DIY Divider Screen Makeover

DIY Fabric Screen Divider

Ever get an idea that just won’t let go? Every time I’m in the hobby store, I see these rice paper room dividers. I love them, but even on sale, they’re expensive, and frankly, boring. I’m like, I can do this better, but I’m not paying out the nose. As luck would have it, I found one on my local Facebook Marketplace for $20. To that, I said YES!

My DIY fabric screen divider was officially a GO!

Ridiculously easy…really!

Here’s what you need:

Yep, you’re gonna need a room divider. You can make one, but you’re on your own for that!

  • Room divider, rice paper and glue residue removed
  • 2 yds white fabric – I suggest either Zen White or Lucky White
  • Acrylic paint in your choice of colors
  • Paint brushes for acrylic paint
  • X-acto or snap cutting tool or rotary cutter
  • Straight edge for cutting
  • Pencil or artist chalk
  • Staple gun or hot glue
  • Spray paint (optional)
  • Duck tape in the color of your frame(optional if you use a staple gun) or gimp braid/flower/trim of your choice
  • Drop cloth or tarp
  • Water mister (optional)
  • A little imagination and patience with yourself

They say that breaking up is…hard to do…

And again, if you got that, you’re old like me. Breaking down the screen divider by removing the old backing will take some time. Do your best and get all that paper, glue, staples. dead bugs, spider webs, whatever is on it, off. If you’re painting, get that down and make sure it’s completely dry before you finish the screen design.

A word of caution!!

I used a wall needing repainting as my work space. But as you’ll see, it’s only a good option if you plan to repaint that wall! Your paint will soak through. trust me on this. Three coats of new wall paint later…

Whether you use the floor or the wall, put something behind your work.

1. Mark the screen size on your canvas and draw a line for each panel. DO NOT CUT
2.Securely attach a tarp to your work surface and hang your canvas on top attaching it directly to the work surface keeping the boundary lines on the protective backing.
3. Tape off the panels on the vertical only.

Don’t panic. Time to draw.

Don’t freak out. I’m no artist. No, really. I can’t draw my way out of a paper sack. But I can make big general pictures and fake it along the way. That’s what makes this so amazing.

Using a pencil or artist chalk, begin by sketching a general outline of where your tree will be. The rest we’ll fill in as we go.

Do you remember Bob Ross the painter from PBS? If you’re at least in your 40s you might. He had this thing he did painting happy little clouds, happy little trees, etc. And he did it with big paint brushes; I mean like a two or even a four inch trim brush! He just smooshed the paint across the canvas and make it look amazing, even though he never painted a tiny detail other than some light and shadow.

Try as I might, I could never do what Bob Ross did, God rest his soul. But it did inspire me to use a broader stroke when I did attempt projects. So in that spirit, I’m going to say, that a cherry blossom tree is a simple design for your screen divider because you don’t have to be exact with. We’re not using oil, but acrylic is very forgiving. And because we’re not painting individual flowers, but using Impressionist style, we’re creating the illusion of cherry blossoms using big splotchy strokes a la Bob Ross. Perfection is out of the question! Happy little cherry blossoms!

Don’t be afraid! You’ve got this!

I used two colors for my tree trunk and limbs. Using a large brush, I painted over the outlines then began filling it in, not bothering with perfection. Every so often, I’d just step back and add what I might want. I gave mine “movement”, by making the limbs bend to the side to give the effect of the tree being pushed by the wind. I added lighter shades of my base color to give the tree some dimension. 

Flower power

Painting the flowers was the best part. Using a large brush again, I just splattered them with abandon everywhere I thought they needed to be, stepping back to look at my screen divider for empty spaces. Don’t be afraid to let some “fall”! I used three colors to make my blossoms.

Again, I’m no artist. If you’re unsure about this, practice first on paper. Look at images on the internet, watch videos. You don’t have to master this. Plus, mistakes are hidden a bit by the grid work on the frame.


This is the only time I used a small brush to add some details to my design. I wanted some realistic aspects, so I added twigs and curls here and there.

Fake it while you make it

Screen dividers are a big thing in Japan. Since that was the look I was going for, I wanted the colors to melt into the canvas like watercolors. Watercolor won’t give you the right look. So we’re going to “fake” it using a spray mister. This is optional. It’s also a commitment. You can’t go back, so practice on a scrap first if you need to.

Your paint should be close to, but not totally dry. The more dry it is, the less is blurs. Also be aware that it will continue to blue as it dries, so use a light touch on this process.

I get misty…

With your spray bottle on fine mist, spray your work from about 12 inches away. Don’t soak it, just add a little moisture and then stand back to watch the magic!

Let it dry…let it dry

Overnight, please. Wherever it’s hanging.

Once your screen divider canvas is COMPLETELY DRY, you have a decision to make. You can cut each panel out and tuck and glue into the grooves, or you can glue or staple. In retrospect, I would have stapled this. It was a lot of work to tuck and pull and tighten each panel. So my recommendations is don’t do what I  did! Take the easy way out. People only see the final product. Let the rest be your secret!

Sign your work. You’re an artist now.

Now the hard part.

If you choose my method, cut each panel. Lay them out in reverse order since you’re working face down. You don’t want to tear your work (and your hair) out when you discover your hard work is backwards and in the wrong order.

Yep. I did that.

Working one panel at a time with the right side against the grid facing out, use a flat head screwdriver to push the panel into the groove. Apply hot glue in sections to the groove and tuck the panel in securely. Trim as needed. Work from the center side and top first to reduce puckers and pulls. Take your time. Trim excess to avoid bulk.

The “easy” way

The easy way is to lay the whole project flat on the floor with the divider face down on the floor and your canvas, right side down, on top. Center your work and place a tack staple on the top of the middle screen divider panel at the center point. Pull snug and tack on the bottom in the same manner. Do the same for the side panels working top to bottom. Check for smooth and tack the sides. Continue working from top to bottom and the sides of your screen divider. Tack the middle panels. Using the cutting tool of your choice and a straight edge, cut the panels apart in the middle and continue to staple.

You will need to cover your raw edges since we cheated. Using duck tape or trim and hot glue, carefully cover your edges.

That’s it. you’re done! You just made a beautiful screen divider your friends will be envious of! Don’t you feel talented!

Here’s mine covering a broken closet door.