If you love the Scalamandre zebras but would like a less expensive option, try out this easy DIY zebra wallpaper tutorial that can be done in a day.
As some of you may remember…when I was making over my master bathroom, I had a dilemma.
I fell in love with the Scalamandre zebra wallpaper but couldn’t justify the price for my builder-grade room. (If you also really love it, and want to splurge, you can find it at decoratorsbest.com).
I contemplated doing something else…or just leaving the walls just as they were (painted gray). But I really loved that zebra pattern!
So in the end, I did what I usually do when my vision for the room doesn’t match my budget…figured out a way to make it a DIY project. And judging by the number of questions I got about it, I’m not the only one who might be doing this, so I thought I would share how to make my DIY version of the Scalamandre zebra wallpaper.
The Hunt For A Stencil
For me, trying to make something look like wallpaper when it’s not means stenciling. (I’m not a particularly good artist, so hand-painting zebras was definitely out of the question!)
The great thing about doing it yourself is that you get to customize it however you want. And I didn’t really like the arrows in the original wallpaper. It seemed like they were shooting at the zebras which didn’t really give me the relaxing zen feeling that I wanted for the bathroom.
That meant all I needed was a zebra stencil…how hard could that be?
So off I went to try to find a zebra stencil. One that was big enough to make a statement, had enough character to be interesting and could be delivered to my house in 2 days. (The bathroom makeover was part of the One Room Challenge so everything was a bit of a rush.)
There were all kinds of zebra striped stencils like this one* but they weren’t actually of zebras.
Finally, I found this one. I really liked the zebra’s attitude, but it was actually a little too big and it ships from Korea…meeting my 2-day delivery deadline just wasn’t going to happen.
And this one, which was a little too small and didn’t have enough movement.
I even considered these peel-and-stick zebra wall decals*, but I didn’t think I really wanted stickers on the walls in my bathroom.
And I thought I was going to have to give up on my stenciling idea.
Until I ran across a zebra image on Adobe Stock and decided I could use it to make my own stencil.
What You Need
Stencil Mylar* – I used 12″ x 17″ sheets so that my zebras were a decent size
White paint – I used a latex paint sample can from Sherwin Williams
Die Cutting Machine – I used a Cricut Explore Air, but most other die cutting machines should be able to do this, too
Step 1: Make The Stencil
While it is technically possible to create the stencils manually with a utility knife, I think trying to cut out all of the zebra stripes by hand would be very tedious!
Looking at the Scalamandre zebras, they have a white background with black stripes. So that meant actually creating 2 stencils…one for the white background and one for the stripes.
To do that, I edited the original picture using Photoshop and made 2 new ones.
Then I imported the images into the software that comes with the die cutting machine and set it to work! (Read the instructions for your machine if you’re not sure what settings to use for stencil plastic).
Step 2: Take It For A Test Run
The tricky part about using 2-part stencils is making sure you know how they are supposed to line up.
To test it before I actually started messing up the walls, I used a piece of construction paper and some colored pencils. The first step is to color in the background stencil with white.
Then take the stripes stencil and position it in the right place. The easiest way to do this is to line up a couple of the easy to identify end points…like the end of the tail, the nose and the end of the zebra’s legs.
Use the black color pencil to draw in the stripes. It doesn’t have to be perfect…just enough so that you’re comfortable that you know how they fit together.
Tip: If you are using this stencil, the black lines on the zebra’s mane aren’t over the white part, so don’t use the back of the mane to try to line up the stencil (learned from experience).
Step 3: Paint The Background
I love this silver paint* that I used for the background. It has just enough shine (but not too much) and goes on really easily.
For the best results, use a foam roller to roll the silver paint onto the wall. Be careful not to press too hard or you will leave roller marks in the paint.
I only had to do one coat, but I was painting over gray (so there wasn’t much difference in the color tone).
Step 4: Decide On Your Pattern
Figure out where you want the zebras to go. I did mine in a zig-zag pattern going down the wall and had each row facing in the opposite direction.
You could also line them up on top of each other or have them facing all the same way.
That is the beauty of stencils…you can do whatever pattern you want with them!
Step 5: Apply The Background Stencil
Start in a corner that is not too obvious. Behind the door is a good spot 🙂 It may take a couple of tries to get the paint on exactly right and this way it won’t be in a noticeable spot.
Put up the background stencil. I found that the stencil clung pretty well to the wall without requiring any extra help, but if yours doesn’t you can tape it at the top to hold it in place.
Then use the foam roller to cover the entire stencil area with white paint. This part is really easy!
Lift off the stencil and move it over to where the next zebra should go. Remember to leave space for the parts of the zebra (like the tail, nose, and feet) that will be a little longer once the black goes on.
If you are having the zebras face in different directions like I did, do all of the ones that are facing in the same direction first.
Then go back and fill in the ones that are facing in the other direction.
You will need to turn the stencil over to do this, and chances are the paint around the edges won’t be completely dry, so you will either need to wait until it is or dry it off thoroughly with some paper towel.
When you have finished all of the white backgrounds, it is time to move on to the fun part…the stripes!
Step 6: Paint The Stripes
Check to make sure that the white paint has dried on the wall.
Then position the striped stencil over the white paint, lining it up as you did in the practice run. Don’t worry if you don’t get it lined up perfectly every time (I certainly didn’t!) When they are all done, you won’t really notice it.
Dip the foam brush into the black paint and wipe off all of the excess. You don’t want too much paint on the brush or it will look too dark against the white and may run under the stencil.
Dab the brush onto the stencil until you have covered all of the striped area with paint.
Same as you did with the white paint, it works best to do all of the zebras that are facing in the same direction before moving on to the opposite facing ones.
Before you know it, you will have a wall of zebras!
Enjoy The Finished Look
I know I’ve said this before, but I love the finished look!
I had all kinds of people thinking that I had decided to go with the wallpaper.
And when I didn’t like the placement of some of the zebras, I was able to have a do-over. Just paint over the zebra with the silver paint, and make him again! Something you definitely can’t do with wallpaper.
Hopefully, you now know exactly how to make your own much less expensive version of the Scalamandre zebra wallpaper…all you have to do is figure out where to put them 🙂