Custom Window Film



We moved into a new place in April. It is the first place Tyler and I have lived that is ours and I couldn’t wait to infuse it with our style. I was worried about accomplishing my decorating dreams in someone else’s house – our cute little cottage is a rental. I am determined to make this place special, even though it isn’t “ours”. I believe my exact words to Tyler were, “I am decorating and you can’t stop me.” In the past I had always refrained from spending time or money decorating a rental, whether it was an apartment or a house due to my perception that these expenditures were impractical and wasted. Now I realize how important the comforts of home are and have been determined since the day we signed our lease to turn this house into a beautiful place for us to live. It may not be until “happily ever after”, but at the very least until the terms of our lease expire. 

Despite the fact that I have committed my time to the decorating process, we are on a very limited budget and constrained by the fact that we are renting. This means that the details are more important than ever. One of the first things I did after we moved in was to scrape off the browning, foggy window film covering the six panes of glass in the front door and replace it with a beautiful new design of my own. Several hours, one paint scraper, and half a bottle of goo-gone later, the holographic privacy screen was gone and I was ready to begin the creative process!

BEFORE - outside of door

BEFORE - outside of door


  • (1) roll “clear” contact paper [ ACE hardware $3.99 ]
  • scissors or paper cutter [ to cut template + contact paper ]
  • exacto knife or razor blade
  • paper, tape, etc.
  • a cool design!

After reading lots of discussion on the internet about good options for renters, I decided to use contact paper to construct a new window covering. I used “clear” contact paper, that when applied over glass gives a frosted effect. At $3.99 per roll, this was also the most economical option. The contact paper scrapes off easily and diffuses the light beautifully. 

Step 1: Creating the Design … While the purpose of the contact paper is practical (keep those perverts from staring straight in our window), I also wanted it to be beautiful. I sketched a design in Adobe Illustrator, but it would be just as easy to draw something by hand. I used Illustrator for precision, dissecting my design into six panels the size of the panes of glass. I printed the template onto white paper, cut it out, and taped it to the front of the windows using a technique I learned in elementary art class.



A variation on a botanical theme.

A variation on a botanical theme.




Step 2: Apply the contact paper … I then cut six pieces of contact paper the same dimensions as the panes and adhered them to the back of the window. My application was imprecise and there are a few bubbles – but you cannot see them when light is shining through the paper. 

Step 3: Cut out the design … I used an exacto knife to cut along the patterns I had designed, tracing the lines that were visible through the window. The afternoon sun helped the process along, lighting the pattern from behind and making the tracing process easy. The excess easily peeled off with the aid of the razor blade, revealing a “burn out” pattern that exposes the beautiful green leaves of the trees outside. I kept the exposed areas narrow to retain the effect of privacy. I also contemplated using a paint pen to draw a design on the paper, but ultimately decided I wanted to catch those glimpses of sky and trees beyond that cuts would reveal.

Two panes down, four to go!

Two panes down, four to go!

Finished design.

Finished design.

Finished design - view of whole door.

Finished design - view of whole door.

A few months have passed and I still love my design! It’s so nice to see the dappled pattern the early light makes on the wall. The design has also been effective for privacy – The complexity of the design seems to confuse the eye and make it nearly impossible to see in, even at night. This might be one of the best $4.00 projects I’ve ever done. I enjoy the effect so much that I have applied contact paper to the lower portion of the large windows I have in my office. I plan to do a different effect and continue playing with light. Watch for the results in an upcoming post!


A Few Notes: 

  • My initial method was to layer the template on top of the contact paper and trace the design with the knife, cutting through two layers at once. This method is terrible – I had to start over. The contact paper tried to roll up constantly and shifted so the design was not consistent. It was a horrible failure, but led me to consider the second option, detailed above. 
  • Make sure your windows are really clean or the contact paper will a.) not stick well and/or b.) trap unsightly specks of dirt, hair, etc. under your film. This would apply whether you use contact paper or the heavier-duty thermal window films.

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