When acoustic panels are hidden backstage or in some other area where you can’t easily see them, they tend to be ignored. However, once you bring them into the light and give them a more prominent position, you realize that they’re not exactly easy on the eyes. That’s because these sound treatment accessories are usually built with a neutral, industrial aesthetic in mind, but the good news is that there are several ways to make them more visually appealing.
You can make your acoustic panels look nicer by wrapping breathable, custom-made, sound transparent fabric around them, installing wooden frames, painting them with thin layers of special fabric paint, installing backlights, and printing custom art with special paint.
Customizing your acoustic panels is not difficult – you just need some creativity and basic carpentry skills. This article outlines some quick tips on improving the look of your acoustic panels and making them appear more natural and fitting within your room.
1. Make a Wooden Frame Around Your Acoustic Panel
It’s possible that you already have a few frameless acoustic panels mounted to the wall. While they’re effective at reducing the volume of noises coming from other parts of the building, they can also look a little tacky and out of place.
Acoustic panels can be used on their own or with other acoustic treatment accessories. To get even more out of your acoustic foam, you can place it inside a wooden frame, hang that frame on your wall, and make it easier to position the panel at just the right spot at any time.
Building a Wooden Frame Around Your Acoustic Panels
The main purpose of the frame is to support the acoustic panels and keep them from falling. A wooden frame can be constructed from any type of wood you choose, but I recommend using hardwood for the best results.
Here are the general steps on how to build your own acoustic panel wooden frame.
- Staple gun
- Power saw (a hand saw works too)
- Tape measure
- Electric drill
- Two 8-foot cherry wood (or other hardwood) 1x4s. Straight strips of wood work best.
- Eight 1.5″ drywall screws.
- 1 can of multipurpose spray adhesive.
- 1 bottle of Gorilla wood glue.
In this guide, we’ll be making a 2 x 4-foot (61 x 123 cm) frame. Here’s the step-by-step guide on how to do it:
- Take the two 8-foot 1x4s and cut out two 4 ft strips and two 2 ft strips.
- Make four corner pieces if there’s any wood left. Corner pieces will ensure that your acoustic foam is firmly held in place.
- Join your pieces and apply wood glue to bind them together. Next, drill 8 pilot holes, two in each corner.
- Use your electric screwdriver to drive the 1.5″ drywall screws into the pilot holes. This will hold the wood pieces together.
- Cut your acoustic foam to size with a knife or circular saw. Keep the cut as clean and straight as possible.
- Push the foam into the wooden frame and cover it with acoustic fabric (more on that in the coming section).
Spray adhesive comes in at installation. Clean a section of the wall, spray your adhesive, and push your acoustic panel for a few seconds. Note, however, that this should be done if you don’t intend to move your studio to a new location anytime soon.
Placing an appropriately sized wooden frame around your acoustic panel will visually enhance its appearance and protect it from damage. The panels themselves don’t need to be expensive or complicated to be effective. As long as they are solid and not see-through, almost any kind of wood frame will do – pine, cedar, fir, etc.
2. Wrap Acoustic Fabric Around the Framed Acoustic Panel
Now that you have a framed acoustic panel, it’s time to make it even more visually appealing by adding an acoustic fabric of your choice. Acoustic fabric allows sound to pass through without absorbing or reflecting it.
Here’s how you can add it to the frame:
- Lay the fabric underneath the acoustic panel frame and take measurements.
- Mark the cutting points with a piece of chalk and cut the material with scissors to fit the dimensions of the acoustic panel, plus the wooden frame to be covered.
- Pull the edges of the cut piece tight against the frame.
- Staple it into place along the wooden frame.
- Ensure that the fabric is tight against the frame as your staple.
- Repeat the procedure and wrap another round of the acoustic fabric if it’s too thin.
To achieve the best results when wrapping acoustic fabric around acoustic panels with a frame, you must ensure that everything is fitted as closely as possible. The less loose fabric there is between the frame and the panel, the better the appearance.
Acoustic fabric is a popular way to finish acoustic panels, as it offers a soft, fabric-like appearance and feels to the rigid acoustic foam hidden inside. You can purchase acoustic fabric panels from home improvement stores or online.
Feel free to use a single plain color like black, gray, or midnight blue acoustic fabric for a bright-colored house. You can also blend different colors if you’re looking to take a creative approach.
3. Install LED Lights Behind Your Acoustic Panels
One way to make your acoustic panels a little more stylish is by installing LED lights behind them. LED lights are much smaller and thinner than traditional bulbs, so they can easily be installed behind an acoustic panel.
You can install LED lights behind your acoustic panels in a few different ways.
- The first is to purchase pre-made panels with LED lights already installed. This is the easiest option but can also be the most expensive.
- The second option is to purchase your panels without LEDs and install them yourself. This will likely be cheaper than purchasing pre-made panels but will also be more time-consuming.
