- graph paper and colored pencils, or Adobe InDesign
- measuring tape
- painters tape (I used 1″ Scotch Blue)
- paint in your choice of colors (I used 4 colors, more or fewer colors are up to you)
- a free weekend
- a little patience
I began this project with the vision of a fun accent wall for our very big, very tall living room wall.
While it is tempting to get right down to business and throw some tape on the wall I highly recommend drawing out a plan to play with scale and envision how the colors will interact. I accomplished this drawing with the help of Adobe InDesign. I began by measuring the dimension of the wall and converting that into useable metrics (for example, 1 foot = 1 inch, or similar). I originally drew the squares as true squares – width equals height – but found it too boxy. I eventually elongated the squares into rectangles for a slightly softer feel. From this drawing I determined that to keep the widths uniform (and to have them fit perfectly across the wall), I would need to create 21 inch by 15 inch rectangles.
If you do not have InDesign, or aren’t InDesign saavy, create your plan using a simple piece of graph paper and colored pencils. You can download a graph paper template to print at home here.
Next step is to begin taping. For my wall, I used 1″ tape. If you’d like bigger white lines between the boxes, adjust as necessary (just be sure to account for the width of your tape in your drawing so you’re sure the measurements are correct). Begin by laying your first horizontal row of tape directly above your floor molding.
This next step is tedious, but super important. Using your level, draw a level line as close to the top of your tape line as possible, without drawing on the tape itself. If your house is anything like mine, your floor molding is not level. But, you want your grid to be level. For the following steps work off this level line, not the top of your first tape row.
Now, start your taping! If your level has a ruler, just use that. If it does not, use your level next to a ruler to mark off your next horizontal row. Using a pencil, draw a line straight across your measured marks. Lay your next row of painters tape using this line as a guide. Repeat, repeat, repeat (using the row of painters tape you just laid down to measure the next row, etc) until you have reached the top of your wall.
The steps are identical for laying the vertical tape lines. Start by taping off your corner or wall end, and work your way out until the whole wall is in a grid.
At this point it is soo tempting to whip out the cans of your chosen colors and get to work. But alas. One more step.
Seal the painters tape with the color of the wall to help prevent leakage underneath the tape. It will save you hours of line cleanup work later, trust me. Working your way around all the tape edges, brush on a coat of your wall color.
Let this coat dry the amount of time required (check your paint can). You’ll see that some of the squares I didn’t seal, because I chose to leave those squares the wall color (white).
Now it’s time to paint, using your drawing as a color guide.
If you’re like me, there’s a chance you might freak out at this point. Because I won’t lie, the painting stage isn’t pretty. You’ve sealed the tape with your wall color so it looks ragged. You overlaid your chosen paint color which also looks ragged and messy. But have faith. It’ll come out great.
If you are sure that it’ll only take two coats of paint to do the job, lay down just one and let it dry. If you think it’ll take three coats to look good, lay down two coats and let them both dry.
Next step is tape removal. This is a little bit of a dance, best to have two people on the job if at all possible. It’s tricky because you need to remove the tape while the paint is still wet. Latex interior paint can pull off with tape if you do it while it’s dry, leaving jagged edges and sometimes even whole chunks removed. The trick is that you have a few different colors of paint touching the tape at any given point.
I found it was easiest to have two people working to paint along an entire paint strip (so it can be done quickly) and then to remove the tape. So we only painted the edges of the boxes for this step, not the interiors.
Once all the tape is pulled you can go back and fill in the “middles” of your squares to complete the second (or third) coat of paint.
You may find that even though the tape was sealed with the wall color that there may have been some leakage (trust me, it’s a lot less than if you didn’t seal at all!). Use a small artists brush and your wall color to clean up those bits.
Any stray pencil marks – which you’ll find at the corners where four squares come together – can be removed using a Magic Eraser (it’s actually the only way I’ve found to remove pencil marks save for painting over them).
Now all that’s left to do is stand back and give yourself a really big pat on the back. And please please please email me. I really want to see it!
If you’d like to read more about how our grid wall came to be, check out these posts: