Scientific illustrations of flora, fauna and fungi are an unending source of excitement for us. When we learned, via design blog Miss Moss, that Biodiversity Heritage Library offers almost 80,000 of them in high-resolution on its Flickr page, we made a beeline for the botanical sets in particular, some of which date back to as early as the 18th century.
The Botanist’s Repository for New, and Rare Plants (1797) was one such album, where we fell in love with a pink Protea speciosa latifolia. The illustration sums up why the genre appeals to us: It’s a plant depicted scientifically, but also with a sense of the organism’s (real or imagined) emotional life.
We immediately thought this illustration would make a spanking maximalist wallpaper.
Problem is, we’re renters, and wall papering is forbidden by our lease. (As are the gleaming hardwood floors we’re trying to daydream into existence to replace our IRL carpeting.) Because we never let our rental status get the best of us, we figured out this workaround:
DIY Temporary Botanical Illustration Decals
(If you prefer permanent decals, the Painted Hive has an indispensable tutorial here.)
- A high-resolution botanical illustration. We like Biodiversity Heritage Library’s selection; keep in mind that you will be cutting out the illustration around its margins, so you might want to choose a plant with simple lines. (Like this waterlily by Francois Stroobant.)
- Printable and removable decal paper for your type of printer. We used a Window and Wall Signage pack from Avery, which is temporary up to four months; Papilio also makes an inkjet removable vinyl, which you must buy directly from the company.
- A ruler, preferably an L square.
- A clear acrylic sealer (to waterproof your decal)
- Scissors and/or a razorblade
- Your favorite library card
- Loctite high performance middleweight bonding spray adhesive, available at Home Depot
Now make your decal:
1. Size your illustration according to your tastes. There’s often an easy way to do this in the printer dialog of your image program.
2. Print your illustration onto decal paper(s).
3. In a well-ventilated space, spray your decal with clear acrylic sealer. (Mind the fumes!)
4. Once your illustration is dry enough to handle (consult instructions on spray can; ours said two hours), cut out your illustration closely around its margins. We used a razorblade to get an exact cut between the leaves, and scissors for the smoother lines.
5. If you’re going for the faux wallpaper look, lay out your decals first to determine the vertical and horizontal distances between each decal using a ruler or framing square.
6. On your desired wall space (which should be clean and dry), mark a grid with pencil according to your previous measurements.
7. Remove adhesive backing from each decal.
8. Generously spray Loctite middleweight bonding adhesive to the backside of each decal, being sure to give full coverage to the edges. The bond is temporary if you apply to one side of the material and stick to wall within seconds of spraying; permanent if you apply to both and let dry for a minute before sticking. Loctite has more details here. (Adhesion properties will vary on different surfaces and in different environments; we recommend testing out a small blank decal on your wall and monitoring it over the course of a week before committing to the full project.)
9. Stick your decal(s) onto the wall.
10. Erase or wash off pencil marks.
11. Smooth over decals with your favorite library card.
What’s your favorite botanical illustration?