Create a Wallpaper Look with a Geometric Stencil

Create a wallpaper lookHi! It's Mandi from Making Nice in the Midwest. When we moved from an apartment to a house, the first thing I wanted to do was put up wallpaper. As odd as it sounds, I ended up being grateful that the wallpaper I wanted was pretty expensive, because saving up for it allowed me time to mull over my decisions and come to terms with the fact that buying and installing wallpaper probably wasn't a good idea for someone like me who often changes my mind and decor.

Instead of wallpapering our little powder room with the crazy blue toilet, I decided stenciling was a more realistic option. It only cost a few dollars for stencil supplies and the cost of a quart of blue paint—totally doable! It certainly wasn't a quick job by any means, but I just love walking by that little room in our house and peeking in at the fun pattern on the wall! If the novelty wears off someday, all I'll need to do is cover it up with a couple of coats of paint—no wallpaper removal required! Perfect.

Check out my tips below for getting the look of wallpaper in your home with homemade stencils and paint!Get the look of wallpaper by making your own geometric stencil- imagine the possibilities! Click through for details.Supplies:

– Stencil sheets
– Craft blade or stencil cutter
– Painter's tape
– Stencil spray adhesive
– Stencil brush
– Paint
– Cutting mat
– Steel ruler
– Sharpie

Tracing Your Stencils: I had found an antique art deco pattern I loved via Pinterest and ended up tracing around the edges of the design in Photoshop. Of course, my printer was out of ink, so I used painter's tape to attach my stencil sheet directly to my computer screen and traced over the pattern with a ruler and a Sharpie. Don't worry—my screen wasn't damaged in any way! I did not press hard, and the painter's tape came off cleanly.

To create your own stencil, you can search online for free domain images or creative commons images that are available for personal use. You can't sell these, but you can use them for your personal creative projects in your own home. Or you can purchase an image from somewhere like Shutterstock or Istock and use one of those. If you are using a creative commons image, you can just print the image and trace over it, or if you have absolutely no access to a printer, you can enlarge the image and carefully trace over it directly on your monitor, like I did. Just for heaven's sake, be careful tracing on your computer screen! How devastating would it be to have a computer monitor with Sharpie marks on it? (I feel like I probably shouldn't be telling you to trace something on your monitor… So, maybe just do as I say, and not as I do?)Get the look of wallpaper by making your own geometric stencil- imagine the possibilities! Click through for details.Cutting Your Stencils: After tracing the image onto my stencil sheet, I used a steel ruler and a craft blade on top of a cutting mat to cut out the inside shapes. I decided not to leave any connecting points in the corner of the V for security, because I would be using a stencil adhesive when painting the wall.

I made one full-sized stencil, one vertically half-sized stencil, two horizontally half-sized stencils (bottom half shown above), and two quarter-sized stencils (one for the top half, one for the bottom half). The quartered and halved stencils will help you get into the corners of the wall without wrestling to bend a freshly painted stencil in place on the wall. You can clean the half-sized stencil and flip it over to use it on the opposite side of a corner.

Make sure the borders of your stencils that will be butting into corners are no wider than 1/4", or you may have an unappealingly large border on the wall around your design. You can use painter's tape on the edge of the stencil to protect the wall, which I'll talk about more in the tips below.Get the look of wallpaper by making your own geometric stencil- imagine the possibilities! Click through for details.Beginning the Stenciling Process

Preparing the Stencil: Spray the back of your stencil with a light coat of repositionable spray adhesive or stencil spray. Do this about ten inches from your stencil and spray in a well ventilated area. I took this photo inside, but I sprayed outside so I wouldn't get sick from the fumes and so the stickiness wouldn't get all over my bathroom. Let it dry enough to be tacky before you stick it to the wall. Also, make sure the undercoat of paint has cured before sticking the stencil to the wall, or it could possibly peel off the paint!

