How to frost a window with contact paper

If you’ve read my recent posts you know two things.

1. I love Contact paper.

2. I moved into a new house a few months ago.

The new house has a problem. That problem is that there’s  a window IN the shower. This window is a problem because it looks directly onto the street.

Oh, hello mailbox and neighbors and passersby. Don't mind me, I'm just getting Zestfully clean!

No, sir. I don’t like it.

Put a curtain over it, you say! But what about all that nice natural light?!

No, no. A curtain won’t do.

When we lived in an apartment a few years ago, there was a living room window I wanted  to cover without blocking the light, so I cut out a bunch of squares of clear Contact paper and stuck them on the window. It looked like a cool mosaic frosted window. The Contact paper is cool because when you want a change, or you’re a renter moving out, you just peel it off.

I did something similar in our basement here, since we have big egress windows that look directly at the neighbors (more on that in a minute). Even though we’re not renting, and I could have actually etched the glass or painted it with frosted glass spray, I just didn’t want anything permanent.

I knew I wanted to use the Contact paper in the bathroom, but I wanted to do something a little different. I wanted to use one continuous piece of Contact paper, so there wouldn’t be any gaps you could see through. Someone would have to stick their face right up to the glass to see through the gaps, but I still didn’t like the idea.

I could have just put the plain sheet over the window and left it at that, but that would have been easy, and easy is boring.

So the OCTOPY ATTACK! window was born…

Here there be monsters!


This is what it looks like if you open it. No! He's getting closer! AHHHH!


All you need is some Clear Contact Paper, some scissors, Sharpies, and some time.

Measure the glass of your window and cut out sheets of Clear Contact Paper* to fit.There are different widths available, so make sure you measure your window before you buy your Contact paper. If you have a very large window and can’t find Contact paper to fit, there are other brands of window films out there, so check around and you should be able to find something to fit. If not, check out the tiled designs at the end of the post.

* Note that I said CLEAR Contact paper and not FROSTED Contact paper. They make a frosted window film that will still work, but it has a pattern (which you can see here) on it. It won’t look like plain etched glass the way the un-sharpied parts of mine do. If you want the pattern, that’s cool.

The Contact paper will have a tendency to want to roll back up on itself, so tape it to a big flat surface. If you need to trace a design, a window works really well, because the back light will make your tracing lines really easy to see. But a wall or door will work, too.

Now have at it with the Sharpies!

The cool thing about the Sharpies is that they’re transparent, so it gives a sort of stained glass effect, which is what I wanted. For a different effect, try paint markers. They’re more opaque, and the result can be just as cool. Check out this project with paint markers and window film at design*sponge.

I did all the colored parts first, and then went over the design with the black Sharpie. If you do it the other way around, your colors will blend with the black ink and get muddled and funky.

If you make a mistake, you can “erase” most of the Sharpie ink with rubbing alcohol. Dip a Q-tip in the alcohol and rub the ink off the Contact paper. Be careful, though- if any of the alcohol drips on a spot you don’t want to erase, it will make the ink run.

You could probably get a really cool on-purpose drip effect by coloring the top of your panel and then dripping the alcohol across and letting it run. Sort of like those melted crayon paintings.

Here are my panels taped to the back of the door.

I left mine taped to the door over night, which really helped them flatten out. Trying to peel the backing off when the paper keeps rolling up can be a pain, so this is a good step to NOT skip.

Now clean your window (pardon the scum and filth on mine… I need to wash the outside of the window and these old double hung windows are not easy to clean from the outside!). Peel off the paper backing, line up your film and press the Contact paper into place.

It’s re-positionable, so if you’re crooked or you get  a big air bubble, just peel the film back and fix it. If you’ve got some overhang, just trim it off with an Xacto knife.

I’ve seen other directions for this type of project that want you to spray your window with soapy water or windex, spray the back of your film, and then apply it to the still-wet window. It will allow you to slide the film around for easier placement, and then you squeegee out the excess juice and air bubbles. I’ve never done that, so I didn’t do it this time either. There are some air bubbles in my film that you can’t see during the day but you can see them at night. I kind of like it because it makes it looks more like it’s under water.

If you’re anal about air bubbles, try the soapy water method, which is nicely outlined here on not martha. Megan also goes through the various brands of window film available out there. Lots of them come with pre printed designs, so if you’re unsure about your artistic abilities, you can skip the markers and still get a cool design. Megan warns that she’s had a bad experience trying to remove the clear Contact paper from a window. I didn’t have any trouble removing it from my apartment in 2005, and I had no trouble repositioning the pieces I’ve done more recently, but it’s definitely something to be wary of, especially if you’re a renter. It might be wise to test a small square for a few weeks and see how well it comes off before doing the whole window.

But me? I live life dangerously.

Okay, so I mentioned the basement windows I did. This is more similar to what I did in my old apartment. Basically, you choose a tiled pattern, and then cut a bunch of “tiles” of the Contact paper to put on the window. This works really well if your window is too large to use one continuous piece of film. I did just the top half of our basement windows, since the bottom half is pretty well concealed in the window well.

Fish scale window

You can use any tiled design, so check out some tiled patterns and pick one you like. A fancy Morrocan style pattern would look awesome.

Don’t go too small with your design or you’ll drive yourself crazy cutting out all of those pieces. If I did it over, I’d probably make the scales bigger because it took several hours of cutting and another hour or so of sticking them to the window. The harlequin pattern went much faster.

harlequin window

Again, measure the glass area of your window. Choose a design, and make sure the size won’t have you cutting out 200 tiled pieces. You could do the math and figure out exactly how many full pieces and partial pieces (for the top, bottom, sides and corners) you’ll need and cut them out ahead of time. Or you could wing it. I winged it with the scales, but I planned the harlequin ahead of time. You’ll have to figure out the math on your own if you’re going to plan ahead, as each pattern and window size would be different.

Don’t forget to figure for spacing between each piece when (if)  you’re planning ahead!

Make a template for your tile out of cardstock, and start tracing onto the back of the Contact paper. I started tracing with a Sharpie, but I didn’t like how fat the lines were. It made it hard to follow my lines consistently while I was cutting, so I switched over to a mechanical pencil and it was a lot easier. Cut those babies out and keep them away from mischievous cats.

When you’re ready, wash your window, peel and stick.

If you don’t want a tiled design, you could do stripes. Layer stripes in different directions for a plaid effect!  Or cut one big piece with a bunch of little polka dot peep holes! Or a chevron pattern. Or a cut-out mural. The possibilities are endless, dude!

27 thoughts on “How to frost a window with contact paper

  1. Oh this is perfect! We’re getting ready to move into a new home and we to have a window in our bathroom lol right behind the toilet how lovely right!?

    Thanks so much!

    love your octopus drawing by the way!


  2. Thank you very much for this tutorial! Our living room windows look straight into our neighbours’ living room, so we tend to just leave the blinds closed all day. So I’m hoping to finally let some light into our room!

  3. I love this idea. Now I need to go get some contact paper and play. I have these huge windows on the doors for my apartment and they are constantly covered by curtains. This idea will help us let in light and keep passer bys from see all our electronics 🙂

    Thank You for sharing this!

  4. Thank you this was a great idea . My dogs are always staring out my huge front window . So i was looking for a way to have privacy and keep them off the couch . One of them has epilepsy so I did not want to try the awesome krylon frost spray as the chemicals may have been a problem . After seeing this I decided to check our local discount store Big Lot’s . Bingo ,they had rolls of Clear for a whopping 2 bucks a roll . At that price I may just do every window . Thanks for sharing . This totally saved the day.

  5. This is wonderful!! I literally was just adding up the window pane measurements to figure out how much film I was going to need to do all the windows in my (rental) home and it’s wasn’t going to inexpensive (argh!). I enjoy DIY projects and this is just AWESOME, I can’t wait to get started!! I’m so glad I found your site (blog) about this project, you’ve just helped me save a bundle of money, THANK YOU!!

  6. You are a life saver! We’ve been trying to figure out how to block our cats from seeing neighborhood cats on our patio (which is causing a HUGE ruckus) but the frosted window films I found were way too pricey for my liking. This is a perfect fix without spending a bunch of money, totally cat safe unlike spray frost, and I can make it look nice, too!

  7. Are they opague enough for a br window.I would like to replace the blinds with this.I am so tired of trying to keep the blinds clean.but I don’t want to put on a show for the neighborhood.

    1. It would work well for a bedroom window. You really can’t see through it at all. No peepshows. 😀 But it does still let in light, so if you want to keep out the sun in the morning, you’d still need blinds or curtains.

  8. Thank you for your very thorough tutorial! Do you know if a solid, colored contact paper will reduce heat? I am moving into a classroom that has 6 large windows all 5ft x 6ft. With all day sun exposure. Between the heat from the Smartboard and heat from the windows- it will be a sauna! Thanks!

    1. I’ve never tried a solid contact paper, but I imagine that blocking out the light completely (or almost completely) would definitely decrease the heat.

  9. I need to cover the glass door of my shower. Can the contact paper withstand the humidity and moist in the bathroom?

    1. Mine is still going strong on my shower window, so I’d say yes. I would put it on the outside of the shower door to keep direct contact with water at a minimum.

  10. I want to cover my living room window with con-tact brand self adhesive clear transparent con-tact but my TV is right in front of the window will this stuff reflect sun light off my TV?

    1. Hi Diana-
      If you want to completely block the sun, I would use one of the opaque Con-tact papers. I’m not sure if the transparent version will cut the sun enough to keep the glare off your TV. I’ve never tried for that specific result.

  11. Shown pictures look as if the sky is frosted. Did you get that by using Clear Covering or did you select something with a more Opaque? I want the sun, I am mostly just looking for a cover for my dental office window that is stained glass but be able to see through it. So we do not want to block out vision completely. I’m sure I could just cut out the parts that are not painted but would be easier if I could just put it up and be good to go.

  12. I am not the least bit crafty so could I just use contact paper that has a design? I have two small windows on each side of my front door. I would like the light but do not want to spend money on the blinds. Does the contact paper go on the outside or inside of the window?

    1. I don’t know how many design options they have for the clear and frosted contact paper, but obviously adding your own design is completely optional. The contact paper goes on the inside. I suppose it *could* go on the outside, but I suspect that exposure to the rain and sun could lead to it losing it’s stickiness.

  13. I don’t understand this thing I’m seeing lately about using soapy water to help apply Contact paper..
    Soapy water is what is used to help REMOVE Contact Paper, and any slicky residue it might leave behind.
    I can’t see putting the thing that disovles the glue on the surface someone is covering as helpful. Especially putting it on furniture and leaving it under there for months or years.
    Do you think some people have contact paper confused with non-adhesive static cling tint? They are both made of vinyl, but the static cling has no adhesive backing.

    1. I think the idea behind using water (I’ve also seen Windex suggested) is that it allows the paper to slide over the surface and is easier to make adjustments as you get the Contact paper in position. Most of the liquid will be pressed/squeegeed out as the paper is pressed firmly into place, but I agree that using this method on furniture (especially wood) might not be a good idea.

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