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Mural Painting How To Steps

Updated on January 5, 2016
CherylsArt profile image

Cheryl Paton is an artist who believes in creating positive designs. She also likes sharing artistic tips and techniques.

Outdoor scene


Welcome to Mural Painting 101, for Beginners

Painting a mural can be a fun way to brighten up a room, and/or to get lost in some scenery. They can take up a whole wall or a portion of a wall.

Pictured to the right is a mural that I painted for an assisted living place in our local area. The completed painting is approximately 5 feet by 7 feet.

Come along and I'll show you how I did mine, along with some mural painting tips. Then you can browse mural painting books, pre-painted murals and wall appliques that you can add to your wall(s).

Image credit for the mural painting is to Cheryl Paton, the the author of this article.

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Me, standing by the ocean mural on the dining room wall.


This is the mural that I painted on our dining room wall

After painting a few murals in our basement, I got braver and braver. Then I painted one upstairs for everyone to see. My confidence and bravery were growing.

My husband and I both liked going to the beach, so I decided to give us a view of one on our dining room wall.

I used the acrylic paint that comes in tubes for this mural. The paint in tubes is generally thicker than the paint in the bottles. It was easier to give a more textured look.

My first mural.


My first mural was in the basement.

It was long before I knew what grid method meant.

The first murals that I painted were in our basement. For this one I used a picture from a Lowe's ad for inspiration, and didn't do any preliminary sketches. I just started painting with acrylic paint and adlibbed as I went. The pond didn't come together just right, so I decided to turn it in to a stream.

I used the bottled paint for this one; it does seem to go further than the paint in the tubes. This one was painted on cinder blocks, so more paint was needed for coverage.

Since that first mural painting venture, I've learned about using the Grid Method, and to do a basic drawing first.

Pre - sketch


When painting a mural, a plan is helpful.

Here is the process I used when I painted this mural at a local establishment.

My first plan was to get ideas from the people there. I left two sign up lists; one was of desired items to be in the mural, the second one was for favorite colors.

From those lists, I went to work on a sketch. Given the area I had to work in, I decided on a 5' high by 6' wide mural. I made a sketch 5" high by 6" wide, and used the grid method help to keep the proportions the same.

I taped off increments on the wall.


Drawing the mural on the wall.

When measuring, I used low tack painter's tape to mark my corners. I then taped in the rectangular area with more painter's tape. Then I marked off each foot with a small strip of painter's tape that extended outward from the original rectangle. This gave me the scale I needed.

I used watercolor pencils for drawing the picture on the wall. I find them helpful in that they can easily be wiped off with a damp paper towel afterwards, and/or easily be painted over. They also provide an easy color scheme to follow.

Basic Supplies You'll Need

You'll want a paint that will hold up to being touched,

and/or wiped off if need be.

Acrylic paint will give you long lasting color, that can be both touched and wiped off when dry and cured.

Acrylic Paint

DecoArt DASK280 Americana Home Décor Sample Pack
DecoArt DASK280 Americana Home Décor Sample Pack

Acrylic paint comes in a variety of colors, dries quickly, and most colors are non-toxic.

The paint in the bottles goes on thinner. You can also search for acrylic paint in tubes if you would like a thicker consistency.


It's good to start with a drawing.

I used watercolor pencils for my outline drawing.

Staedtler Ergosoft Watercolor Pencils (156SB24)
Staedtler Ergosoft Watercolor Pencils (156SB24)

I like using watercolor pencils for making my drawing. The watercolors are easily painted over, and they blend well into the acrylic paint.

The Ergosoft pencils are covered in a soft texture which makes them easy to hold.


Having a variety of sizes of brushes is a must.

Sometimes you'll probably want to add finer details or outlines to certain objects to help them stand out.

Royal Gold Royal and Langnickel Short Handle Paint Brush Set, Specialty, 7-Piece
Royal Gold Royal and Langnickel Short Handle Paint Brush Set, Specialty, 7-Piece

A variety of brushes come in handy for painting thin lines to thick lines, and to make different affects.

Sponges and/or wide brushes can be used for painting a wide area, and for filling in. Sponges can also be used to add different texture, such as for painting in trees, sand, soil, etc. They are a quick way to add small, random shaped elements.


Let the painting begin...

Beginning stages of scenic mural.


The base coat

Once I got the drawing sketched in, I used a base coat of the preliminary colors. For the larger sections, I used a sponge to apply the base coat with. When painting with acrylics, I always wet the sponge and/or brush first, squeeze out the excess water, before dipping it in the paint.

A quick time saving tip that I've found helpful, especially for successive coats, is to mix my artist varnish in with the paint, before applying it to the wall, instead of applying the varnish separately afterwards.

