Do you have a wall in your home or office that could use a little love (or a whole giant heap of it!)? Spoonflower Ambassador Danika Herrick shares the secrets she uses to create gorgeous murals with Spoonflower wallpaper using either your own work, a Marketplace artist design or public domain images. Follow along below as she walks through using a public domain image of a painting to create a beautiful mural in her son’s room. You won’t want to miss this!
Note: While Spoonflower prints wallpaper in both imperial and metric units, this tutorial is written using imperial measurements. Spoonflower’s Design Layout Page only works with inches and DPI—artists more familiar with metric may want to design using pixels for measurements.
Danika: Have you ever wanted to create a large-scale design or mural on Spoonflower but became intimidated or discouraged by the 24” wide constraint of the wallpaper? I remember the first time I attempted to make a large mural on the site. My first thought was “I can just break the image into 24” wide panels,” which I did, but then quickly discovered it wasn’t that simple when my mural arrived and things didn’t match up as expected.
Designing a mural is completely doable, but you first must understand how Spoonflower’s print process works in order to get it right. Spoonflower prints their wallpaper with a 3/4” overlap. This overlap is in addition to the 24” width, runs along the right-hand side of the paper and consists of 3/4” of the design from the left-hand edge. Simply stated, the exact same design exists on both 3/4” sides of your wallpaper panel. When you hang the paper, you will overlap each panel until the design matches up. This ensures seamless coverage from one strip to the next.
A Bit About Seams
A few things can happen during the print process that can affect the match, but having the overlap ensures no one will notice. For example, once a panel is printed by Spoonflower, the edges are trimmed. This process is fairly accurate, but not perfect. Occasionally a small amount of the design can be trimmed off from either side. The overlap saves the day and acts as a 3/4” buffer on both sides. If a small amount is trimmed off, the pattern will not be compromised. This is great if you are working with an individual pattern, but when you switch into mural mode, each panel will be different and the 3/4” repeating seam no longer applies to the next panel.
When I created my first mural I broke my image apart into 24” wide panels and uploaded them to Spoonflower. I thought I would just cover the 3/4” overlap seam with the next panel. I knew nothing about the trimming process and was so confused when a small portion of the left edge of my design was missing.
I reached out to Spoonflower and they were incredibly helpful. They explained a few options to try when creating a mural, including scaling down the mural and creating a blank buffer zone that is trimmed off before installation. They have since created a great tutorial in their Help Center. It differs from my tutorial, and dives deeper into how their paper is printed. I highly suggest reading that in conjunction to my tutorial because you will quickly realize that there are many ways to accomplish this hack, and you can incorporate what works best for you. You might even figure out a better way!
Overlap seam option details: With my approach I use the overlap as a blank buffer zone, or failsafe. I normally love the overlap for matching my regular patterns, and I definitely think it is great for beginner paper hangers. I tried and tested several techniques, but my frustration came trying to figure out widths and seams when cropping in Adobe® Photoshop®. For me this was the most challenging part and the math hurt my head. I decided to try resizing each panel of artwork to 23.5” wide and leaving a 1/4” blank buffer on each side.
This way if a small bit of the edge was trimmed off, only the blank edge was lost. After two successful rounds using this technique, I decided to stick with it.
Butt joint seam options details: You can completely trim off all edges prior to hanging and butt joint your panels (a butt joint is when both edges touch side by side but do not overlap) or trim only the left side edge and overlap the right blank edge with the next new panel.
Here are images showing close ups of both seam options, and, honestly, it is hard to tell the difference:
Step 1. Choose Seam Option, then Measure and Determine Print Size
Butt Joint option tip: For the butt joint option, I recommend using Peel & Stick wallpaper. With Peel & Stick there is no shrinkage, so you don’t have to worry about seams becoming more visible.
Both papers are offered in smaller lengths of 6’, 9’ and 12’ rolls, which are compatible with most walls. For my project I chose 9’ rolls to fit my 94” wall height.
Wall measurement: Measure your wall to determine the size of your mural. My wall is 94” high x 107” wide. Since the paper is 24” wide, and the artwork itself will be 23.5” wide per panel, I figured I will require 5 panels to cover my wall. These 5 panels when trimmed will yield a width of 117.5”, which is 23.5” x 5 = 117.5”.
Print size: When I format the actual artwork in Photoshop I will try to create a file that is a minimum of 96”-108” h x 117.5”. (Tip: In pixels, this is 14400 – 16200 pixels high x 17625 pixels wide!)
Pro sizing tip: Because Spoonflower converts all files to 150 DPI for uploading and the design layout page only works in inches, creating your Photoshop files while using pixels for dimensions may work best for metric folks!
Art panel: 23.5″ at 150 DPI is 3525 pixels wide.
