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How to Add a Lively Wall Pattern with Stamps

Craft foam, wood scraps, and two shades of paint turn child's play into wall art

a finished painted bath using a stamp
Photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Remember those potato stamps you made in school? Now imagine a less starchy—but no less fun—medium made with a sheet of flexible craft foam and squares of scrap wood. The pattern shown here was applied with two homemade stamps and semigloss paint. "It's a great way to add energy to a small area," says decorative painter Brian Carter, who came up with the pattern as a way to enliven a plain white bath painted with Benjamin Moore's White Dove. "The wainscot provides an orderly block of color so that the handprinted pattern can dance above it." A base coat of Benjamin Moore's Hawthorne Yellow serves as the pattern's backdrop. The look is akin to handmade wallpaper.

Carter likes the contrast of a semigloss pattern on a flat base coat. To keep the look loose, he moved across the wall, stamping squares with diamond cutouts at 4-inch intervals in freehand fashion. Then he went back and added smaller circles in the blank spaces. "Try out your pattern on a piece of colored paper, and if you don't like the way it looks, vary the amount of paint on the stamp or make a new one," he says. And save the paper—it's great for gift wrap. For a step-by-step look, read on.


Steps // How to Add a Lively Wall Pattern with Stamps
1 ×

Create the Stamps

 
Step One // How to Add a Lively Wall Pattern with Stamps

Create the Stamps

cutting patterns out of craft foam to glue onto scrap wood blocks
Photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Figure out shapes by drawing a pattern on paper. Here, a 1-inch circle and 4-inch square were cut out of craft foam, then glued to wood blocks. A diamond was drawn on the square and cut out with an X-Acto knife.

 
2 ×

Apply the Paint

 
Step Two // How to Add a Lively Wall Pattern with Stamps

Apply the Paint

applying white paint to one of the stamps
Photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Pour latex (here, it's Benjamin Moore's White Dove) into a small roller tray or onto a disposable plastic plate. Dip the stamp into the paint to load it or use a small artist's brush to cover the foam surface.

Pro Tip:
"For a softer look, lower the contrast of the colors and finishes. If you want more energy, crank up the contrast—semigloss yellow on flat navy, for example."
Brian Carter, decorative painter

 
3 ×

Practice Stamping on Paper

 
Step Three // How to Add a Lively Wall Pattern with Stamps

Practice Stamping on Paper

a practice run of stamping on butcher paper
Photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

As you get a feel for it, adjust the amount of paint on the stamp and the pressure you're using. "Don't press so hard that you extract every bit of paint—you want it somewhat uneven," says Carter.

 
4 ×

Press the Stamp Flat to the Wall

 
Step Four // How to Add a Lively Wall Pattern with Stamps

Press the Stamp Flat to the Wall

using a stamp on a yellow-painted wall
Photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Move across the wall in horizontal rows. Here, Carter stamped every other 4-inch square. If you're worried about wavy lines, let a chalk line be your guide. Adjust spacing when you near the end of a row so that you end with a full square.

 
5 ×

Center Circles in Blank Squares

 
Step Five // How to Add a Lively Wall Pattern with Stamps

Center Circles in Blank Squares

using the circle stamp on a yellow-painted wall
Photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Gently press with the dot stamp to avoid thick, solid dots—you want a bit of the base coat to show through. Don't worry too much about placement. "It's a small stamp, so if it's off a little bit it'll still look fine," says Carter.

 
6 ×

Touch up Thin Spots

 
Step Six // How to Add a Lively Wall Pattern with Stamps

Touch up Thin Spots

man using paint brush to fill in the thin spots after using a stamp to create a decorative pattern
Photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Use a small artist's brush to add a little more where the paint seems too meager or a lot of the outline of the pattern is missing. Then all that's left is to stand back and enjoy your handiwork.

 
 
 

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