Torn Paper Wallcovering Technique

Melissa McKean

The torn wallpaper look is a technique of literally tearing pieces of wallpaper at random and applying them to the wall. This look gives walls a very modern, textured look, and provides a whole new way to use great patterns of wallpaper. There are many different ways to use the technique: tear wallpaper into various sizes and shapes, or cut it into same-sized squares and make a more organized pattern. All you need is a creative eye.

Preparation and Measurement

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Start with clean, dry walls. It is not advisable to hang the torn wallpaper over existing wallpaper. The glue may not stick well to the old wallpaper, especially if it has a shiny or very bumpy texture. You should also avoid hanging paper over stucco or shiplap walls. These walls are too textured and will make it difficult for the glue to stick properly. When you are measuring for torn wallpaper, buy more wallpaper then you would buy if you were using a traditional papering method. This is because you will be overlapping edges and will have to tear some custom pieces to fit in corners, and around windows and doorways. Measure the height and length of each wall, and then add a few feet to each.


When tearing the wallpaper, leave some straight edges. Begin by tearing paper from the existing straight edges. These pieces will be used to line ceilings, corners, windows and doors. Once you have enough straight edges, begin tearing the paper into random pieces. Don't make pieces too small, or hanging the paper will be too time consuming. As a general rule, make sure each piece is at least 1 foot square. Think about the direction in which you are tearing. For a more finished edge, hold the patterned side toward you and tear away from your body. If you want a more unfinished edge, tear the paper toward your body. As you tear, place the paper so that the painted side is facing down, and create a neat pile.


To hang the wallpaper, apply glue to the back of about five pieces at a time, hang them, clean your pasting area and repeat. Begin by hanging along the ceiling, down the corners of the room and around the doors and windows. After the edging is complete, fill in the rest of the walls. As you are hanging, overlap each piece by about ½ inch on the previous piece.