Testing A Sharpie Accent On The Half Bath Wall Design

When I mentioned last week that I was considering doing something different on the studio bathroom walls, several people (including my mom) suggested that before I move on to something different, I take a minute and try the black Sharpie marker trick on the current wall design to see if I like it. Do you remember the black Sharpie marker accents I did on the music room wall?

The music room walls are a painted stencil design in the two neutral colors that I use throughout our house — Behr Polar Bear and Benjamin Moore Classic Gray. But when I did the stencil originally, the design just seemed flat to me. It needed something to give it some oomph. So I decided to use a black Sharpie marker and outline parts of the design to give the design some dimension.

Here’s what the painted stencil design looked like originally…

It was pretty, but it just didn’t look like anything special to me. And it very much looked like a stenciled wall. But after adding the black Sharpie marker detail, it went from looking like an obvious stencil to looking like wallpaper. Here’s what it looks like today…

See how the black Sharpie marker added a lot of dimension to the design?

So remembering that, several people thought that I should give that a try on the bathroom walls before I decide to scrap the wall design altogether. Here’s what the wall design looked like before this little experiment. It’s a colorful square spiral design that I taped off and hand painted. It was a very tedious project, for sure!

I don’t regret doing this design at all. I’ve been able to enjoy it for at least a couple of years now, but I’m just wanting something a little more bold and colorful. I know that sounds crazy when you’re looking at this design up close and it looks very bold and colorful…

But when you step back and look at it from a distance (or even when standing in the back entry of the studio), the design becomes more faded and loses some of that colorful boldness.

I didn’t really have anything to lose by trying the Sharpie marker accents since I had already decided that I was going to move on to the next idea anyway (probably colorful vertical stripes). So I just picked a spot on the side wall, and went for it.

It’s very hard to tell what impact it will have from such a small sample, but I did like the way it looked with the black accents. And I did like how the black tied in with the new vanity color.

So I kept going so that I could see a larger sample and see if I could get an idea of what impact it would have when done on the whole design on all four walls…

Unlike the music room walls, where there was a very clear and obvious difference between the non-Sharpie parts of the walls and the Sharpie parts of the walls, I wasn’t feeling like this was making a big impact on the bathroom walls. Here’s an “in progress” view of the music room walls. See how huge the impact was on those walls?

I mean, that is a drastic difference! That center part with the black accents almost seems to jump out at you. It looks three-dimensional compared to the rest of the wall.

But on the bathroom walls, the black was getting lost in the design, no doubt because this is a multi-color design, where the music room walls just had two light and neutral colors on them to begin with.

I did go on and do a little big more, but I stopped when I had about half of the side wall done. As hopeful as I was that it would work and make the huge difference in here that it made on my music room walls, I just don’t think it will.

I’m glad I tried it, though! At least now I know for sure. And I do love to experiment with ideas, so I don’t consider this a waste of time at all.

But it seems to me that the key to success with the black Sharpie trick is to start with a stenciled design that is done with neutrals. That’s where you’ll get the most impact, and the most return for your time and effort. That’s not to say that it won’t work at all on a more colorful design, but the impact is going to be lost a bit.

So I’m going to move on to Plan B — vertical stripes. I googled “colorful vertical stripe wallpaper” yesterday, and one of the very first search results really inspired me. It was this wallpaper mural from Photowall.

I don’t plan to use that exact wallpaper. First, the colors are wrong. My mural doesn’t have a lot of yellow. In fact, I’m not sure if it has any at all. And also, I can’t really see myself using “stripes” that are so haphazard. For someone who likes things to be neat, clean, organized (in design, not necessarily in life in general 😀 ), square, straight, and tailored like I do, that’s a bit too “child’s artwork” for me.

But I’m very inspired by the bold colors, and I do like the idea of random width vertical stripes. It’s the colorful boldness of that wallpaper that inspires me, and I can envision it on those walls. I think something colorful and bold like that would look amazing in that tiny studio bathroom!



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  1. I think the bold green walls outside of the bathroom are what is overshadowing the beautiful stripe design.

    1. The green walls aren’t in every picture, though. Even in the pictures taken from inside the room where only the bathroom walls show, the design seems to fall flat for me.

  2. It doesn’t make a huge difference….but it kind of does. The lines now look 3D. I wonder if you used one of those really wide Sharpies to make the lines?

    1. That’s exactly what I was going to say! Try a wider chisel tip marker before you start repainting. The tiny black stripe gets lost with the other stripes of color. Nothing to lose by trying at this point. The black needs to be bolder since there is color involved as opposed to the 2 neutrals and black in the music room.
      The wallpaper mural reminds me of quilter Nancy Crow designs. Looks great in small doses but would be overwhelming in that small bathroom.

    2. I was going to suggest making the sharpie lines bolder too. I think then, the effect would be more obvious.
      I like the symmetry of the existing design more than random widths. Just my thoughts.

