I need a bamboo forest in my apartment or my brain won't let me sleep at night.
June 15, 2007 2:37 PM   Subscribe

I would like to paint my wall so it looks like a bamboo forest, but I'm left-brained and would like some help.

So I got all jazzed up by this coolhunter article. I already have a wall mural of a sunset and I wanted to balance my apt with a soothing light green bamboo forest in the living room. The wall is 14' x 8' so I have a lot of room to work with.

I was thinking about getting a stencil and projecting it on the wall, outlining and painting it in, but that seems like a lot of work partly because I can't find enough bamboo stencil patterns that are different but in the same style.

Now I'm thinking of getting a photo (or two), grayscaling it and turning it into a stencil that I can project onto the wall.

Is there a better way of doing this? I'm fairly lazy, but once I get a good idea I seize on it like a dog with a rope toy. Please help me come up with a good idea on how to make this happen and I promise that I'll post an article on instructables (or another one of those "make it" sites).
posted by kookywon to Home & Garden (26 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
A stencil would work, but without a lot of work it'll likely end up looking kinda shabby. Looking at your link, I notice that there are no continuous tone pictures (no smooth gradations from one color or shade to the next), all of the murals are illustrations, likely made using a vector art program like Illustrator or Freehand. There are a number of reasons why this it is a lot easier to do murals in this style rather than a more photo-realistic manor.

1) An illustration made in Illustrator or another vector art program can be scaled up to any size without a loss in image quality. This is handy when you're working on something the size of a wall.

2) Limiting the color palette to a few colors makes it easier to paint. Essentially it becomes a game of paint-by-numbers. Project the image on the wall, pencil in the outlines of the color areas, paint. Use masking tape to block off one area of color from the next.

3) Sharp edges between color areas mean you don't have to spend a month of Sundays trying to blend subtle color variations into each other. This will get really old really quick.

4) It's pretty stylish right now.

It sounds like you've got the basic notion down. Projecting the image on the wall would be the best way. But see if you can't get a friend with access to Adobe Illustrator to outline the art first, then project the result onto the wall and paint the resulting art.

Alternately, there was a suggestion in another thread, similar to this one, to have the image printed by a wide-format printer. This is how billboards are commonly made. It might be expensive, but it would be quick and you'd have a number of options for putting it up. You could glue it to the wall like wallpaper, or construct a large frame and have the image on that so that you don't have to worry about messing up your real walls.
posted by lekvar at 3:03 PM on June 15, 2007

Response by poster: that's how I did my sunset in the bedroom. Got one of those cheezy sunset wallpaper murals, mounted it on foam core and cut it into little squares with a bare wall margin around each square. Looks pretty dope and you don't really notice the errors in the cutting because the overall impression overpowers the details.

So, I'd like a different feel for the living room. I have some 'artistic' friends but they feel the same way about "help me out with my art project" as I do about "help me get all the spyware off my computer". So stuff I can do is appreciated. I'm fairly adept at photoshop so if the gimp can do what I need that would be excellent.
posted by kookywon at 3:14 PM on June 15, 2007

If you'd rather not muck with painting, you could always find a friend with a large-format roll printer and print out wallpaper or use The Rasterbator.
posted by Alterscape at 3:19 PM on June 15, 2007

It would be really easy to do this by modifying the bamboo wall decoration stickers that Ikea was selling a few months ago. Unfortunately, I can no longer find evidence that they existed on their website....they were like this but they looked like bamboo. You could call your local Ikea and ask if they still have them?
posted by emyd at 3:22 PM on June 15, 2007

Oh wait, here they are! Start with these and stencil and paint lighter green ones in the background, for a cool 3D effect?
posted by emyd at 3:25 PM on June 15, 2007

you can find bamboo stencils online.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:29 PM on June 15, 2007

Oops, forgot this one.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:31 PM on June 15, 2007

How about vinyl wallpaper in that pattern?
posted by JayRwv at 3:32 PM on June 15, 2007

I like these
posted by stormygrey at 3:36 PM on June 15, 2007

I would make a stencil out of acetate. With a few different stencils, you can cover the whole wall by using the sections over. You don't need to repeat the same pattern over and over, that would look lame and wall-papery.

I am NOT talking about a stencil where you trace the opening and fill it in with a solid color. Proper stenciling technique results in very realistic three-dimensional, shaded images. It does take some practice, but it's worth it.

Example 1

Example 2

Here's a sample of bamboo.
Frankly, it could be better, using the same stencil. The amount of shading and subtlety is up to you.

Here's another bamboo stencil,
without a sample of the finished design.

You need special stencil brushes, and the basic technique is to "pound" perpendicular to the wall, with VERY small amounts of paint at a time, building up the colors, and creating a realistic effect by making the edges darker than the center. In fact, the center areas may have little or NO paint at all.

There are lots of instructions on the webernet, and your local craft store may even offer free classes.
posted by The Deej at 3:45 PM on June 15, 2007

These are more geared toward outdoor/public art, but may be helpful for DIY ideas:

-Video guide through the process of creating, spraying, and mounting a stencil using wheatpaste

-Blockposters - blow up an image to multiple pages (creates a .pdf that you can print out and piece together)

-More tutorials for stencils
posted by puddleglum at 4:06 PM on June 15, 2007

Response by poster: I don't have a problem making it look 'stylistic' so it doesn't need to be realistic. It just needs to look good/cool. I like the stencils suggested by 'the deej'.

So I'm thinking I'll need about 3 types of plant. type 3 has thicker 'trunks' and almost no shoots/leaves, height is entire wall, type 2 is the height of the wall, thinner trunks,and more shoots/leaves. type 1 is 3/4 height of wall so lots of tops, thin trunks, several shoots leaves. On layer 1 I paint several type 1 and a couple of type 2 in a darker green color, on layer 2 I paint a couple type 1 and a couple type 3 but mostly type 2 in a lighter green color and on layer 3 I paint mostly type 3 and a couple type 2 in a still lighter green color. They're not all straight up and down, I mix in a couple leaners in each layer.

I guess I really need illustrator now. Please keep the suggestions coming though.
posted by kookywon at 4:11 PM on June 15, 2007

I'd go with vector art in this style. A 3 or 4 tone one would be amazing, and its fairly easy to come up with nonrepeating patterns.
posted by devilsbrigade at 4:44 PM on June 15, 2007

Response by poster: yes! istockphoto! I just talked to my friend about this. I had no idea this existed and is exactly what I'm looking for. Devilsbrigade thank you! We must have been on the same site at the same time!

I'm shooting for this effect.

with some of this

Nice! I'm pumped. I love it when a plan comes together.
posted by kookywon at 4:50 PM on June 15, 2007

Response by poster: excuse me.
this effect.

a little too excited.
posted by kookywon at 4:51 PM on June 15, 2007

i'm confused...how does illustrator help? do you use it to outline the image, then project this outlined image (making it easier to outline it yourself).
posted by hazel at 5:06 PM on June 15, 2007

Response by poster: Vectors can be resized/rotated/etc without sacrificing the clarity. So I can make my own stencils if I find a vector I like. istockphoto has a ton of vector files. So if I buy and download some of them, I can import them into illustrator and make my type 1,2&3 bamboo trees from a couple of vector images. I can make leaners, make big ones, etc... and I can do the entire layout with illustrator and see if it looks alright before I buy the paint.
posted by kookywon at 5:18 PM on June 15, 2007

Response by poster: also, if I make 6 or so templates, I can print them out and make my own stencils (by cutting out the 'tree').
posted by kookywon at 5:20 PM on June 15, 2007

Illustrator helps by taking the source image and turning it into the hard-edged, clearly-defined, limited-palette artwork similar to the murals in the coolhunting link, above. After the artwork is created, it's a simple matter to trace it onto the wall and fill in the outlines.
posted by lekvar at 5:20 PM on June 15, 2007

IF you go for the stencil route, you won't need Illustrator unless you plan on creating and cutting your own stencils. I cut most of my own stencils by drawing or making enlarged photocopies of photos, then tracing those and cutting the acetate with an Exacto knife.

If you decide to go this way and need some input, email me. I won't bore the whole of MeFi with details. Plus I'm lazy.
posted by The Deej at 5:39 PM on June 15, 2007

There's an excellent Thai restaurant in Destin, FL, called The Royal Orchid. We just had lunch there just the other day and I commented on their killer painted bamboo wall. I've looked for pics on the web, but it doesn't look like they have a site.
posted by wsg at 5:56 PM on June 15, 2007

Response by poster: naw, I think I'm gonna project it. But I don't think I have access to an LCD projector, so I'm gonna print out the templates that I make onto paper, cut out the image and then project it with a spotlight or really bright bulb, then trace the projection and paint. I don't think I'm down for making 8' stencils, that might get a little expensive. I think I'm gonna use illustrator to make 3 or so templates for each of the different types (leaners, stripping/adding shoots, etc...) and also to make a simulated 'end result' to make sure I'm not off my rocker.

I wouldn't worry about boring all of MeFi. They wouldn't be in this thread if it wasn't something that interested them.

Thanks for the help people.
posted by kookywon at 6:00 PM on June 15, 2007

Welll, you don't make an 8 foot stencil. You make a few different one foot stencils and leap frog them.
posted by The Deej at 6:24 PM on June 15, 2007

Maybe I'll sneak in the Royal Orchid and get a pic to share with you. I pass that way fairly regularly.
posted by wsg at 9:42 PM on June 15, 2007

I've made a 9 foot by 9 foot stencil before. I don't reccomend it.

However, it would be very worthwhile to try and borrow an overhead projector from a friend (or just buy one. i've seen them online for like $30). Then you can print your design out on a transparency, and save 3-7 hours of your life.
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 2:35 AM on June 16, 2007

I went by the Thai place and got a couple pics of their great bamboo wall I was talking about. I got a full shot and a closer one for detail.
posted by wsg at 10:56 PM on June 16, 2007

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