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Sharpie Paint Pen Arrow Nursery Wall

2014 August 18
by Becky

**See the finished room here.** 

So the nursery was painted for about 30 seconds before I decided we needed a feature wall.

I had it in my head that the feature wall would NOT be on the biggest expanse of wall, the one right behind the crib. I was convinced it would make the room too busy, be too “in yo face” in such a tiny little room.


So I opened Indesign and started fooling around with the opposite door wall, imaging it would be something nice to gaze upon while rocking Peanut #2 to sleep in the big orange chair. Since arrows, triangles, and geometric shapes in general have become our theme, that’s what I worked with.

Yellow & Gray Arrow Nursery Wall Design Concepts

I’d pretty much scrapped a painted wall design option minutes after finishing the first three concepts.

Any time you paint stripes or, in the case of the triangles, sponge a design on the wall, you’re stuck with it. I knew this to be the case but was further convinced after reading Michelle’s “Truth About Striped Walls”—a hilarious/tear-inducing tale of one woman’s battle against painted wall stripes.

If you aren’t sure, DON’T DO IT!! And I wasn’t in love with anything.

I tossed around the idea of decals for a bit…surely I could whip up some vinyl arrows on my Silhouette machine? But I wasn’t thrilled.

Concept #4 happened about a week after the initial three. I remembered an awesome wall treatment from the fabulous Mandi at Vintage Revivals blog, something I’ve had on the back burner to try on a wall in our house for some time now. She used a Sharpie Paint Pen to create a geometric design on her living room wall and again on an office wall…

Vintage Revivals Sharpie Wallpapervia

…looking at this picture got me thinking about the crib wall again.

The subtleness of the paint pen design would be a) more delicate b) would have that ‘hand drawn,’ imperfect look, and c) would not be hard to paint over if I get sick of it in a few months.

I picked up a couple paint pens at Michael’s (about $2.50/each) and decided to give them a try. I inadvertently got one water-based and one-oil based, it didn’t occur to me there’d be an option! I’d advise always sticking with water based whenever possible, but since I would only need the oil-based yellow one for a few little lines, I kept it.

Yellow & Gray Nursery Arrow Wall -SharpiePaintPens

One more quick photoshop on the wall…just to be totally sure…


…and it was time to paint draw. I assembled my tools—they originally included a laser level dealy-bob I’d purchased ages ago but was quickly forgotten because I wanted to smash it into a million pieces after trying for 15 minutes to get it placed properly without success.

My good ole yard stick and a couple levels got me through just fine. No fancy contraptions needed.

Yellow & Gray Nursery Arrow Wall -Tools

Since I had everything measured out in InDeisgn, I started with drawing my floor to ceiling lines, eight inches apart. I started in the middle so I’d get the maximum arrows before running out of room. The angle of the arrows and their placement took a little trial and error. I wanted them to be random, but also wanted things to make sense…so not TOO random.

I also toted a piece of cardboard around to get my pen going when it dried out. Some shakes, a few taps on the cardboard, and I was back in business.

Here’s how it came together…


The progress photos were just begging to become an animated .gif! I couldn’t resist.

It took me about two days, sneaking in a hour here and there, to get everything the way I wanted. If I screwed up (which happened several times) the lines were super easy to paint right over or I could even wipe away mistakes if I caught ’em before they dried. I did everything in white, then went over a few random lines with yellow.

We are totally thrilled with the result.

Yellow & Gray Nursery Arrow Wall Complete

Yellow & Gray Nursery Arrow Wall -Closeup

And it cost a total of $5.

I added the chair to the corner and put the crib in place, just to get a feel for the space.

We also put down the amazingly lovely Urban Outfitters Herringbone rug, thinking it was perfect, but the size just wasn’t right. Finding the perfect rug for this space is going to be tough.

Oh well, at least we’ll have a pretty wall!

Yellow & Gray Nursery Arrow Wall -Complete2

Every giant step forward makes all the other little steps seem that much harder. I’m rounding out (literally) at 29 weeks and we still have plenty of things on the nursery list:

  • shelving
  • storage
  • lighting
  • wall art
  • diaper pail (needs to be SMALL)
  • finish the dresser/changing table
  • foot stool
  • side table
  • bedding
  • door hardware (thanks to the readers who’ve sent suggestions!!)

To urge my progress, the room is a mess. Bins of clothes, blankets, diapers, burp cloths piled on the floor. Shelf and lighting options leaning against the walls. A ladder. A crib full of more stuff. You make one wrong move in there and the place comes crashing down.

Small, but perfect.

Now can someone pick out a rug for us? Please?

See the finished room here

35 Responses
  1. August 18, 2014

    this looks SOO good! totally pinnin’ this!

  2. Linda Johnson permalink
    August 18, 2014

    You amaze me Becky!! It looks Fabulous!!

  3. August 19, 2014

    Thanks for the cool demo. That really helped me see how it came together. Its’s nice to have a program measure things so they come out even. It looks amazing.

    • Becky permalink*
      August 19, 2014

      Thanks! But just to be clear, there’s no program to measure things out….maybe autocad, but I don’t have or know how to use that…but you can design things to scale in Indesign to help get measurements pretty well figured out once you come up with a design. It’s helpful!