      1. I know I’m a day late, but I thought the same thing, that the black line was too thin compared to the music room! But I also think the colors are too pastel (I had always thought this.) Especially when you factor in the deep green in the foyer and the stronger colors of the florals, the bathroom colors seem faded.

  3. I agree that the Sharpie doesn’t leave nearly the impact that it does on the music room wall. I have to admit that while I’m sure your strips will look great, I’m disappointed that you aren’t going with the wallpaper. I think that would look amazing in there, though in a bit smaller design.

  4. I completely understand still wanting something more bold , but I actually think the sharpie makes a huge (even if understated) difference in that design! It’s the extra little something I didn’t know it needed. Definitely a good thought to give it a try!

    1. I agree! The sharpie does make a difference, even though subtle, but still a difference. I like it…but do understand wanting something bolder. However, I have always been a fan of the way these walls play off the wallpaper.

  5. Sharpie fix doesn’t do it for me at all. Just not enough impact to hold its own with the black countertop. The random stripes or blobs make me dizzy. As you said, not at all your style but the idea can be a catalyst jumping off point for experimenting. Whatever direction you go, I think incorporating some black will be important. Fun to mull.

  6. Hmm. Yes, the music room walls are amazing, and this…not as much. Just a totally different design didn’t pack the punch that the other did. So, you will find something better for you, I am sure. I still like the idea of the strips, with coordinating colors from the wallpaper. It would make sense and play off each other when you see both from the doorway. You have so many gorgeous colors in that paper! By the way, THANK YOU so much for your advice about painting furniture. I sure wish I knew that sooner! I have to keep all that paint advice for the future. I know a lot of us will…Thank you again.

  7. I LUV that mural!
    Something I would so do.

    I like the Black Sharpie, but I agree that it comes in shy of the boldness you are seeking.

  8. I love how the black sharpie looks on your studio bathroom wall. The black lines is just enough to create a more pronounced look. I think you should do the whole wall before you actually do any other changing of the wall….and then look at it one more time. I know this must be time consuming but it could be worth it. You might like it.

  9. I gravitate towards softer, paler colors so I still love the bathroom wall. And you’re right the sharpie accent didn’t do much to bring it up a level as it did in the Music room. But of course this is your home so go bold and go Kristi!!

  10. I think you need two widths of marker to make the squares pop out. It would give a subtle dimension to the square.a wider width on the left sides & narrower on the top sides.

  11. I noticed the difference. It made it three dimensional! It looked like you took each color and raised it up. Awesome look.

  12. I’m probably the only one who liked the Sharpie marker. You will make a believer out of me with varied stripes! 😉

  13. As with many design choices often the full impact does not become clear until the project is finished. I see the difference and really love it.

  14. I have to say, that to me, the black sharpie did make the design look a little more 3 dimensional. However, I certainly understand if that’s not the “wow” that you’re looking for. I also like the wallpaper design that JillM (and not just because she shares the same first name, and I’m assuming a last name that also starts with an M lol) shared the link for. It just looks a bit more intentional.

  15. I really like it with the Sharpie. It looks 3D and the colors pop a LOT more to me. They look a lot bolder vs more pastel (which never feels Kristi to me!).

  16. I was always very impressed with this project, even though I found it too colourful for my personal taste. The Sharpie experiment is VERY interesting. It gives definition to the design, but on the other hand for my eyes it works as an optical illusion: the squares look like cut in half (or quarters) and they start dancing in front of my eyes. While I find that fascinating to watch for a bit, I would not like it in a room as it would make me dizzy. But thank you very much for sharing the experiment, it adds to the things I’m learning from you and I appreciate this a lot! I am looking forward to the stripes, because I love stripes as well and like to be inspired!

  17. What if you tried to use the black marker where all of the white is? Essentially adding a black background. The colors would definitely be more bold!

  18. I love the black sharpie on the bathroom walls!! In the pictures it seems to make the lines pop more to me but I do understand what you mean about it not being as big of a difference as it was in the music room. I know whatever you come up with will be beautiful though and I can’t wait to see what you decide to do in that room.

  19. Kristi, I hope you had a WONDERFUL birthday yesterday. I meant to send this yesterday, but lost track of the date. Enjoy your new year! Joan

  20. Kristi

    This may be just a problem for me, but in case anyone else is having trouble.

    Not all your posts are showing up on my front page when I look at your website. I have to go to the “NEXT” link at the bottom of your posts to find your newest articles.

    Again, it may just be me, but I wanted to you to know.

    Love your blog and don’t want to miss a thing!!


  21. I am doing 5” vertical strips on my wall over my counter tops to bottom of my upper cabinets ets approx 16” tall. I am very nervous but gonna give it a shot. So I painted wall pale beige gonna do a 5” vertical stripe in apricot then I would like to put a very thin brown stripe next to it and want to use a permanent marker. So you say this is okay. Will it come off if I decide to change my room again.