use paint to create wallpaper effect

Wallpaper has long been a stalwart of interior design, with its history entwined with some of the most influential names and distinctive styles since the 1800s. 

From William Morris’s floral patterns to the bold shapes and rich tones of the 70s and today’s obsession with House of Hackney’s flamboyant designs, wallpaper can instantly provide a room with character and style.

However, getting your mitts on such wallpaper can sometimes be a little tricky. Limited edition prints, price per roll and the skill (and patience) required to put it up can all get in the way.

But, what if you could create your own? Now, we’re not suggesting undertaking the lengthy process of designing, printing and pasting your own sheets of wallpaper, but with a stamp of your choice, some paint and a steady hand, it’s easy to create the same effect. 

The Tulip Room at Glebe House Hotel
The Tulip Room at Glebe House Hotel

“Wallpaper looks beautiful, but I also love the look of creating something entirely of your own using a stamping technique. It’s really organic to create your own design, even though it does take a lot of time,” Olive Chittenden, co-owner of Glebe House in Devon (which is well known for its artistic interiors), tells Stylist. 

“We were going to use this idea in Glebe House, but we didn’t get a chance in the end. I have tried it in my own home, though, and I love it.”

To take some of the guesswork out of the equation, we gave the technique a go, and we’re here to share our learnings on how to achieve this simple but effective decor hack at home. 

Equipment: what I used to DIY my living room walls

before: pink walks with scalloped detailing
Before: colour-blocked living room walls

Method: how to create a wallpaper effect with paint and a stamp

Step 1: decide on a stamp and pattern

First of all, you’ll need to consider whether you want to cover the entire wall or just a section. Think about how busy the pattern will be and how large you would like the stamp to look. Maybe you want to use more than one stamp to create a scene or mix of shapes.

Imagine your design and then choose your stamp – I’m a big fan of the English Stamp Company (which is also Olive’s brand of choice), which has a breadth of stamp shapes.

In this instance, I chose a spring-inspired tulip design, but the opera star and seashell assortment were close seconds. 

Step 2: choose your colour scheme

To give the entire room a makeover and so work with the spring floral theme, a lively green paint called Tequila Green in Just Matt from independent, sustainable paint brand The Pickleson Paint Co was an exciting choice to give the walls a vibrant update.

Using this colour to define the scallop edge border around the entire room – and for the leaves of the tulip stamp – gave a subtle connection between the top and bottom halves of the room to bring it all together. The colour of choice for the tulip’s petals, however, was ‘Nancy’s Blushes’ from Farrow & Ball.

Step 3: get to grips with arranging your pattern

Once you have decided on your stamp, you need to decide how to arrange it on the wall. I found that it was easiest to picture starting at the furthest edge of the wall and printing in vertical lines, one at a time.

Take a dry, clean stamp and a spacer of your choice (we used a roll of masking tape). Hold the stamp to the wall and pencil mark at its foot. Then place the spacer above the stamp and a make pencil mark there – this is where the foot of the next stamp will be printed. Repeat, working your way up the wall for the desired amount of space. 

To avoid your design looking a little too uniform, position the stamps in the next vertical line a little higher than the ones on the previous line. I used the same technique to mark the wall, however, where there would be a stamp on the previous vertical line, I left it blank instead. It sounds meticulous but it’s much better than using random or inconsistent measurements if you want a polished look at the end. 

Step 4: practise on paper

You’ll need to practise before stamping onto the wall, so use a large sheet of paper, mount board or even a portion of the wall that will be painted over to give your pattern a go.

If printing onto the wall, try to make the paint as thin as possible so it doesn’t show through when you cover it later. Use these tests to get used to the amount of pressure you need to put to get the quality of print you’re looking for.

Step 5: get into position

Okay, it’s time to get going. Position yourself at the far edge of the wall and prepare a little equipment station to make the process easier. I used a chair to lay out a tray with paint, a paintbrush, the masking tape spacer and a pencil. 

Step 6: Load up your stamp

There are a few ways to do this. For an even paint distribution, use a very small paint roller to cover the stamp.

The flower design made things a little more complicated as it required adding two separate colours to the stamp. So, instead, I used paint brushes – the effect was more rustic as it’s harder to get even distribution. 

Some advice: use as little paint as possible and remember that the dips and holes you see on the surface of your stamp are the negative space detailing that you’ll see on the wall, so don’t let paint pool in these areas. Also, don’t let the paint sit on the outer edges of the stamp, because this will add clumps around your design. 

Step 7: start stamping

It’s important to try to keep your stamp upright and level. To make this easier I used a spirit level to mark the top of the space and then aligned the top of the stamp to it before pressing it onto the wall.

Press the stamp onto the wall with firm, even pressure – try not to lean on one edge more than the others. And, finally, be confident! The worst thing that can happen is that you need to repaint a few parts but most interior paints are water-based and can be rubbed off with a damp cloth if there’s a mistake. 

Step 8: style the look

Your wall will always look better when styled with some of your favourite homewares, but if you’re looking for some inspiration, take a leaf out of my book. I chose styling pieces that would work for a pale pink and green combo. The dusty pink Otha table lamp, Made, £75 will fit into most spaces thanks to its universal appeal ceramic base and cool, curved shape. Decorative dinner candles are a trend that won’t be going away anytime soon, and I love these twisty ones from Hay, £22

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