Discover & Be at home: make your own William Morris-style wallpaper!

Do you ever wonder how wallpaper is made? Today it's made on a very large and clever printer. However, one of the most famous upholstery designers didn't have such technology at his finger tips. Who am I talking about? William Morris of course. 

William Morris was born in 1834 and died in 1896. Although he lived more than a century ago he remains England's most famous textile designer, known for his designs inspired by the flora and fauna of the English countryside. Did you know that he was also a poet, novelist, translator, and socialist activist?!

So do you fancy trying to create your own wallpaper, just like William Morris, without using your printer? You can! 

You can try two different methods.

Block printing 

You will need:

  • A tile and some string
  • OR a thick piece of card or polystyrene and something to make grooves in it
  • Paint
  • Rolling pin
  • Paper

1. Make a design on your tile using string to build up a pattern or, if you're using card/polystyrene make grooves in the card/polystyrene. 

2. Roll the paint over the design on your tile/card/polystyrene and then place your design on to your paper.

3. Roll over the back with a clean rolling pin and peel away to see you design. Then you can repeat it to make your own roll of wrapping paper or wall paper.

Wallpaper roller

Now William Morris would have used a heavy cylinder of wood and carved the flowery design out of it ready to roll over the blank wallpaper to create a repeating pattern.

Now I'm guessing you don't have a large piece of perfectly smoothly wood in a cylinder laying around so... all you need is a Pringles tin and some foam stickers.

1. Stick the stickers all over the tube so they are raised up from the surface.

2. Paint over the stickers with a generous amount of paint and roll it along your paper.

Hey presto you have made wallpaper with the same technique William Morris used! 


- try loading the paint on and rolling it a few times. The first few prints aren't very strong but as the paint soaks into the foam you get a better quality of print. 

- you don't have to use flower stickers. You could try musical notes, animals or letters. You could even get sheets of foam and cut out your own shapes to stick on your wallpaper roller. 

In the very rich houses the wallpaper would have been printed on and then an artist would have added to the piece by hand, sometimes adding extra colours, birds and details on the flowers. Why not wait for your piece to dry and then add to it carefully by hand?

Want to see some example of this type of wallpaper decorating? There are plenty of examples at Brighton Pavilion. Why not take a look?

This would make a great summer holiday project. Have fun and do post your printing pieces to our FB page. We'd love to see them.