Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Art Lesson: How to Paint a Wall Mural

I am back today to talk about murals.

Wall murals can seem daunting because of their size,
but really, depending on the detail you want and the size of the space you are painting,
if you break the mural down into bits, it's not such a hard thing.

Here is what I do when I am planning a mural.

First: deciding on the mural you want to paint.

I have a confession.
I am a magazine mutilator.
Yes, I know, it does seem harsh to tear up beautiful magazines.

I have collected an assortment of pictures of images that I like over the past 20 years.

I have different categories of images I keep: favorite artists,
painted landscapes, painted birds, snowmen, rooms I like, farm scenes, farm animals, flowers, still life, borders and designs, fruit, painting tips, folk art, Christmas ornaments, Christmas decorating, 
and several other categories,
one of them being mural ideas.

  Keeping images for years can definitely become a pack-rat issue, so I try to only keep images that shout out to me and make me swoon.

Some images I keep because I like the style in which the buildings were painted;
or I like the way the trees were painted.

Like the wall mural in the picture above, I loved the fern style and put some of them on my wall mural.

Sometimes, I like the way the land is painted, the landscape and the layers of fields.

Adding fields of trees doesn't have to be extensively detailed and time-consuming it they are in a big mural where precision and care is spent on the scenes that are supposed to be more dominant.

It is great to start an image notebook to keep ideas that sing to your heart
or that you think you may find a useful help to you.

Once you have the general idea of what you want for your mural,
pick a basic wall color to work with.
At first on my mural, I painted the walls with a light blue,
but I did not like the way this looked for this space,
so I went with a banana cream color.
This color worked for the look I wanted, even as the "sky."

I remember when I decided to paint my wall mural,
I had a subscription to a painting magazine (I think it was PaintWorks) and there was a tutorial on how to paint a water mill.  I knew I wanted it on the wall.

It would be one of the main "art" portions, with more detailing spent on it.
I then had to decide where I wanted it.

When trying to visualize how you are going to paint your wall mural,
it is a good idea to grab something that washes off easily, like a charcoal pencil or some chalk board chalk (if your wall is white, sometimes the charcoal can slightly stain it, so I would suggest instead to use a piece of lightly colored chalk board chalk.)

Roughly sketch where you want to place your main objects on the wall.

When you know the type of landscaping or if you will add any other buildings or trees to your scene,
sketch them in.

If you don't like what you see, simply erase with a damp rag or paper towel.

Adding height to a mural, by placing a tree in the scene, makes the mural appear to have more dimension,

 as if the house is far away and the tree is closer.

Experimenting with this idea is great fun.

I remember when I was planning my mural, at first, I drew in taller trees,
and more of them.

I decided it was too busy, and cut them down in size and limited it to one tree at the top,
and one a little further down
and then a couple of trees that appear to be in the middle section of the landscape.

I put a fuller tree on the right side wall,
as well as some taller mountains.


This seemed to look better to me than making the trees exactly the same height on both sides,
giving it some diversity.

Working out your mural's background is completely up to your taste.

If you don't like the way a line is going,
simply wipe it off and try a new line.

The fun thing about murals is that they are a collection of pieces of artwork that you mend together.

Once I have my sketch the way I like, I can begin adding color to it.
I put washes of color, watered down colors that are light but not so wet that they drip.

Once the washes dry, you can be as detailed as you want.

or as simplistic.

To divide sections of land, which are just washes of different colors,
I would put a row of trees blocked in with very little detail.

This occasional tree or tree line helped me feel like there was more variety to the divisions of the fields.

If a person feels uncomfortable painting the detailed images of  mural,
 one could always use the transfer method to help.

For example, if my daughter wanted a castle scene on her wall and I was not having success with a castle, I could always enlarge and print up this one that I love from the Graphics Fairy.

(I explain how to transfer and enlarge images onto Word Press if you click on <THIS POST>)

After coloring the chalk or charcoal pencil on the back and it is taped to the wall,

the parts of the image wanted on the wall are traced.

A desired landscape can be added.

A larger image can be used to give dimension.

My daughter would choose this one:

(Yes, I know he looks a bit out of shape.  Looks as if the Princess needs to work him more).

My son was watching me coloring on the wall with a bit of consternation,
but then he wanted a mural for him.

Anything is possible with a wall as a canvas.

And the great part of it is,
if you don't like what you have done, or if you someday want a change,
a coat of paint or two will wash it all away.

I hope this helps give you some ideas if you've been think about a wall mural.


  1. Thank you for this post......I have some of those very same magazine pics in my folders too!!!

  2. You broke this down for us very nicely and it doesn't seem so daunting! I may even tackle a small mural for myself~


Thanks for your thoughts! If you have a question, I'll try to answer it.