Before I die...

Build Your Own Wall

Helpful Resources To Make Your Own Wall

stenciling

If you’re interested in creating a wall, we’ve provided many resources on this page. Also read the FAQ to learn more about the process. We have discontinued selling the toolkit. However, you can purchase all the toolkit items directly from the manufacturers—we included links in the What You’ll Need section below. We also created a folder of free resources you can download here. It includes a step-by-step guide, a checklist of materials, and helpful examples (also shown below), as well as files of the stencils if you’d like to create your own or edit them for another language. Learn more about how to create a wall below!

Five Main Steps

To Make Your Wall

1. Choose a Site

A good location has regular foot traffic. Once you find an ideal location, find out who owns the property and see what they think of the idea. People have painted on construction barriers, sides of buildings, and interior walls. They’ve also built plywood walls and attached them to fences or placed them in plazas, campuses, and parks. A wall can be created by one person, but it’s easier if you have help! People have created walls with friends, family, neighbors, classmates, coworkers, and organizations who can help provide a space or other resources.

2. Get Permission

Public spaces are for everyone, and it’s important to respect the community where you plan to install your wall. A good way to obtain permission is by speaking with people who live and work near the site you’ve chosen, such as the owner of the property, local community groups, and business owners and residents in the area. Every city has different rules concerning public art, so consider partnering with a local organization who can help you with this process.

3. Spread the Word

Select a date for your “ribbon-cutting” and spread the word. Most importantly, inform the people who live and work around the wall so they know what’s happening. People have used social media, print and online publications, local organizations, mailing lists, and flyers to organize and promote their wall.

4. Make Your Wall

We’ve included a checklist of materials and general costs below, which will depend on your wall size and structure. A typical wall can take a day or two to paint and stencil. Depending on the weather, the chalkboard paint can take several hours to thoroughly dry. Below you’ll find a step-by-step guide to help you on installation day.

5. Maintain Your Wall

Check on your wall frequently to take photos and document responses. A few thoughtful responses will set the tone for your wall. If there is anything inappropriate, just erase it. Once the wall is full, wash it with water to start fresh again. Take lots of photos and share your wall on the Before I Die website! We’ve provided a WordPress template and step-by-step guide to help you create a mini-site here. A mini-site is a page where you can post photos and responses and document the story of your wall. It’s free, super easy to use, and no technical skills are required. Visit the Budapest mini-site to see an example. You can include links to any other sites where you’re featuring your wall, as well as people and organizations involved. Once you have photos of your wall, email Liz and she’ll set you up with login and password information. Click here for more information on setting up your mini-site page.

 

What You’ll Need

A Handy Checklist

Below is a handy checklist of materials to make your Before I Die wall. We‘ve included approximate costs, which will vary depending on the size of your wall and where you purchase your materials. A 24’ x 8’ wall requires 6-8 cans of chalkboard paint and 4 cans of spray paint. The amount of chalk you‘ll need will depend on how long your wall is up. Read below for links to purchase the stencils, chalkboard paint, chalk holders, and chalk we used. Feel free to purchase materials from other sources.

Stencils
You can see all readymade stencil options here, including English versions, Spanish versions, and other languages. If you’d like to purchase stencils in another language, contact them here for pricing.

Column/Line stencil
What we used. $75 + shipping
39″ x 50″ stencil with a seven-line column of the fill-in-the-blank sentence, “Before I die I want to _______.” The stencil is manufactured from thick .10 mm mylar to make it easy to hang rigid and spray-paint with minimal tape and time. We recommend using a stencil like this, but there are cheaper ways too. Candy made the original stencil by printing the sentence out on a few pieces of paper, gluing it to a piece of poster board, and cutting the letters out with a blade. This took a lot more time, but it’s doable too.

Title/Headline stencil
What we used. $40 + shipping
9′-long stencil of the large headline “Before I die…” The stencil is manufactured from .05 mm mylar so it will hang rigid and flat with minimal tape. We recommend using a stencil like this, but here are cheaper ways too. Candy made the original stencil by printing it out on large format paper at a local copy center and cutting the letters out with scissors. The paper stencil requires a lot more tape to keep it flat on the wall, but it’s doable too.

Chalkboard paint
What we used. Rust-Oleum 30-oz. Flat Black Chalkboard Paint. Any chalkboard paint will work.

Chalk holders
What we used. 3″ x 6″ x 2″steel wire mesh containers (item #241201). Feel free to use any weather-proof container with holes to let rain pass through.

Chalk
What we used. We found Crayola colored chalk withstood rain better than a few other brands, but any chalk will work.

Examples of Walls

To stir your mind

Below are examples of Before I Die walls in other cities to show you the variety of ways people have created their own walls. There’s no right or wrong way; just the way that works for you and your community!

BID-wall-examples

Wall Layout

Helpful Notes for Planning Your Layout

Depending on the size of your wall, the number of columns and spacing will vary. Our wall in New Orleans was 41 feet (12.5 meters) long and comfortably fit 10 rows. Keep in mind space to fit your chalk holders. The diagram below is an example of how a 24 foot long wall could look like. Feel free to do what feels right for you.

layout1

Stencil Dimensions

The Height & Width of Your Stencils

Here are the dimensions of the stencils we’ve used to help you figure out how to lay out your wall. You can purchase them directly from this stencil manufacturer or you can create your own stencils. A one-column prompt stencil makes it much faster to stencil, and a thick mylar (plastic) material makes it easy to hang your stencil rigid to a wall with minimal tape. The text font is Neuzeit Book Heavy with -25 kerning. You can find the font online.

layout2

Make Your Wall

A Step-by-Step Guide

Here’s a six-step guide to help you make your wall. A typical wall can take one or two days to create depending on the size of your wall, how quickly the chalkboard paint dries in your climate, and how many people are helping you. Have fun!

guide1
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