Cactus Decal "Wallpaper" DIY

As we've mentioned countless times in the blog, we're renters and have always had (rather annoying) hoops to jump through to achieve our ideal home look, especially without painting. Before we even moved into our current home, I was aware we would not be able to alter any of the walls, and I did extensive research (does Pinterest count as research?) and was struck with the overwhelming concept of contact paper.

Defined by Wikipedia, Contact paper is an inexpensive material that has a decorative surface on one side and a highly adhesive material on the other side. The paper sticks to the desired surface with minimal effort. It is usually sold in roll form and the material is cut to size by the user.

Honestly, contact paper has been a life saver for us! From counter-tops, to small home details, we love it. At $2-$10 per roll, you can get very creative with very minimal commitment both financially and visually. If you change your mind at any point, when used correctly, the paper can be fully removed from any surface without any damage.

We toyed with several different patterns and concepts, and I kept coming back to something geometric. Within the first couple of nights living here, we went ahead and made one statement wall in the hallway to try out --- and we decided to do something less angular. We were also thinking our bold and geometric runner in the hallway was a bit too much all in one place, so we took the contact paper down and started again!

Knowing we wanted a pattern throughout the living room and hallway, we also wanted to be mindful of the amount of paper used. Ideally, we would be living in a home in which we could use something permanent; removable paper may be convenient while you're using it, but the temporary nature of the paper could end up creating permanent waste in a landfill.

We had been looking into small-scale cutouts to strategically place in a pattern on the walls to ad some fun to the weird olive green/beige color, and create a brighter balance by using white paper. We thought of flamingos, pineapples, cacti, polka-dots, stripes, you name it. On Etsy, these decals range anywhere from $1 to $2 per decal, so I was determined to find our ideal way to do it! Our final inspiration was from Elsie's cactus "wallpaper" post on A Beautiful Mess, in which she used a stencil and a pen to make little cacti all over her kid's room. 

The thought of stenciling and then cutting hundreds of copies of the design out made us cringe, but once we installed the murals/removable wallpaper in our dining room, we couldn't resist removing the triangles and getting started on the cacti!

Personally, we found it quicker free-handing the print and then cutting each drawing out individually (yes, a few of the cacti ended up looking like someone giving the finger). We attempted several different techniques, but cutting individually instead of stacking definitely had the best result (the contact paper can get a little crinkled if you cut more than one or two at a time)


  • a roll of contact paper (color of your choice)
  • sharp craft scissors (here's some fun ones!)
  • a stencil of the desired design (or freehand an easy design like we did)
  • permanent maker
  • optional: measuring tape or yard stick
  • paper weights or heavy mugs
  • flat surface
  • blank wall
  • step ladder or stool


  1. Roll the contact paper upside-down so that the side with the grid-pattern is facing you. 
  2. Spread the paper out evenly and place your paperweights on each side to stabilize the paper while you draw/trace.
  3. Using your permanent marker, go to town! Trace your stencil, or draw your pattern on the underside of the paper, and cover the paper in the design.
  4. Cut out all shapes. 
  5. Sigh and smile because you have made decals!
  6. If you want to have an even pattern of decals, you can use this time to measure the desired distance between the decals and mark accordingly. We did not measure, we just guessed!
  7. Play some music, and using your step ladder, begin placing your decals in the desired pattern!  

This project took around 6 hours total. This was mainly because we were figuring out the best and most efficient technique to draw and cut the decals. Definitely a fun project for a rainy day!

this project is perfect for renters, or decorators who change their mind often. try this project with your favorite design!