Paint Handling Tip: I poured some paint into a disposable cup and worked with that since it was just easier to hold than the entire quart of paint. I also used a paper plate for dabbing the excess paint from the stencil brush, but you can also just wipe it on the edge of the cup, which may be easier when you're standing on a ladder (or a toilet seat!) to reach the high parts of the wall.

Where to Begin: Begin painting in the most visible corner of your room. I began in a left to right, top to bottom fashion, but after finishing the first wall, I realized that top to bottom and then outward horizontally would be best. This is because the corners of the walls are less forgiving than the ceiling line. If your stencilling doesn't end up exactly parallel with your horizontal lines, the eye forgives (see how my finished pattern isn't parallel with the top edge of the tile), but if it isn't parallel with the vertical corner of the wall, there will be a glaring gap between the edge of the design and the corner of the wall. SO—top to bottom, then horizontally out from the corner.Get the look of wallpaper by making your own geometric stencil- imagine the possibilities! Click through for details.Painting Tips

Don't overload the stencil brush. Make sure your stencil brush isn't overloaded with paint before you put it to work. You can load the brush to begin, but wipe off the excess paint on the edge of your cup and dab it on a paper plate or something to make sure it isn't super wet with paint. If it's too wet, the excess paint will seep below the stencil, and that paint will be dragged along each time you move the stencil.

Paint the soon-to-be overlapped area first. When you move the stencil after painting, there's a chance that part of its border will overlap an area you just painted. Plan for this by painting that area first so that it has a chance to slightly dry before overlapping it when you move the stencil to the next area. Also, don't press the overlapping portion of the stencil into place around the wet paint—just dab it lightly with the brush instead. My stencil design didn't give me too much grief with overlapping wet paint, because when I went from top to bottom, none of the stencil overlapped the previously painted designs. Left to right stenciling did slightly overlap, though.

Paint in a perpendicular motion. Avoid the temptation to go at the stencil from an angle, because your brush hairs could go behind the stencil, getting paint beneath the stencil and onto its back, which will cause the stencil to drag paint each time you move it. Just keep stippling the brush in a perpendicular motion like you're Georges Seurat.

Use painter's tape. In addition to spraying the stencil again if its stickiness wears off, painter's tape can be useful to keep the edges of the stencil in place. Painter's tape will also to protect the wall from where your brush may go beyond the border of the stencil. Your stencil's borders need to be narrow to get the pattern close to the corners of the walls—so using tape at the corners is a good idea!Get the look of wallpaper by making your own geometric stencil- imagine the possibilities! Click through for details.Tips for Repositioning the Stencils

Don't drag a wet stencil. There's a good chance that a little bit of paint did seep underneath the stencil while painting, so be careful not to drag the stencil. When putting it into place, keep it away from the wall until you think you've got it in the right place, and then inch it closer and closer before sticking it onto the wall. Try not to drag the stencil, or you might drag paint along with it.

Stick the stencil to the wall by using a dry brush. It can be difficult to get the sticky stencil onto the wall when the front of it is covered in wet paint. You don't want to get paint all over your hands, so the best way to do this is to hold the dry part of the stencil with your hands and use a relatively dry brush to tap the stencil into place so that it will stick to the wall. Tap all around the stencil with the dry(ish) brush to get it to stick everywhere before you paint in the openings with a wetter brush.

Periodically wash the stencil. Paint will eventually build up and make the stencil difficult to work with or even cause bits of paint to peel off and impede the stencil's opening. After a few rows, you may want to wash the stencil and start fresh. Make sure it's completely dry before beginning again.Get the look of wallpaper by making your own geometric stencil- imagine the possibilities! Click through for details.Things to Consider Before Stenciling

Stenciling takes time. I know putting up wallpaper isn't the quickest task in the world, but painting a close-knit pattern like this takes a lot of time and patience. I spread this job out over three days, and this was just the top half of a tiny powder room—and I didn't even paint all four walls. Having more people to help would be nice, that's for sure, but when working, you may want to take several breaks for your own sanity. I found that the longer I worked, the sloppier I got. So I made sure to break up the job between other tasks around the house.

