Napoleon Dynamite

I keep meaning to tell you about the awesome mural we painted on Ralph’s bedroom wall. I’m so pleased with how it turned out.

The idea actually started as a wall-size poster of a movie still. But when I priced out the poster, it was coming in around $500. More than I wanted to spend. So I started thinking about other possibilities. At some point, I recalled helping my mother decorate bulletin boards in my dad’s classroom when I was a child. We would project images with an overhead projector and then trace them. I thought I could try the same technique with wall paint. So I recruited my mom to do this project with me when she came to visit a few weeks ago.

Why Napoleon Dynamite? Well. Ralph is deeply into all-things-film. He likes making movies, writing scripts, editing footage, directing, watching movies, studying movies, etc. But he’s 12. And many of the movie images out there are highly sexualized or hyper-violent — not something we want on the wall of Ralph’s room. We wanted something fairly asexual, but still iconic and kid-approved. Our first thought was the professor from Back to the Future, but then Ralph found this image of Napoleon Dynamite and we knew it was perfect.

The best thing is, there is absolutely no art skill involved in this project. I mean it. You could take virtually any photo (What? You don’t want a giant Jon Heder in your house? Weird.) and paint it on your wall with this technique. It’s almost like paint by number. For reals. Want to give it a try? This is how it went down:

1) We found an image we liked:

2) We used Photoshop to reduce the image to flat shapes. Basic steps in Photoshop: make the image grayscale, increase the contrast, then make the image bitmap, with a 50% threshhold:

3) Use a projector to shine the image onto the wall. Trace the image with a pencil:

4) Fill in the shapes you traced with wall paint. We used a variety of paint brush sizes. Cheap foam ones to fill in large fields and small, better quality brushes for the details:

And that’s it. Instead of $500, the cost was under $20. Below are a few more pics of the finished room (and there are even more pics here):

-The bed we painted in metallic silver (it used to look like this). The paint was super-fume-y. So my mother wouldn’t let my very pregnant self anywhere near it.
-Bedding is from Target.
-We covered the closet doors with chalkboard paint.
-The little metal cube to the left of the bed opens up. It’s a little cubby. Ralph keeps his wallet and watch and ipod in there.
-The nightstand is a metal table with wheels. It has expandable sides. We’ve had it for ages. We freshened it up with a coat of green paint. Ralph’s iPod speaker is on the table.
-The lamp is from HomeGoods.
-Over the window we used Jenny’s technique to build an inexpensive pelmet box.

What do you think? Did we hit the right balance between cool and kid friendly? Would your tween approve? (Ralph gives it two thumbs up.) Would you ever try something like this? What image would you want on your wall?

More images of the room here.

153 thoughts on “Napoleon Dynamite”

  1. That is so SUUHWEET! (Sheesh I am lame). I work with teachers, so when tot had his truck birthday party, they helped me do the projector thing to make a pin the wheel on the dump truck game. I love this idea! I am getting ready to update tot’s room to a big boy room. Trying to think of something that will grow with him is hard.
    I bet your little man loves this room. What a cool mix of colors and I love the little silver cubby.

  2. Totally LOVE this! Though I am not showing my kids – I don’t need one more project on my list. Second thought, I think you’re right it does look easy. They might be able to do it themselves.

  3. I love it and I love all the colours you have used – the grey/ blue with the mustard yellow – I love it! I would defo do this.. not sure what I would paint on my wall though! Something girly :) x

  4. I LOVE this. Its such a fantastic idea, and it turned out great. I will definitely try this technique on a wall in the future. I’m sure Ralph will enjoy his awesome room! Napoleon Dynamite is hilarious and destined to be a classic, great choice :)

  5. You RULE!
    I am a fan ( from France) and I read your blog everyday, and I just read your brilliant idea, it’s terrific, really. In fact, I think this technique is awesome and you’re a genius …!

  6. What image would we want on my boys’ walls? Nothing less than John Heder himself! This is brilliant. As nerdy as it sounds, we all drop Napoleon Dynamite phrases all the time. . . .

  7. I’ve heard of this technique before…. I once went to a home (occupied by roommates who were both total sci-fi geeks) and they had used the projector method to make their living room a floor-to-ceiling map of Middle Earth from Lord of the Rings. (It was a green-on-green color scheme- gorgeous!) Then in their dining room they had a huge comic panel filling one entire wall- also looking absolutely perfect! That projector method really works! Napoleon looks awesome. :-)

  8. Genius Gabrielle, Genius! I love it so much! If I had a 12 year old daughter I would want to paint Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn.

    I am loving the whole room! Your mom looks like a great little helper :)

  9. I think that is a great room for a tween boy. I used a projector 3 years ago to paint a mural of birds and a tree branch on my girls’ bedroom wall-about 5 months after that birds and branches started popping up EVERYWHERE. I was so mad since I searched for images high and low before I painted. Once you get the sizing right, it is an easy way to make a big impact.

  10. I absolutely LUUUUUV everything about this entire post! Spot on Gabrielle!! Ralph is one lucky kid!!! I love your use of color while keeping it all boy!!! You are just a GENIOUS!!!

  11. Love this technique – what a great mom you must have! I have to admit, I couldn’t make it through Napoleon Dynamite. I tried, I really tried, but 20 minutes was all I could withstand. At my house, it would probably be Luke Skywalker or Han Solo on the wall. Hmmm, Harrison Ford . . . not a bad idea!

    I completely like the color combination of the sheets, accent pillows and side table. And I’m SO glad you mentioned the cube – I noticed it right off and wondered what it was – what a great little space for your stash!

  12. Perfect! I love that movie! It was easy/cheap/non-permanent enough that you don’t have to worry if Ralph is over it in a few years.

  13. As an adult Napolean Dynamite fan, I think this is Suhweet! Course, I ouldn’t do this on my wall, but it would be cool to do a flower, or maybe But yours is FanTasTic!

    xo Erin

  14. The room looks amazing. I am loving the metallic headboard, so perfect for a boys’s room. I’ve been meaning to send pics, but we followed your toddler bed tutorial and made them for my two and four year olds. They love them and they fit perfect in their tiny tiny bedroom. Thanks for the great inspiration design mom!

  15. This brought back memories of helping my 5th grade teacher do something similar on his wall. Thanks for the memory! Yours turned out spectacular!

  16. The whole room looks great! Makes me realize my son’s needs a makeover :) I love the gray/yellow/blue combo. Although I wouldn’t choose Jon Heder I think that wall mural idea is an amazing one. Maybe for my 9-yr-old son Han Solo or something.

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