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How to Paint an Oversized Design

With this relatively simple decorative painting technique, you can get the look of high-end wall coverings without the high price—or the pro

Add style by painting an oversized pattern on your walls
Photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

For a one-of-a-kind look that is more personal than wallpaper, grab some blackboard chalk and start sketching. You'll need a pattern first, of course, so start small and think big. That's how decorative painter Brian Carter breathed new life into the dining room shown here. First, he hunted up a swirly floral wallpaper pattern to adapt as a larger, looser drawing. Then, using tracing paper, he copied the biggest shapes, stripping away the small stuff. Finally, he transferred his drawing to the walls, stepping up the scale dramatically for a fresh, whimsical effect. His oversized flowers, tendrils, and leaves never repeat, making them even more dynamic as they travel around the room, bumping up against the trim. Other tools of his trade include a chalk line to create a grid on the walls and an artist's round brush for maximum control when making curving lines. The paint itself is regular interior latex. Carter recommends trying out this technique in a little powder room, where it's easy to take a big risk, or in a dining room, adding, "It's a good place to be theatrical since you're mostly there in the evening." Read on for the steps he took to turn a fusty floral into a sensational swirl of curves and color.

Try it at home with our downloadable template

Steps // How to Paint an Oversized Design
1 ×

Make a Pattern

Step One // How to Paint an Oversized Design

Make a Pattern

make a pattern to transfer to your wall
Photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Using a pencil and tracing paper, borrow a pattern from a book or a piece of wallpaper, fabric, or even gift wrap. If the design is on an object, like a rug, take a photo, make a photocopy, and enlarge it. Trace the largest shapes, and make the pattern wider than it is tall so that it can wrap the room like a mural. Avoid repetitions.

Free Template: Download a design like the one shown here. Our template is designed for easy printing on an 8½-by-11-inch piece of paper. You can enlarge it, if you'd like, by photocopying it onto larger paper.

2 ×

Create a Grid

Step Two // How to Paint an Oversized Design

Create a Grid

create a grid
Photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Using pale chalk dust, snap vertical and horizontal chalk lines on the walls at 12-inch intervals. Then draw a grid of 1-inch squares on the traced pattern. Use chalk to transfer the design, now 12 times larger, square by square onto the walls. Step back and make sure the design connects gracefully. Allow it to bump up against windows, ceiling, and doors – that's part of the charm.

NOTE: The proportions are up to you. If you transfer a one-inch square of
template to a one-foot square on the wall, you will enlarge the
pattern 12 times. You can play with the ratio to get the effect you

3 ×

Paint the Outlines

Step Three // How to Paint an Oversized Design

Paint the Outlines

paint the outlines
Photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Carter started out with walls painted a neutral pale blue and used Benjamin Moore's Blair Gold for the outlines, applying it right over the chalk with a round artist's brush and long, smooth strokes. Let the paint dry. Then gently erase the remaining grid with a damp cloth so that it won't distract you during Step 4.

TOH Tip: To make smooth, curving lines, use a round #12 artist's brush, which offers more control than a housepainter's brush. Robert Simmons brush: PearlPaint

4 ×

Add Two Softly Contrasting Shades

Step Four // How to Paint an Oversized Design

Add Two Softly Contrasting Shades

add two softly contrasting shades
Photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Carter used Benjamin Moore's Salisbury Green inside the lines and Province Blue for the background. Using the same artist's brush, he dabbed on the paint to create a mottled effect, letting a bit of the pale-blue base color show through. This adds depth. Any mistakes can be easily painted over.


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