Stenciling around wall fixtures is very difficult. I decided not to paint the wall that has a window, two sconces, and a mirror, because I would have had to cut small portions of the stencil pattern to go between the small spaces around the fixtures, and I just decided that enough was enough. I may change my mind on that and finish the whole room—Who knows? But I'd definitely say this is a paint job for a feature wall or in a space without many impediments.

Stenciling is not perfect. If you can't stand little imperfections in a design, then stenciling is not for you. Paint will seep behind the stencil, you will drag a little paint from time to time, and your hand may even smudge some wet paint once or twice. I love the handmade look of stenciling, but if you like crisp and precise designs, you may want to think twice about stenciling. You can't achieve perfection when stenciling an entire wall—so it's better for your sanity's sake if you just don't go into the job expecting that. Get the look of wallpaper by making your own geometric stencil- imagine the possibilities! Click through for details.Get the look of wallpaper by making your own geometric stencil- imagine the possibilities! Click through for details.

artwork by Rebecca Puig from Uncommon Goods

I'll admit—halfway through this job I wondered, "What have I gotten myself into?" But then I turned on a Motown Pandora station, opened up the windows for the first time in months, and really enjoyed the therapeutic aspect of using paint alone to dramatically change the look of an entire room. Sure, it may just be a space for (ahem) powdering one's nose, but that doesn't mean this little bathroom can't be the grooviest room in the house!


Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson, Photos edited with Spring, Color Pop, and Valentine of the Signature Collection.

  • This is gorgeous! Someday I hope to have the patience to tackle a stencil project!


  • The blue is Valspar’s 4011-8 Mystified, and the pink is Valspar’s 2003-6C Pale Satin Peach.

  • This DIY is beautiful!!! I love the color of blue and pattern against the white tile, it really makes it stand out! Im glad you kept going! 🙂

  • The good news is- it’s just paint! So if some drips, you can wipe it off, and paint over it with the background color if necessary. 🙂 My pattern was a little crooked at the bottom along the edge of the tile. But as long as it was straight vertically, and not too crooked at the bottom, I think that’s all that matters!

  • It’s so funny, because it just happened to work out that way! I figured I would just cut cropped stencils for the corner, like I had to do in the left corner. But the pattern just happened to end perfectly on the right corner too, so I used the same half-size stencils for both corners of the wall. If I were you, I would measure the width of your most visible wall (or the focal wall) and divide it by the width you’d like the stencil to be. For instance, if your wall is 5′ wide, the width of the wall is 60″, so maybe you would like to use a 6″ wide stencil, and then you know it would fit 10 times across the width of the wall. Does that make sense?

  • Wow- thank you for such a high compliment! I’m so glad you like the projects!

  • This is HOT!! I am so into the pattern and the layering and the color and all of it. It takes guts to do this! I mean, what if you do it crooked or … I don’t know, the paint drips or whatever. SOMETHING could go horribly wrong, and then you’d have to repaint the whole wall.

    I love it. Great job.

  • This stenciling is incredible! I can’t believe the amount of patience you needed for this project! I love wallpaper too, but it is SO expensive. I found that buying just a small-ish piece and putting it in a frame is an awesome alternative; especially because if you get sick of it, it’s easily removable!


  • This looks absolutely, ridiculously amazing!!! Mandi, your projects just keep getting better and better!

  • This wall is amazing!! Thanks for sharing your stencil tips! 🙂

  • I love this and I actually like the blue toilet! Quirky combos like this make a room memorable.

  • Such a great stencil, love how you worked around the no printer ink!


  • Fiddly project that is for sure but it looks amazing! Great work Mandi 🙂

  • This is just awesome! I want to do that diy right now! Thanks so much for sharing!

  • This is such a fabulous idea! I think I quite like that the stencil isn’t perfect, as it adds personality to the room. Such an amazing transformation though – well worth all the time!

  • I’ll be trying this on the weekend, great idea thank you for sharing it.

    By the way I made a review of your actions in my blog, If you have time please check it out.

    Regards (:

  • Wow!! Awesome idea. And I like the blue toilet. That’s definitely not a normal color!

