DIYdiy projects

DIY Project: 3D Cube Painted Wall by Donna Yu

by Kate Pruitt

We had a blast sifting through all the submissions from our recent DIY contest, and we were so glad to see that you, like us, were impressed by the wealth of creative ideas. In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing full tutorials for some of the finalist projects, and we thought it would be appropriate to start with our top winner! This painted 3D cube design is so amazing — I honesty love it more than any geometric wallpaper I’ve seen, and it’s awesome that with a little patience and precision, you can achieve a whole room of this for merely the cost of paint and tape. Congrats again, Donna, and thank you for sharing the process with us! — Kate

Read the full how-to for the first-prize winning project after the jump . . .


  • painter’s tape (I recommend using one thick version for the borders and a thin version for the design.)
  • graph paper or regular paper
  • colored pencils and regular pencil
  • acrylic or latex house paint
  • paintbrush (I used a 1″ paintbrush to line the edge and then used a small roller brush to fill in the rest)
  • X-Acto or craft knife
  • ruler


1. To start, get a sheet of graph paper or just draw a graph of squares with a ruler. The pattern does not have to be an exact duplicate of what will go on the wall; the idea behind this exercise is to get familiar with the pattern. I colored the basic unit in red. It’s good to have something small on hand because one could get lost when working on a larger scale.

2. After drawing out the pattern on a sheet of paper, it is time to duplicate the graph on the wall. The size of the squares will determine how many cubes there are. If you have a specific number of cubes that you want on the wall, then you must be precise and measure the ratio of squares to cubes. My small squares are approximately 3″ by 3″.

3. Now begin adding the diagonals to match the drawing and create the design. Remember that the tape should go on the perimeter of the area you are painting because everything inside will be painted. To make the pattern 3D, it is important that the edges line up properly, but you have a tiny bit of leeway. My lining up is not exactly perfect, but it works because it’s pretty close. You can also use a T-square ruler and/or a level to help ensure your lines are straight. Once you have the diagonal lines of the larger cubes in place, you can use an X-Acto knife to remove the smaller square of tape inside the square you want to be solid.

4. If you plan to add the vertical lines on one side of the cubes, do that now. I used a thinner tape and eyeballed it, but a level or ruler would be a great tool for ensuring clean, straight lines.

5. Continue adding the cubes and cutting out the excess tape from the pattern with your X-Acto knife. I recommend stepping back frequently to check your work; with this pattern, it will be very easy to tell if something is off. Luckily the tape is super easy to remove and reposition as needed.

6. When all the taping is finished, you’re ready to paint. I used one color so I could tape just once and paint in one step, but you could change the process to include multiple colors. When it’s done, pull off the tape and admire your work!

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  • Amazing artwork! I couldn’t believe how beautiful the result is. That is really perfect for walls on kid’s room. The color combination just complements the who room. Keeping it cozy and relaxed.

  • I can’t seem to figure out how the finished wall in the pictures came from the taped wall in these pictures. There are some big inconsistencies. First the walls aren’t even the same. The wall with tape has window casing or molding on either side of it. The painted wall has a radiator and no casing on either side. I understand that Donna could have done more walls and this might explain this difference. But the number of “stripes” on the right sides of the cubes do not match between the pictures. There are many more stripes on the finished wall than on the taped wall. Also, if you compare the size of the cubes in each picture to the size of the wall outlet cover (essentially using the outlet cover as a scale or “tape measure”), you can very easily tell that the cubes are different sizes. The cubes on the painted wall are twice as big as those on the tape wall. I apologize if Donna actually did create this wall because it really does look extremely awesome! But in looking at these pictures, I just cannot see how one came from the other.

  • Hi Grace,
    Yes. I lived in Toronto but have called Brooklyn home for sometime. Hi!

  • This is so inspirational. Translating your graph paper sketch to the wall opens a world of creative possibilities!

  • A inteligência sempre me fascinou….
    Parabéns Donna Yu, você é muito inteligente!

  • Hi, Donna, once again your work and the patience it took to accomplish the pattern is amazing. The reason why I asked where you’re from is because I was wondering if you’re the same Donna I lived with long ago as roommates!

  • @Grace: Yes! We were roommates, hope you are well! Wow that was so long ago! :0)
    @Jocelyn: I’m sorry but it was some leftover paint I found, so I dunno the name.
    @ Rachel and RS: Very perceptive! Yes, I didn’t take demo pics on the big wall so I had to use another wall in my apartment for demo. I hope it wasn’t too confusing.

  • Dear Donna-
    RE: Rachel’s comment and the addendum from RS……Since you obviously did not know that you would be asked to give a detailed tutorial when you created this magnificent work of art, it was apparent to me ( and I imagine to anyone who gave it much thought) that your “demo” was done after the fact.. I was appalled at R’s implication that because the two did not exactly match your work was not authentic. Please do not take it to heart.

  • Wonderful – simply marvelous! I LOVE that you can scale this to be super oversized or just fit in a great little nook. It’s hard to find just the right vintage wallpaper – in the perfect color and, of course, with enough rolls. This has that awesome vintage vibe and is actually doable for those like me who have no money but are totally willing to slave away to get awesome results! I would never have thought this possible. I bet this patter would be awesome as a canvas rug, which we’ve also seen here on design sponge. Then I could take my hard work with me wherever I rent. Beautiful job!

  • I too thought this was an amazing wall and had to try it. As you might imagine it is a LOT of work, total respect for Donna. One word of warning, it is important that the cubes connect. In the pictures above it looks like the thicker tape connecting the cubes is left in place for the painting, but if this is done the cubes won’t be connected losing it’s 3D quality. I had to go back after taking the tape off and repaint them to connect. Maybe this is obvious to everyone else, but I just wanted to give those who it isn’t a heads up so they can skip the repaint. It looks beautiful however and was totally worth all the work. Thanks for sharing Donna!

  • Really nice work! I really want to try this! But please can you help me a little more! I’m french and my english is quite poor, plus I do not do those kind of stuffs often :)

    I can’t see how you manage to do such proper borders between the squares. I beleve you explain this when you talk about the diagonals. In that section, I don’t understand that sentence: “Remember that the tape should go on the perimeter of the area you are painting because everything inside will be painted.”

    Hope you can get what I mean and enlighten me!

    Thanks for this beautiful site.

  • This is amazing, I would love to know the exact measurements for the squares on the wall to really get it right.

  • This is so loving…..this is what am aspiring to be…a creative designer…just need littke help from who is willing to help

  • For anyone trying to duplicate this there is a far easier way to do so. I got the idea to do this from this great example so props to whoever came up with it. Mark out your increments on the wall right above your base trim for your vertical lines. Just a pencil mark will do. Grab a laser line level from someone if you don’t have one. You really don’t need to move the laser at all , just turn it on each of your marked increments to form the line, then take a chalk line with a partner and snap each one, going down the line with the laser and chalk line. You can literally do 30 lines in 10 minutes. Now for the horizontal line, you will use the laser for a horizontal line only for your lowest line. Figure out where you want that and then set the laser on something to achieve that height, and snap it with the chalk. Now whatever your increment is, either buy a cheap ruler and saw it at whatever that measurement is. Use that and go up on each side and mark. When done snap those lines…and then any diagonal lines you may need. This entire process will take you 45 minutes as opposed to taping every single thing and then cutting out what you don’t need, possibly marking up the wall with the knife. Now you can just tape what you need to tape, use way less tape, spend much less time taping, much less time taking tape off, and end up with a cleaner look.