How to paint a stripe on a wall (easily)

As we’ve noted before, we’re not crazy about the wallpaper all over our house.  While all are less than wonderful, there’s a clear winner in the most reprehensible contest.

Is it this one?

wallpaper border with blue seashells

Or perhaps this one?

bathroom wallpaper border with seashells


How about this one?

seashell wallpaper border in brown

Are you sensing a theme here? We've got more seashells per capita on our walls than any house should.


Maybe it’s this?

fruit wallpaper border in kitchen

Hey, at least it's not seashells...


Unlovely as all of those are, we choose none of the above.  For us, this was the clear winner:

wallpaper border with hearts and stars

Maybe that’s not the worst one.  Perhaps comparing all of these is a bit of an apples/oranges thing (or seashell/fruit/stars-and-hearts thing).  But what made this one the clear winner of The Paper That Must Come Down First Contest is that it’s the paper that was in Will’s room.  Yes–cute country patriotic hearts and stars for a 13-year-old boy.

When we moved in August, we were sure we’d get that changed right away, but…a lot of things we thought we’d be able to do right away didn’t happen.

Instead of working on the house during our fall Saturdays, we did this:

boys playing football

And so for the last almost-four months, Will’s been living with this:

bedroom with hearts and stars wallpaper border

This is the only before picture we have, taken during the house inspection. We don't have a shot with all of Will's things in the room. Maybe it was just too sad to take a picture of it...

But football ended in early November, and some time has opened up.  We didn’t really set out to start stripping paper a few weekends ago, but Cane could no longer take the lovely seashell detail over the light switch in our bedroom:

seashell detail of wallpaper

It came off so easily, and once it was gone, we felt compelled to keep going.  It was easy to determine that Will’s room was the best destination.

It took us the better part of a Sunday afternoon to get it all off.  We bought some spray wallpaper remover and a scraping tool, and we had fantasies of simply roughing it up, spraying on the goo, and easily peeling those hearts and stars away for good.

Instead, it took us two applications of goo, and we had to really scrub at much of it.

scraping wallpaper border off a wall

Still, it felt so good to get rid of the corny border:

wall with wallpaper border removed

Originally we thought we’d paint the whole room a new color, but the longer we toiled away, the more we began to think that maybe we wouldn’t need to do that.

The tan and blue color scheme wouldn’t be Will’s first choice, but the paint is in pretty good condition.  And, the colors are OK. Kinda nice. Almost as nice as the idea of not having to tape off all the trimwork and buy a gallon or more of paint and spend a whole Saturday (or more) slapping paint on the wall.

We thought:  Why not just paint a nice stripe where the wallpaper used to be?  Yeah, why not?

So that’s what we did, which cost us very little time and almost no money.  And while this is likely pretty lame as far as online tutorials go, we’re going to call this one.  Here we go:

Step 1:  Marking the bottom tape line

We looked into some high-tech tools for getting a straight line with our tape.  Home Depot sells some cool laser devices, but they are spendy.  We talked about using old-school low-tech:  A chalk line.  A much cheaper option, but we’re so cheap we decided to pass on that, too.

We decided we could do just as well by doing a good job of marking our measurements at close intervals and drawing a line.

Lucky for us, whoever put the border up just measured 3 feet from the floor–the same length as a yardstick.  Also lucky for us, he painted a bit over that line with the blue paint.  So, we just walked around the room with a yardstick and drew a line across the top of the end of it every few feet or so:

using a yardstick to measure line for paint

Look at those awesome measuring skills.

Unlucky for us, we couldn’t see the pencil lines well enough to use them in laying down the tape (and had no other kind of marking tool).  So, we just put little pieces of the marking tape around the wall, like this:

tape on wall to mark stripe lineSpeaking of tape, we’ve read all over the home blogosphere that Frogtape is the way to go, and we are now true believers. I’ve tried to make nice clean lines with the blue painters’ tape, and it always bled through.  Frogtape is way better stuff.

container of Frogtape

No, we get no kickbacks of any kind from mentioning Frogtape. We just think it's great and want to pass the word on.