2nd Layer


The next layer

After the base coating, I then added my acrylic varnish mix using artist brushes, sponges, etc., whatever was appropriate for what I was painting. Part of determining what was appropriate is asking, how close to the foreground is it. The closer to the foreground, the more visible the details. So with distanct trees, sponges were great. For finish details of close up grass, a fan brush gave great results.

The painting is looking smoother and coming more alive.

Next to final photo.


Completing the second layer and adding more details

As I applied successive coats, I kept working forward, from the sky and mountains, coming down to the forefront. I changed colors as the second layers were added, providing more depth and dimension. As one area was drying, I worked on details in another, i.e. various shades of yellow were added to the flowers as well as stems. I added visible trees that are nearer to the viewer, the more distant trunks being darker, the mountains now definitely appear in the background. I also decided on a group of trees right behind the horses instead of a single tree to the right.

Note, the color of the trees in this picture are a little different from the actual painting; they are actually various shades of green in the painting, not silvery looking. That's from the camera affect.

The mural is completed


I have added trees to both sides, finished all the second layers, added details to the animals, and a fence which also gives more of a sense of distance and interest.

The white horse has blotches of gray which also adds some more visual interest, and can be seen in the actual mural.

Stencils can help you get the shapes that you want.

You can purchase pre-drawn stencils or make your own.

Some people also use a projector to project the image onto the wall, and then trace around the edges of the shapes.

Protect Your Painting

You can choose from matte to a more glossy look.

Some people have mixed varnish directly into the paint, to help make the finished painting more durable, and without having to add a special coat of varnish.

I usually add the varnish after the painting has dried, and unify the protect the painting that way.

Artist Varnish

DecoArt Americana Matte Acrylic Varnish, 2-Ounce
DecoArt Americana Matte Acrylic Varnish, 2-Ounce

Varnish for artists are usually low odor. They are my choice for varnishes.


Is this your first wall mural? - What type of wall mural will you be doing?

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    • CherylsArt profile imageAUTHOR

      Cheryl Paton 

      3 years ago from West Virginia

      Thank you Sandy. It can be a fun undertaking. Hopefully your daughter will find the time.

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      3 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      That is a lovely mural painting and instructions. I recall when our daughter mentioned that she wanted to do that in her room. But she hadn't found the time.

    • lbrummer profile image

      Loraine Brummer 

      6 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      Very nice information on painting a mural.

    • CherylsArt profile imageAUTHOR

      Cheryl Paton 

      7 years ago from West Virginia

      @Michelle77 LM: That would be lovely!

    • Michelle77 LM profile image

      Michelle77 LM 

      7 years ago

      I wish i could paint murals all over the old buildings in town!! Love painting ~ great lens!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I've only ever painted one mural. Thanks for the inspiration to try again!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Sunset over the sea, as seen by the coast.

    • tiff0315 profile image


      7 years ago

      I would love to learn how to do a wall mural. I have some fun ideas for my kids' bedrooms!

    • WildFacesGallery profile image


      8 years ago from Iowa

      Wall murals are so challenging. I've only done a couple and I always felt I bit off more than I should have when I did them. However the enjoyment of them after was all worth it. :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks for the cool lens. I think your lense is very informative. Check out mine about painting contractors

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      8 years ago from Central Florida

      Looks like you're having fun. I've lensrolled this to my Walls with Pizzazz lens. Hopefully you'll inspire people to be brave and try it.

    • michelleart profile image

      Michelle Collins 

      8 years ago from Florida

      Thanks for your comments! And yea I fogot to mention those are just louver doors. Very easy to move and it split my studio from my gallery area...My painting mess is behind the doors..LOL I should add that info when I update it.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      The dining room wall!!!??? Hats off to you...!

    • CherylK profile image

      Cheryl Kohan 

      9 years ago from Arizona

      I've painted murals on the bedroom walls of several grandchildren. It's just really fun and they love it. You've done a nice job with this lens, Cheryl. Seems funny to be sending a message to someone else named Cheryl - and spelled the same way, too!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I've always wanted to do a public mural. But, while I'm waiting, maybe I'll ask my wife if I can have a wall in the house. :) Very good lens here. I enjoyed it.

    • Stazjia profile image

      Carol Fisher 

      9 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      This is another of your useful lenses for newcomers to art or a particular area of art. Welcome to the Art & Design Group.

    • lovemybob profile image


      11 years ago

      Great idea for a lens!

    • card lady 2 profile image


      11 years ago from Midwest, USA

      This sounds like fun! I would like to see larger photos and also photos of you working would be very cool!


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