Replicating Grandma's Wallpaper

In the Summer of 2018, I decided to re-create the wallpaper pattern from my grandparent’s house. It’s a very particular early 1960s five-color design and it immediately reminds me of home. The pattern is omnipresent in the living room and stairway and it just feels like such a part of the family that I waned to preserve it. I found a chunk of the wallpaper in a photo, repeated and aligned it, and then set to work tracing it in Adobe Illustrator. It was important to me that I capture all of the print irregularities, so I tried to be as accurate as possible in my tracing. Once I had the basic vector shapes, I arranged the colors in the same order that the actual wallpaper was printed. Then, I sampled the colors as best as I could from the photo and from memory. Eventually, I brought the vector art into Photoshop for further adjustments to make it really feel like the printed wallpaper.

Below are some of the steps in the process of tracing and adjusting, and fine-tuning the art in Illustrator and Photoshop. Click to embiggen.

One tool that really helped finish this project was True Grit Texture Supply’s “Atomica” Mid-Century Print Effects Kit. It’s a very robust set of actions and textures that very accurately mimic the way ink reacts to plate printing under various conditions. With it, I was able to replicate the way that the ink would gather or bleed in different parts of the original pattern. I’m really surprised at how well it worked and how much it added to the finished reproduction.

When I had the design finished and properly tiled, I used Spoonflower to create 2-yard lengths of “minky” fabric printed with the pattern. I ordered five of them and used them to sew blankets as birthday gifts for my mom and her siblings for Christmas. It’s amazing how well Spoonflower’s printing holds up, even on thick and fuzzy fabric.