Step Two:  Laying the Tape Down

We didn’t have a good tool for making a line we could see, and we decided that we didn’t really need one.  As long as the tape is placed evenly with our marker pieces, we’re good.  Or so we thought.  We did run into one small snag we want to warn you about:  You want to lay the tape down in one piece.

I tried to make the line with a series of short pieces of tape, but we could see that the line went wavy.  So we tore it off and did each wall with one piece.  One of us stood at one corner and taped it down well.  The other stood at the other corner and held it taut.  Then the first person went along the tape and gently attached it to the wall at the markers.  Once we were sure it was straight, we pressed it firmly to the wall.  (We have no photos of this part because we couldn’t take pictures and do the taping at the same time.)

When we were done, it looked like this:

wall with taped lines for stripe, ready to paint stripe

Except, it didn’t look quite like this.  After the yardstick measuring, we only had the bottom line of tape.  We still needed to get the top line.  So we pulled out a really precise measuring tool, which you can see here:

marking top line for stripeThat’s Cane using one of his photos (mounted on a board) to mark the line for the top piece of tape.

Step 3:  Smash the tape down

Next to laying down a straight line of tape, this might be the most important step.  In my reading on Frog Tape, I also learned that the secret to a sharp, crisp line is this:

Press against the line of the tape with a putty knife (or anything that you can use to smash the tape down tight).  Here I am in action on this one:

using a putty knife to press tape into wall


The taping took us about a half-hour, and it was definitely the most challenging and time-consuming part of the job.

Step 4:  Paint the stripe

We originally decided on a white stripe because that just seemed like a good choice, and because we knew we had white paint on hand.  We didn’t want to buy a quart for a job we knew wouldn’t take close to a quart. But…

…when we went to the storage shed to get the white paint, I saw a bunch of other paint cans.  We started wondering if a different shade of blue would be even better than white.  White seemed like such an obvious choice, and we thought a blue might be just a bit more zippy/stylish/original.  So, we tried a light blue on a small section of the wall:

test paint stripe in blue

I liked the light blue, but Cane thought the color value was too similar to the khaki.  We also know that Will is more conventional in his tastes (and he wasn’t there to consult with), so we went with white.

Once we finally decided on a color, the painting was super-fast.  I used a roller, and each coat took about 10 minutes.  I did have to let the paint dry between coats, so it was more than 30 minutes before we were all done.

Step 5:  Remove the tape pronto

We’ve not always had the best of luck with removing tape, so we did a little internets research and this is what we found: The best time to remove the tape is right after painting the last coat.  (If you can’t get it off within 15 minutes, the second-best option is to wait until it is thoroughly dry–like next-day dry.)

We didn’t want to wait until the next day, so here I am pulling it off before I even had a chance to change out of my lovely painting sweats:

removing tape to reveal paint stripe

Note that the tape hasn't been removed from the bottom of the stripe, which is why that line doesn't look as sharp.

Step 6:  Enjoy the result and your own good sense

Is Will’s room super-awesome now?

Well, no.

But it’s a heckavalot better than it was:

boy's bedroom with blue and khaki walls with white stripe

boys bedroom wall with closeup of white stripe

It took us one afternoon.  We used white paint and tools that we already had.  We did buy the wallpaper stripper, a roughing-up tool, and the Frog Tape, but the project cost us less than $20.

As we explained on our philosophy page, “good enough is good enough” is one of our guiding principles.  And the idea that we have to do everything exactly as we’d like to right now is one kind of sh!t we’re too old for.

We know we’ll want to paint this room down the line–probably when we’re tearing out the carpet (which gives the room a slightly funky odor).  We also need to figure out what to do with the popcorn ceiling (in all three bedrooms).  If we’re removing it, we know that will make a mess and we’d like to save a real paint job for after that happens.

We aren’t ready yet to tackle either the floor or ceiling, so painting is a down-the-road project.  In the meantime, this makes the room tolerable.  And definitely more appropriate for a teen-age boy!

paint tray with white paint and roller