Mural Painting How To Steps
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.
What is your mural painting experience so far?
Have you painted a mural before?
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Varnish for artists are usually low odor. They are my choice for varnishes.