  • This is so beautiful…… wow. Bravo! I want to recreate in my own home!


    PS…. the picture is amazing!

  • This is so good! And I love the blue toilet and the two blues together make it feel really modern!

  • Mandi- How did you determine the scale of the stencil related to you wall? It looks like it turned out really well. Was it just luck or did you measure prior to drawing out the stencil template? Thanks, Mary

  • This is a great idea…..when I think of stencilling, my mum’s 1980’s living room, and in fact kitchen, bathroom and everywhere spring to mind!
    This is in no way like my mums house – has made me see stencilling in a new light – love it 🙂

    (Dear Thirty)

  • Mandi, you’ve only gone and done it again! This is so beautiful! Up until now, I’ve not been inspired by any of the DIYs on ABM – they’ve personally never appealed to my taste. But then you start contributing and you hit 2 home runs in 2 weeks – the mid century plant stand last week and now this stunning stencil DIY. I’m totally in awe of your mad skills! Girl, you are a complete credit to the ABM team. Thank you, thank you!

  • Amazing!

    Do you happen to know the name of the blue? I absolutely love that shade. Reminds me of Mediterranean decor blue

  • I loved it! I’ve been meaning to stencil one wall in my room, and the tips you just gave us are amazing. Thank you so much!

  • Wow! So beautiful, yet I think I would be scare to to this and mess it up, and end up with odd patterns in my wall haha.
    Have an awesome day 🙂

  • Wow, your bathroom looks beautiful! I think a lot of people have really boring bathrooms but also or ESPECIALLY a bathroom should look beautiful like the whole apartment too. When you are a morning grouch like me a beautiful bathroom is a good way to get a good mood 🙂

    Love, Tatjana

  • I love it too! It’s a Sugarboo piece by Rebecca Puig from Uncommon Goods:

  • LOVE the wallpaper!

  • I love the scheme chosen and the stencil- such a greta idea for a change!


  • Gorgeous! You really thought it through and I love the geometric pattern!

    I stenciled my old room about 3 years ago with a damask took way longer than I thought but was relaxing and satisfying seeing it complete! I was lazy with the edges of the wall and also didn’t do it around the window!

  • Wow it doesn’t even look DIY! It could totally pass as actual wallpaper!

  • It came out great 🙂 I have a fondness for stencils because my mother used to put intricate stencil details around the top of the rooms in all of the rooms in my house when I was younger!

  • Wow, Mandi!
    This is fabulous! Well worth the time spent listening to Motown!
    Thank you for so many helpful tips. I feel so empowered to go tackle my own stenciling project. More time but definitely cheaper than wallpaper! (And hey, the removal job is WAY easier!)
    ~ Beth Anne

  • This is absolutely gorgeous. I love it. Since I’m renting an apartment where I can’t paint the walls, I think I would try this on a long stretch of canvas and find a way to hang it up – go for a modern tapestry look.

  • That is an amazing idea, I have to try it now. Great post.

  • I’m digging that art deco design you used! Lovely! and the poster! awesome!


  • I love it!! I LOVE painting but after having to repaint my whole apartment (that I painted gold yellow & a peacock turquoise, I’ve been painting furniture instead of walls when I get the urge. I recently did a washi tape design on my accent wall that I’m still dying over every time I walk in my front door.. but this is a VERY interesting idea if I ever get tired of the washi tape design that would be a snap to paint back. You girls and your ideas. Always gold. 🙂

  • I just stenciled a wall in my basement this weekend! Love how it turned out. We are sharing 4 stencil projects on our blog on Friday.

  • WOW!!! this is so great!!! excellent idea! thank you so much Mandi! (really loved that poster you put!)

  • This looks super duper cute!

    // Nadja

  • I adore it. And I love your method for making the stencil. So forward thinking!

  • absolutely love that pattern! seems like the perfect paint option for someone like me who’s always changing her mind!

    xx Milly

  • This would actually be a great idea to do in our bathroom…painted the walls green but need to touch them up soon!

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