- You can also opt for LED-lit panels with cables that you can hardwire into your electrical system to control the lighting.
LED lights are very energy efficient and produce very little heat, so they are a good option if you have a room with acoustic panels that are placed near the occupants. Furthermore, LED panels can emit light in different colors, so you can choose an option that makes it easier for your eyes to adjust if you spend a lot of time in that room.
Please note that electrical lighting is a risky job that should only be done by people who know exactly what they’re doing. If you’re not sure how to do it, get in touch with a certified electrician. The video below explains in detail how to install lighting behind your acoustic panels:
4. Create Custom Art To Decorate Your Acoustic Panel
You can add even more personality to your acoustic panels by decorating them with custom artwork. This can be a great way to add visual interest to any room and also a way to express your creativity. Decorating your acoustic panels with custom artwork is easy if you have the right supplies.
You’ll first need to have a piece of fabric around the panels. Next, you’ll need special paint for the artwork. It’s important to point out that acrylic paint will do more harm than good. It fills up the pores that give the panel its acoustic properties. You can also use decals and stickers on the fabric.
Here are a few creative ideas to get you started:
- Stencils and acoustically transparent paint – Stencils are thin plastic or metal cutouts with your favorite image, company logo, family name, or message. Use latex paint and other acoustically transparent paint (or simply a very thin layer of spray paint or any other non-acrylic paint) to paint over the stencil.
- Decals – Decals are an inexpensive and easy way to add a custom look to your acoustic panels. A printed image or pattern drawn on the decal can be transferred to the acoustic panel after contact with its surface.
- Stickers and iron-on labels – Unfortunately, ordinary stickers are not a permanent decoration. However, they’re an inexpensive way to add some flair to your acoustic panel. Iron-on labels can stick much longer with a little help from your electric iron.
With a little bit of creativity and some custom artwork, you can turn acoustic panels from boring to beautiful. You can also add words or quotes to your panels. Find a pattern or quote that inspires you and create your own art. Decorating your acoustic panels doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated – just something you love.
5. Cut Up Your Panels in Different Shapes
Acoustic panels don’t have to be square or rectangular. You can cut them into different shapes like triangles or diamonds to help with the aesthetic appeal. You can cut them into hexagons and line them up in a honeycomb pattern or any other pattern that pops up in your mind.
Cutting acoustic panels is easy, but you have to be careful not to damage the acoustic material.
You can use a variety of tools to cut the panels, including a pair of scissors, utility knives, electric shears, or a regular saw.
Panels that are cut into different shapes will also look much more interesting and stylish than regular rectangular ones. After you cut the panels, you can paint them or stain them to create a different look.
Last but not least, positioning is key. No need to let your furniture obscure your hard work. Cut panels can be used to decorate the walls or be hung as a backdrop. They can also be used to cover the ceiling or be placed right next to the windows. The goal is to place them where the sounds reflect off the most.
Installing Your Acoustic Panel
Before you start installing your acoustic foam panels, it’s important to make sure the wall is structurally sound. If you have any loose or damaged parts on your wall, now’s the time to fix them. While it’s possible to install panels on a wall that needs some repairs, it’s easier to just do it right the first time.
- Put on some gloves and thoroughly vacuum any loose particles or dirt out of the wall to prevent them from getting embedded in the foam.
- Next, you need to decide how you want to install your panels. While some acoustic panels are simply cut to fit a standard wall, there are others that are designed to be attached to the wall with specialized clips.
All in all, you need a structurally sound surface for your acoustic panel.
Placement Is Key
A good rule of thumb is that you want the panels to cover at least 15% of the wall space in the room. Once you’ve decided on the dimensions of your acoustic panels and where to cut them out, the next thing you should do is sketch out where you want to place the panels. This can be done by drawing a quick diagram with a pen and paper.
When sketching out your acoustic panels, you want to make sure you take a few factors into account:
- Which side of the room gets the most noise?
- Which side of the room gets the least noise?
- Where do you want to place your speakers?
- Do you have any other equipment in the room?
These few pointers should guide you to you the right spot for your panels.
Don’t Forget the Ceiling
We’ve talked a lot about installing panels on the walls of your room, but you shouldn’t forget the ceiling, either. Installing acoustic ceiling tiles is a great way to reduce the amount of sound reverberating in your room. There are a few different types of acoustic ceiling tiles, from fiberglass to mineral fiber.
To install these, you may need to cut them to size and mount them with heavy-duty glue or industrial screws. Heavy-duty mounting options will keep the tiles from coming loose over time. If the ceiling in your room isn’t a standard height, you can also buy acoustic tiles that are precut to fit sloped ceilings.
Acoustic panels are more than just a way to reduce excess noise in your home. Whether you have a small home studio, a basement practice space, or any other kind of room you use for recording, it’s almost inevitable that unwanted sound will bounce around and create an echo chamber. While acoustic panels can get rid of that, there are a few ways to make them more visually appealing.
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