We Designed Our Own Wallpaper. Should You?

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I know it’s not the 1950s, but believe it or not, wallpaper is making a comeback! I’m sure a lot of us have considered wallpapering a space and have instantly thrown in the towel from a quick look at the countless pages of overwhelming options in catalogs. What if you didn’t have to choose? How would you go about creating your own pattern from something you drew or designed yourself? We decided to test the waters and experiment with Spoonflower, an online service that lets you design your own wallpaper designs to fit your personality.

Why Design Your Own Wallpaper with Spoonflower?

There are other services out there that sell custom wallpaper, but from our research Spoonflower feels like the safest consumer-facing option. We researched similar services, but some of them had unprofessional, out-of-date websites. Some seemed exclusively tailored for housing contractors or interior designers. Most sites we checked out do a poor job of setting expectations for what you will eventually receive, which is incredibly important for a custom-made product that people literally will surround themselves with for years to come. Let’s face it: Probably nobody you know has ever bought custom-made wallpaper online, so there is a leap of faith involved in even trying out a service like this. So we did. We’re sharing our experience so others who may want to do the same thing will know what to expect and whether or not this kind of service is for them. [Note: This review was not endorsed by or created in conjunction with Spoonflower; we used our own cash and went through the buying process as an everyday consumer would.)

Spoonflower lets you turn patterns or artworks into custom fabric, wrapping paper, and even wallpaper. The idea behind the services is that with a quick upload of an image and a few adjustments, your wallpaper is ready to be ordered. The company also promotes their service as a way for design freelancers to create their own online shop and make commissions on their designs. They also hold weekly themed design challenges. All of these community-focused initiatives are a good sign when evaluating a service like this.

If you’re all for saving the planet, Spoonflower touts themselves as a leader in sustainable practices. In order to minimize waste, papers and fabrics are printed only when ordered, and any extras are shredded and recycled. They print eco-friendly by using water-based pigments and dyes. You definitely don’t want a product you will be exposed to every day to have harmful toxins in it. Spoonflower uses FSC Certified paper that is formaldehyde-, phthalate-, and PVC-free.

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If you don’t want to make your own, you can browse through designs other people in the community have created.

What if I know nothing about designing wallpaper?

You don’t need to be a wallpaper wiz to learn how to create compelling wallpaper designs. It was our first time trying out the service, and it was honestly a piece of cake. The website is straightforward and easy to navigate, and they provide in-depth FAQ pages with walkthroughs for anything you might be stumped about along the way. In my history of internet browsing, never have I seen a website with a help page as detailed as Spoonflowers’. I found that their how-to video tutorials and featured blog posts helped out a lot especially when it came to creating seamless designs. Seamless is important. That is the one thing you do need to know about when designing wallpaper.

Step 1: Start with a square canvas

When starting off, think of your image as a single tile on the wall and start with a square canvas. I started off by drawing one image in the centre of my square in SketchBook so that I knew my pattern would be repeated evenly. Here’s my quirky spin on a traditional damask wallpaper using sea critters and waves.

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The dimensions of this design I made are 1200px by 1200px in SketchBook.

Step 2: Offsetting your pattern

I am choosing to do this next step because I want my pattern to be seamless. That is, I want my  critter design to repeat as it would in an unbroken pattern. I don’t want this image to repeat in a straight line down my wall; I want these critters to be evenly spaced so no seams will show where pieces of wallpaper come together. To do that, I’m going to offset my image and place quarters of the image in the four corners. Spoonflower has an option for you to change the offset of your pattern once you upload it, but I always find that getting in and doing the details like this helps me understand it more — you might even learn something while doing it. If you already like your pattern as is, go straight to the “Uploading your Wallpaper to Spoonflower” section.

Offset your image vertically and horizontally to half of the original canvas size.

I bring my image into Photoshop and offset the height and width to half of the original canvas dimensions (Filter>Offset). This step splits up my image into four pieces so that if I were to tile them up together they would fit like an infinite puzzle.

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You can see that the image was offset evenly shifting all the blank space into the centre. Pretty neat!

Step 3: Back to SketchBook

I want to draw in more designs because I want a tight offset damask pattern. After offsetting my image I save it and then re-open it in SketchBook. I’m adding in the original image (File>Add image) to fill in the gaps to create a half-drop pattern. This will give me a true seamless pattern.

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File > Add image to bring our original drawing in for the centerpiece.

Step 4: Blending modes (if necessary)

Once I added the original image, I found that it overlapped with the image I offset. In order to have it show, I set the original image layer filter to darken to blend it right into the other layer.

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Darkened the original image to blend into the offset layer and fill in the pattern gaps.

Save your image as a TIF, PNG, or JPEG and you will have your final tiled image. Here is mine:

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Ready to go: My final tightly drawn damask pattern of sea creatures.