Whole panel: 24″ at 150 DPI is 3600 pixels.
This leaves 75 pixels for the two blank buffers. You can’t have decimals for pixels, but you can center the art panel in the middle of the whole panel!
Step 2. Gather and Import Your Image
Decide on the subject matter for your mural. You can create your own artwork, use a photograph or download an image that is part of a public domain collection.
Regardless of which you choose, be mindful of the size of your wall. If you are drawing or designing your own image, be sure to use a canvas that is in proportion to your wall. If you are using a public domain image, keep your wall shape in mind. Is your wall a square shape? Or does it have a landscape or portrait orientation? If you happen to find an image you love, can you crop part of it to fit your wall?
Check the size of the file offered for download. Bigger is always better, and the easiest way to determine if it will work is by downloading and scaling it up in Photoshop while viewing “Actual Size.” (More on how to do this later.) If it looks terribly pixelated, move on and find another image.
Using Personal Artwork or Photographs
Whether it’s an abstract painting, doodle or a photograph, you can take almost any image and apply it to the wall.
> You will need to scan or photograph your image at the highest resolution possible. I prefer to scan my images because I’m not the greatest photographer, and it also avoids the risk of distortion from camera angles or shadows on my design.
> You can have a professional scanning company scan your artwork or use your own scanner. Always make sure your scanner bed is clean and free of dust and scan your image at 1200 dpi or higher. If the quality is too low your image will appear pixelated.
> Save your image as a .JPEG or a .PNG.
> You can also create original vectored artwork in programs like Adobe® Illustrator® that allows you to enlarge a design without losing quality, no scanning required.
Using Public Domain Images
There are plenty of sites that offer images which are classified as public domain and free of copyright restrictions, including many museums and libraries.
Pro tip: When using public domain images, always read the fine print to make sure the image is available for use. Some images have no restrictions, while some are only for personal use, and many sites ask you list and credit the artwork and their institution when sharing publicly.
There are plenty of resources you can find simply by searching “public domain images” on Google, but always do your homework to make sure it’s legit.
A few of my favorite public domain image resources:
Tips on Using Public Domain Images
- Once again, always check the size once you’ve downloaded an image.
- Many sites will list the file size, but if the information is missing, I recommend downloading the image and opening it in Photoshop.
- Enlarge your image size to your wall dimensions (Image > Image Size) and then view the image at its actual size View > Actual Size).
- I have been completely disappointed after finding a great image, only to learn the resolution is too small. No matter what tricks you try it will look blurry and pixelated when you enlarge it.
For this project, I wanted to add a mural to a wall in my son’s room that was located in an awkward unusable spot between two doors. I showed him several ideas ranging from a bright abstract I painted to several scenic public domain landscapes. I thought for sure he’d go with the abstract, but in the end, he surprised me and chose The Head of Lake Nemi by an imitator of Richard Wilson RA from the Yale Center for British Art. I downloaded the image and checked to make sure the size would work.
Step 3. Upload and Edit
Image sizing tips: If you are more familiar with centimeters or pixels, change your units and enter your correct dimensions when creating IMAGE SIZE. 150 DPI = 59.055 dots per centimeter (dpcm). This is set by Photoshop and will upload to the design layout page perfectly!
1. Open your image in Photoshop.
2. Duplicate your initial Background Layer so that you never destroy the original image. (In Photoshop: Layer > Duplicate Layer > Click “OK” in dialogue box) I like to click the visibility off on the Original Background Layer once I’ve duplicated it to make sure I don’t accidentally alter it.
3. You now need to enlarge your image to fit your wall’s dimensions. This might take some math and finessing to get it to where you want it, and always crop away unwanted areas before adjusting the finished size. Again, my wall is 94” h x 107” w. and I had determined I need a mural sized to 96” h x 117.5” wide.
4. Lock your image constraints. (In Photoshop: Image > Image Size) Make sure the image constraints are locked (link icon connecting both dimensions) start by entering your desired height.
5. You will see the width has now changed in proportion to the new height. Compare this number to your ideal dimensions. If it is really close (within a few inches) you can usually get away with taking the size constraint lock off and manually typing in the number you want without it becoming distorted. If you notice distortion you will need to manually use the crop tool to adjust the image size.
6. Enter the resolution as 150 dpi. (TIP: 59.055 dpcm if working in metric!) This is the default setting on Spoonflower and it guarantees your mural will be uploaded and sized correctly. Click “OK” to save these settings.
7. You will want your final image to be a number that is divisible by 23.5. So it will need to be one of the following: 47″, 70.5″, 94″, 117.5″, 141″ and so on. If you resize and find your image is shy of that, you can increase your canvas to one of those numbers. This will not alter your actual image, it will only add blank space along the first and last panel that can be trimmed off when installing. (Image > Canvas Size > enter a width divisible by 23.5″ larger than current size.)