  4. Cara permalink
    August 19, 2014

    This wall is totally awesome! Love it – nice work, Becks (and Ethan too). I’m assuming this wasn’t Stu’s thing. :)

    • Becky permalink*
      August 19, 2014

      Thanks!! Stu’s job is to check in frequently to say things like, “I Love it!” or “Looking good!”

  5. August 20, 2014

    I really really like it. Doesn’t take over the room just adds to it. Good job.

  6. Lauren permalink
    September 12, 2014

    I LOVE your sense of style!

    • Becky permalink*
      September 12, 2014

      Thanks Lauren!

  7. September 27, 2014

    I love this wall! Can’t wait to see it all come together. It looks amazing already!
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    • Becky permalink*
      September 28, 2014


  8. February 2, 2015

    Thanks so much for this! I am feeling very inspired. Can you tell me what kind of tip (fine, medium or bold) were the paint pens you used?

  9. Cory permalink
    February 9, 2015

    What color paint is that gray on the wall? Thanks!

    • Becky permalink*
      February 10, 2015

      It’s called Rock Gray from Benjamin Moore.

  10. Cory permalink
    February 10, 2015

    Thanks! One more question. Does your wall have any text on it? Cause as we are starting our wall we are noticing the bumps in our text and not sure if it will end up looking good or not.

    • Becky permalink*
      February 10, 2015

      We do not have any text included, just a few yellow lines (in place of white ones) in a couple areas for a tiny pop of color. I would never be able to stick with any text, I’d be sick of whatever it said in like two days! Good luck! Send me a pic when you are done!

  11. Cory permalink
    February 10, 2015

    Sorry I mean texture not text

  12. Cory permalink
    February 10, 2015

    Sorry I mean texture on the wall?

  13. Samantha permalink
    March 19, 2015

    Do you think this would work on fabric too? I am thinking about stenciling some curtains, but maybe I could use the sharpie method instead. Love the way it turned out!

    • Becky permalink*
      March 19, 2015

      Thank you!! If you can find a way to hold the fabric nice and taut while working on it, I think a simple detail like sharpie lines would be a nice touch to some white curtains!

  14. April 16, 2015

    Looks great!

    I’m thinking of using the paint pens as well… which did you prefer, the oil-based or the water based?

    • Becky permalink*
      April 16, 2015

      I really didn’t notice a difference. It was by complete accident I got the oil based pen. As a rule, I always use water based paint products for walls and trims in my house so it’s always easy to paint over. Doors, furniture, and exterior fixtures are another story. Good luck!

  15. Danielle permalink
    April 16, 2015

    I love this idea! Great work. I was just wondering what color you painted the walls. I love it!

    • Becky permalink*
      April 16, 2015

      Thanks! It’s Rock Grey by Benjamin Moore

  16. Kyrsten Koops permalink
    July 20, 2015

    Hello! I LOVE this wall and want to recreate it in our master bedroom. Do you have measurements for these arrows? I like your spacing. Thanks so much! This nursery looks FABULOUS!

    • Becky permalink*
      July 18, 2016

      Hi Kyrsten! See comment above for more details, but I know the column lines are 8″ apart. Otherwise I don’t have the exact measurements of the arrow spacing, probably about 25″ between two arrows that face away from each other…makes a difference where you are measuring from and which way they are facing so hard to explain exact measurements. ;) Good luck!

  17. Cheryl permalink
    July 14, 2016

    I would also like to recreate this look if that’s okay with you? I’m trying to figure out how you did the spacing of the arrows. Were they a specified number of inches apart every time and then just shifted slightly per column? Or how did you decide where to place the arrows? Thanks!

    • Becky permalink*
      July 18, 2016

      Hi Cheryl! I did keep the same spacing between all of my arrows in each column, just shifted the pattern so nothing lined up. But the spacing of arrows will really depend on your wall, how big it is and how busy you want the pattern to be. My ceilings are 10′ so that makes a big difference in our room. I mocked mine up in InDesign at full scale just to plan the stagger so it looked random. If you don’t have any design programs to help you with this, I’d get your vertical lines drawn (mine are 8″ apart) then roughly pencil in your arrows to get an idea of what you like, then decide on a standard spacing for the arrows. Also check out the Vintage Revivals link, I bet she has some great tips too! Good luck!

  18. Deb permalink
    July 26, 2017

    I would love to try this but am afraid of the toxicity of sharpie markets in my nursery. Do you know if they are? I went to buy low voc paint and I’d hate to ruin that by adding the sharpie. But I so love the simplicity so I am serious about wanting to know! Thx!

    • Becky permalink*
      July 27, 2017

      I guess I felt like I used such a small amount of the markers to do this project that it didn’t even occur to me that there would be any toxins in the air from them. I did the wall months before my son was born and even the very first day I smelled nothing. So I’d say go for it, they are not low VOC but unless you are filling giant areas with markers, you should be A-Ok!

      Plus, I think the low VOCs are mostly for the painter, since the fumes from paint are long gone after a couple hours of drying!

  19. July 3, 2018

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