Sam's would not mail, so a trip to the cities would be required.
I created a Samsclub.com account. Sams is a membership card organization, and I already had that, so stuck in the card info and some basic details and created the photo account.
Read the instructions: they want a jpg or png image file either brought in on a camera card, disk or flash drive. If you bring it in, the poster is ready in about an hour. Tested uploading a photo and turning it into a poster and adding it to the shopping cart--all worked OK. Then deleted the test.
To actually make a poster made up of several photos, some text and graphics, you need a program to do the layout that will leave you with a jpg type image. I like to work in MS Word, so went ahead and designed a poster using the page seutp size set to 8x12 inches (the same ratio as a 20x30 print).
I inserted photos; inserted text boxes, inserted a wordart headline; resized, fixed the contrast and color, and drug them around until the layout was what I liked.
Of course I then saved it as a Word document. I have Word version 2010, which allows me to save a file as a pdf document too. In earlier versions of Word where that was not possible, I had added a free "printer' called DOPDF that when you printed to it actually made a pdf file.
I knew there were various programs to convert pdf to jpg and found a free online one at http://pdf2jpg.net/ I selected high resolution (300dpi), uploaded my pdf and 20 seconds later was able to download the jpg to my own computer.
I then uploaded that to Sams, went through the ordering process to set up a 20x30 and order it through the Rochester MN store and had Margo pick it up last week and bring it up north on Saturday. It looked fine.
So this morning I did 9 more posters which were to be available for pickup at Maplewood at noon. Got down there and the lady looked at my paper--you ordered them through Maple Grove not Maplewood (and of course I had made this mistake, so buzzed across town and got them at Maple Grove). Luckily I hadn't gotten mixed up more and picked some town near Bemidji!
The posters were fine! I got some 20x30 styrofoam panels at $1.50 or so each and a can of 3M spray glue and plan to stick them down when the humidity is lower tomorrow morning.
Now that I have the process down, it should be easy to do more. Biggest problem--Sam's is too far away. Closer options start at double the price and up.
The cost to do 10 posters including gas would be about $15 each or $150. I figure 10 at a time to be worth the 2 hours drive in and out of the city -- unless I have other errands to run too (usually true)
These posters are just collections of old photos with a little text. If someone were a little artistic or creative, could make things much more lively. Any color background, border, frame, text, and so on. Sadly, I am not that person!
As an afterthought, I printed the same files in 4x6 format at Walmart with the immediate 28 cent route and they are actually quite readable and nice. Would make great postcards.