Years ago, when I was scouring home blogs and sites for designs or art pieces – I’m not the only person who still has a file for such a thing on their desktop instead of using something like Pinterest, right? – I came across a wallpaper I just loved. It was black and white, a little faded, and it bore the names of many authors who had inspired me to pursue my own writing. It was also wildly expensive; it didn’t match anything else I liked; and I didn’t have a library to put it in (which, of course, was where I wanted it to go). I tossed it in the folder anyway, the little image outlasting dozens of deletions and begging for a home.
Flash forward to two years ago and J and I purchased a house, a house wherein we built a library (or rather, where we built me an office that happens to be crowded by books). The wallpaper, somehow, was still available (!!!). It was also still expensive and in black and white and devoid of the many female authors whose work I find inspiring. The other issue was that the wall I wanted to use needed something less, well, flat. And so, an idea was born: an author wall installation.
What you’ll need:
– a giant sheet of graph paper & a marker
– 1”x3” boards
– printed letters
– white paint
1. Pick a simple, bold black font and type out all of the names of the authors you want to use (you could use Photoshop or even WordArt). Then, arrange them in a way that is visually appealing and fits onto a page or so without changing the size of the font from one name to the next.
2. Print the letters for each name (I used Arial Bold, size 140) and cut them out. You don’t necessarily need so many of each letter, but since you will be spray painting over them you’re going to want more than one.
3. Decide how big you want the piece to be on your wall and measure it out. Then, use those measurements to draw the shape – a simple rectangle, for me – onto the graph paper.
4. Lay the letters out in a line on the graph paper to estimate how long you’ll need the different boards to be. Because I used 1”x3”s, I made the lengths range from 9” to 33” at 3” intervals so they would almost line up. The round numbers made it easier to arrange them. That said, if you want your boards to be snug against each other (mine have space between) then you’ll need to remember that 1”x3”s aren’t actually 3” wide, they’re closer to 2.5” wide.
5. Measure and outline where each board will be on the graph paper. This is the time to make sure you like how the boards will look on the wall.
6. Write the authors’ names inside the outlines to keep track for later and to make sure they’ll fit. If you’re going to use more than one color of spray paint like I did, also write the color you want the board to be.
7. Add up the measurements to see how many boards you’ll need.
8. Cut the boards to size.
9. Paint the boards white (I used an old gallon of semi-gloss white paint that was left over from trimwork). Make sure to cover the edges, but don’t worry about the back.
10. Once dry, roll squares of painter’s tape and place them on the back of the letters along their edges. Stick the letters on the boards and space them as you please (I used my fingers as a measuring tool to keep them even and eyeballed how straight they were). Make sure that the letters’ edges are flat against the board. Now, it might seem easier to use a stencil – and it probably would be – but remember, if you do so, then you’ll be painting each letter rather than quickly spraying over the entire thing. For me, stencils don’t leave as sharp an edge this way and it would’ve taken an extra step since I wanted the white background to peek through the metallic paint.
11. Use whichever color of spray paint your graph paper says and lightly, from a fair distance, spray over the letters.
12. Lay the boards out on your graph paper while they dry so you can make color adjustments as desired.
13. Mark the edges of the rectangle on the wall with painter’s tape, using a level to keep it straight. Use a foam double stick tape to adhere the boards to the wall. You could also choose to nail them in place, but I didn’t want the nails to show and the foam tape is sturdy enough for such light boards (they’ve been up for a year and a half now with no issue).
This is a beginner level project and really takes more patience than know-how. It reads like a lot more work than it was, promise. Also, it was exactly what I wanted and cost less than a tenth of what the wallpaper did. I’d say that’s a win.
– M. Ray Hall