8. Once you have your image sized, you can now edit the image to your liking. Remove any blemishes, adjust brightness and color, add your own personal touches, etc.
9. Save the final file as a .PSD (in case you need to edit further in the future), and then again as a .JPEG.
Step 4. Break Into Panels
1. Open the .JPEG version of your newly saved file.
2. Duplicate Background Layer (In Photoshop: Layer > Duplicate Layer > Click “OK” in dialogue box).
3. You now need to break this image into panels that are 23.5” wide (3525 pixels). There are plenty of ways to do this, but the easiest way is by using the Slice Tool. I used this tutorial to learn how to use this tool.
4. Right click on the Crop Tool > Choose Slice Select Tool > Right click on your image and choose Divide Slice.
5. A dialogue box will appear asking if you want to divide Horizontally or Vertically. I chose Divide Vertically and entered “5” slices across, evenly spaced.
6. To save these new panels choose File > Export > Save for Web (Legacy). Choose .JPEG and a Quality of 80-100 when saving.
Step 5. Create Individual Panel Files
1. All sliced sections are now cropped and saved individually. Open each in Photoshop.
2. Duplicate layer (In Photoshop: Layer > Duplicate Layer > Click “OK” in dialogue box).
3. You will need to check and readjust the size. Resolution has been reset to 72 dpi since it was saved as Web Legacy.
4. Make sure your dimensions are set to 23.5” wide (3525 pixels wide) x your desired height and enter 150 dpi into resolution. (In Photoshop: Image > Image Size.)
5. Click “OK” to save.
6. Now you must resize the canvas to 24” wide (3600 pixels wide. Be sure to center the art in the exact center of this canvas!). This will not affect the artwork, but it will create a file that will fit Spoonflower’s 24” wallpaper and create 1/4” buffers (Tip: 1/4″ = 37.5 pixels. You can’t have decimals for pixels, but if you center the art perfectly, the two buffers will be equal!) on each side.
7. Image > Canvas Size. Enter 24” into width and don’t touch your height. Click “OK.”
8. You should notice transparent or white edges on both sides of the panel: If you save the file as is, any white (hexcode: ffffff) or invisible parts of the design will remain unprinted. If your mural is on the darker side, I recommend using the Eyedropper Tool to pick up a mid-tone color in your mural. Add a new layer directly under your top layer. Using the Paint Bucket Tool, fill the new layer with that mid-tone color. This ensures less visible seams when hanging.
9. Save your panel. (In Photoshop: File > Save As) Name and save each panel as a .PSD and also as a .JPEG in the order of how they will hang. Ex: Panel 1 of 5 Lake Nemi Mural.jpeg
Step 6. Upload to Spoonflower
2. Make sure your panels are clearly named and look correct in the “Design” Wallpaper view.
3. Order your panels on the correct paper type and roll size.
Step 7. Inspect Your Panels
1. When your panels arrive you can cross reference them with the packing slip and their Design ID# to confirm the hanging order. Also, each item on the packing slip will be numbered. At the bottom of each roll you will see there are reference numbers, ex: 1 of 5. This will refer to item 1 on the packing list.
2. Organize your panels in the order of which they will be hung.
3. Open each roll and inspect. I purposely kept my edges white in this tutorial so you can see how that blank space prints on the overlap edge. I suggest tinting the blank space to a common color in your mural for better seams.
Step 8. Trim Your Panels
Before hanging, trim edges off carefully (just the left side edge if using an overlapping seam or both edges if using a butt joint seam) using a sharp new blade for each panel.
Note: If you plan on overlapping the seam, only trim your left edges. You will overlap each new panel over the seam on right side of your last panel. Work from left to right when hanging.
If you want to butt joint your panels, trim the edges off both sides. This takes more precision and experience as you will butt the edges up against each other with no overlap. This is only done when if seam bump bothers you and want your mural perfectly flat.
Step 9. Hang Up Your Panels
1. When hanging your first panel, I like to draw a faint vertical level line near the edge of my first panel to confirm it will be straight. Always start hanging from the top, working down and adjusting as you go while smoothing any air bubbles out along the way.
2. Once your first panel is in place, continue with your second. I definitely recommend enlisting the help of a second set of hands to help get your placement correct. One person holds the top and the other person aligns the left edge to match the panel on the wall.
3. Hang and smooth as you go. When you have hung all your panels, trim the top and bottom edges off with a fresh sharp blade against a metal straight edge. I had one area where I cut into the mural too much and the seam was visible.
4. You can use a marker or colored pencil to touch up imperfections on the seam like this:
I was so happy with the quality and detail in this mural. I had contemplated removing the crackled lines, but really love how it feels aged and almost as if you are living inside the painting. Best of all my son loves it!