Optional: alternate colouring

If you want to create multiple designs of the same colour or your image you’ve drawn just doesn’t quite match the exact colour you want, you can change the hues to something that fits the overall scheme your space. (Image>Adjust>Hue/Saturation.) 

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Not quite happy with your original colours? Change it up!

Uploading your wallpaper to Spoonflower

Now that you have your thumbnail image, you can upload it to Spoonflower. Once you upload your design, you are able to view it as it would look physically in a space. I personally love this feature because it provides a visual tool that you can use to make changes if you don’t like the way your wallpaper turned out. It also brings your flat design into the 3-D world which is kind of fun to play with. This is the kind of feature you would expect from a modern service, and they do a good job with it.
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There are many ways to customize your wallpaper once it is uploaded. Spoonflower allows you to change the pattern repeat and the scale of the pattern. This is where the 3D visualization really comes in handy; you will immediately know if your drawing is too large or small for your wall. You can also choose your paper type, and the size of your roll. They even have a Coverage Calculator where you can enter your wall dimensions, and it does all the math for you. Very handy.

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The final whimsical whale wallpaper design.

But how much does it cost?

In comparison to pre-manufactured wallpapers, Spoonflower is a bit on the pricey side. The costs for wallpapering any room can be significant when you consider you need to estimate overage and labor, but Spoonflower offers a decent price for the quality and customization options. I believe that using a product you are head-over-heels for is definitely worth the splurge. You’ll be happy to hear that they offer a 10% designer discount if you use your own design. Depending on the substrate you choose, prices can differ. The smooth water-activated wallpaper is $5/linear foot, and the woven peel-and-stick wallpaper goes for $7.50/linear foot. We went with the water-activated version. If you want to know what your wallpaper will look like before you buy it, I recommend you try it. You can order 2′ x 1′ swatches for only $5. They also sell a fabric pack with samples for $3.

What if my end product isn’t exactly what I wanted?

Colour shifts and other flaws can occur when printing or during the shipping process. Because each product printed is unique and original, they are unable to be resold when returned. Regardless, Spoonflower says you can fill out a form on the website, and they will either refund or replace the order. We didn’t have to test this, but we take them at their word. One trick to easily avoiding technical mishaps is getting all the technical details right. If you are not too familiar with image resizing or using a colour map, Spoonflower has a design FAQ that lays out all the nitty gritty details that we, in a speedy day and age, often like to ignore. The step-by-step walkthroughs are easy to follow, and you can create patterns at the right size without any unwanted surprises. They even developed this easy formula in order to calculate how to make your image a minimum of 150 pixels for every inch.

Unboxing and installation

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Casually wallpapering the office. No big deal.

We went ahead and ordered our design to see how easy (or difficult) the process is. It took around two weeks for us to get our paper, so if you are short on time you might want to consider a ready-made wallpaper. When we received the Spoonflower wallpaper we were pleased to find that the image we designed was exactly what we got in our order. The paper had a thick, durable quality and despite being a little grainy up close, the overall image was extremely crisp, clear, and free from dreaded colour shifts.

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I worked for a year at a custom wallpaper place, and during that time I experienced frequent misprints. It happens. I was very impressed by the overall quality of what we received from Spoonflower. Our team was slightly nervous about applying the wallpaper (who isn’t?), but we were provided with an instructions page to ease our worries. The wallpaper had an adhesive back that was activated in three minutes by water that we rolled on with a paint roller. The wallpaper didn’t crease or crinkle one bit. We smoothed it out with a wet cloth, expecting it to fall, but it did not budge and was good to go!

Our verdict: Do it (if you like wallpaper)

I would definitely recommend Spoonflower if you are new to the wallpaper trend. In the end, the quality and ease of the process were well worth the wait, and it’s incredibly gratifying to see something you drew with your own hand on the wall. If you know you want wallpaper but aren’t sure whether you want a made-by-me design or a pre-made design, going through this process and design your own wallpaper, then ordering a $5 swatch will better prepare you for either route you end up taking.

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Our final wallpaper in all its glory. We’ll tell visitors it’s an art installation.

Our Spoonflower wallpaper picks

If you’re looking for inspiration for what to draw and put on the wall, there are many designs on Spoonflower. You might end up scrolling forever through all the stunning works. Here are a few of our favorites to check out as you consider your options.

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Designer greenlotus (Patricia Zimmer) creates beautifully fluid watercolour designs with vibrant coloured layers — and these amazing jellyfish!
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Whimsical andrea_lauren (Andrea Lauren) designs quirky illustrated wallpapers that feature florals and funny animals doing the darnest of things; like cats wearing sweaters.
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Holli_Zollinger (Holli Zollinger) features gorgeous geometric wallpapers that are boho chic. She uses captivating colour schemes that will definitely make any wall pop.