Full Guide To Cutting and Trimming Wallpaper

Full Guide To Cutting and Trimming Wallpaper

Let's address a common issue you might face when hanging wallpaper: cutting around obstacles and trimming. This can be particularly challenging if you’re trying to do it yourself. Here’s how you can successfully navigate around multiple objects without wasting wallpaper or ending up short.


When wallpapering a room, obstacles like towel dispensers, light fixtures, and other wall-mounted items can make the process tricky. Cutting the wallpaper to fit perfectly around these obstacles without over-cutting or causing stress points is essential for a smooth finish. Let's walk through the steps to master this skill.

Tools and Materials Needed

Before starting, gather the following tools:

  • Wallpaper
  • Wallpaper paste (if needed, not required for peel & stick)
  • Utility knife with a sharp blade
  • Measuring tape
  • Level or laser level
  • Smoothing tool
  • Straight edge

Understanding Stress Points

Stress points occur where the wallpaper is forced to rise or wrinkle due to an obstacle. Identifying and relieving these stress points is crucial for a smooth application. The goal is to cut and trim around obstacles in a controlled manner to allow the wallpaper to lay flat without stretching or distorting.

Steps to Cut Wallpaper Around Multiple Obstacles

Step 1: Align and Justify

First, ensure that one side of your wallpaper is straight and plumb. This will serve as your reference point. We’ll refer to this as "justifying to the right." All cuts and adjustments will be made from this straight edge toward the left.

Step 2: Identifying the First Obstacle

Examine the wall and determine the first obstacle your wallpaper will encounter. Use a laser level or a regular level to ensure your wallpaper remains straight as you work around each obstacle. Mark the top and bottom of the obstacle lightly with a pencil so you can clearly see where to cut.

Step 3: Cutting Stress Points

Begin by cutting small stress points around the first obstacle. These cuts will relieve the tension and allow the wallpaper to lay flat. For example, if you’re working around an electrical outlet, make small cuts where the outlet (not the cover) meets the wallpaper. This will help the wallpaper settle without buckling. Be cautious not to cut too deeply; just enough to allow the paper to conform to the shape of the obstacle.

Step 4: Controlled Cutting

Use a utility knife to make controlled cuts directly on the obstacle. Avoid cutting too much at once. Instead, make several small cuts to gradually relieve the stress. Use both hands to control the knife and ensure precision. When making these cuts, always cut away from the paper's edges toward the obstacle to prevent tearing.

Step 5: Moving to the Next Obstacle

Once you’ve successfully cut around the first obstacle, move on to the next one. Remember, you’re working from right to left, using your straight edge as a guide. Repeat the process of making stress cuts and controlled cuts on each new obstacle. This method ensures that each section of wallpaper is carefully adjusted, reducing the risk of errors and wrinkles.

Step 6: Fine-Tuning

After making the initial cuts, use a smoothing tool to press the wallpaper down around each obstacle. This will highlight any remaining stress points that need further trimming. Take your time with this step to avoid over-cutting. The smoothing tool helps to ensure that the wallpaper adheres properly to the wall and reveals any areas that still need attention.

Step 7: Final Trimming

Once all stress points are relieved and the wallpaper is laying flat, make your final trims. Ensure that the cuts are neat and close to the obstacle, hugging its edges for a professional finish. Remember, you can always trim more, but you can't add back what you've cut away. Be meticulous in this step to achieve a seamless look.

Step 8: Dealing with Curved Obstacles

For obstacles with curved edges, make several small, straight cuts around the curve. This technique, similar to creating a series of slits in a flexible material, allows the wallpaper to bend smoothly around the curve without wrinkling. Take extra care with curved surfaces, as they require more precision and patience.

Step 9: Handling Electrical Outlets and Switches

When dealing with electrical outlets and switches, ensure the power is off before you start. Remove the cover plates, apply the wallpaper over the outlet or switch, and then make an "X" cut from corner to corner of the outlet or switch box. Fold the flaps back and trim the excess paper, then replace the cover plate. This method ensures a neat fit and prevents the wallpaper from tearing when the cover plates are reinstalled. If you like, you can even install wallpaper on the cover or switch plates to make them blend into the design.

Step 10: Addressing Large Fixtures

For larger fixtures, such as wall-mounted cabinets or large lighting fixtures, measure carefully and pre-cut the wallpaper before applying it to the wall. Mark the areas to be cut on the back of the wallpaper and cut them out before pasting the wallpaper onto the wall. This pre-cutting step can save time and reduce the risk of errors when dealing with bulky obstacles.

Step 11: Navigating Around Windows and Doors

When wallpapering around windows and doors, leave a slight overlap at the edges. Apply the wallpaper as close to the window or door frame as possible, then use a straight edge and a sharp blade to trim the excess. This overlap ensures a clean edge and a professional look.

Tips for Success

  1. Use a Sharp Blade: A sharp blade ensures clean cuts and prevents tearing.
  2. Take Your Time: Don’t rush the process. Patience is key to avoiding mistakes.
  3. Practice on Scrap Pieces: If you’re unsure, practice cutting around obstacles on scrap wallpaper first.
  4. Keep the End in Mind: Always be mindful of the edge of your wallpaper roll to avoid cutting too much and coming up short.
  5. Work in Good Lighting: Ensure you have adequate lighting to see what you’re doing clearly.
  6. Stay Calm and Patient: It’s easy to get frustrated, but staying calm and patient will help you achieve the best results.


Cutting wallpaper around multiple obstacles can be challenging, but with the right approach, you can achieve a seamless finish. By carefully cutting stress points, making controlled cuts, and taking your time, you can ensure your wallpaper fits perfectly around any obstacle.

Feeling ready to tackle your wallpaper project?

Check out our Sadie Witch Wallpaper!

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