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How to tattoo your walls with great typographic artwork

This great typogram by Aaron Kuehn (cc) now decorates the wall of our new office. (Looks a lot better than on the picture, that’s just a quick iPhone photo.) Here’s a tutorial for those who want to tatoo their walls, too.

Costs: <10 Euros.
Time: 1 day preparation, 1 day drawing.

1) The Motif

There is a lot of great artwork out there suitable for self-made wall tatoos. Many artists will be happy to allow you using it or have shared it under an open licence already. Use Google Images with b/w option or white color and size=large, along with approriate keywords (I used “bicycle typography”). Avoid shades of grey and too thin or complex lines unless you have some kind of artistic experience.

Make sure to give the artist credit, on the wall and online.

2) The Projection

I first tried a beamer with a measly 800×600 resolution. As soon as I was in drawing distance all lines were just pixels, with lots of anti-aliasing artefacts. I would have had to improvise a lot trying to get sharp edges, and probably have failed.

Someone suggested to go analogue so I asked for an overhead projector on Twitter and quickly found one to lend. Lines were great but it showed other problems: Heat and a not so solid construction let the mirror shiver and slowly drop milimeter by milimeter. I had to stabilize the projector and the table it was on by putting lots of heavy stuff on it. And I had to recalibrate the image maybe 50 times. An HD beamer would have possibly been better but I didn’t try.

Printing the image onto transparent film was also not so easy as the laser printer refused the film (despite being laserjet film). An inkjet printer produced a decent image, yet with many stripes and weak spots on it (see image on the right!), so I had to improvise often. (A great thanks to the folks from Sektor 5 for their printing support!)

To avoid visible distortion I to put the projector on a high position. To get the image straight I measured and marked the lower edge of both tires on the wall .

3) The Drawing

I bought ten permanent marker pens in black, different strengths. A Stadtler line width M proved most convenient. (One “RIM” on the very left is an F.) To my surprise one pen lasted the entire drawing, probably because I was too lazy to fill all the letters in the end (with the exception of my first letter, which I filled). And I liked it better that way.

For right handers it’s best to stark at the top left corner, moving down and right, as otherwise you’ll be wiping things you have drawn already with your hand.

The drawing took around six hours (including projector adjustments..), and preparation took its time, too.

4) The Sharing

Pictures or it didn’t happen!

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