Learning how to paint a wall mural is not too different than painting on a smaller-sized canvas. The techniques & fundamentals used are very similar to how you would generally paint in your own particular style.
The most significant difference is the physical scale of your mural in comparison to a traditional-sized canvas.
If you are new to mural painting, the scale of things may seem a bit intimidating at first glance. If you want to build up some experience then consider using a demo wall. A wall that you can paint over regularly for practice. Try several techniques to see which ones work best for your style of art.
Getting over the challenges of laying out your design.
A large-scale painting requires you to prepare a few initial guidelines. But as soon as you have structured your mural it is pretty much just painting as usual.
The images I have selected for this post come mainly from practicing on my studio walls.
There are also examples of commission works. This will give you an idea of my working processes.
We all work differently so if you are trying to figure out how to paint a wall mural. Then some of these examples might come in handy for you. Others might not.
I have put together a simple guide for anyone who is or wants to learn how to paint a wall mural.
These techniques and ideas are worth considering for a potential commission project or if you are thinking of volunteering in an art open day event.
Maybe you just want to paint something cool in your house.
The information I am going to share with you is purely from my experience. So before starting a new project make sure to decide what will work for you.
Trying a few techniques first will help you to figure out what is the best solution for you. The more research you do the easier this process will seem.
So! Here are a few projects that I have recently completed. They will illustrate some techniques and how I went about learning how to paint a mural.
Let’s get on with it then!
1. What size is the surface of the wall for the mural? And where is located?
understanding the specifics of the location is crucial when it comes to creating a wall mural. Here are some further steps and considerations to keep in mind:
- Assess the Wall’s Condition: Before you start planning your mural, evaluate the condition of the wall. Look for any cracks, peeling paint, or other imperfections that might need to be addressed before you begin.
- Consider the Lighting: Take note of the lighting conditions around the wall. Natural light, as well as artificial lighting, can greatly influence how the colors and details of your mural will appear.
- Select the Right Materials: Based on the surface of the wall (e.g., concrete, drywall, brick), choose the appropriate paints and primers. Consider if any additional coatings or sealants might be needed to protect the mural.
- Plan the Composition: Decide on the overall composition of your mural. Consider elements like focal points, balance, and how the mural will interact with the surrounding environment.
- Create a Scale Model or Sketch: It’s often helpful to create a scaled-down sketch or digital representation of your mural design. This will give you a clearer idea of how the final piece will look and help with proportions.
- Choose Your Color Palette: Selecting the right colors is crucial. Consider the existing colors in the environment and how they will complement or contrast with your mural.
- Gather Your Tools: Ensure you have all the necessary tools, including brushes, rollers, masking tape, and any specialized equipment needed for the particular techniques you plan to use.
- Prepare the Wall: Clean the wall thoroughly and apply any necessary primers or base coats. This step is crucial for ensuring the paint adheres properly and achieves the desired vibrancy.
- Start with a Base Layer: Begin by applying a base layer of paint. This might be a solid background color or a basic outline of your design.
- Build Layers of Detail: Work from the background to the foreground, gradually adding more detail and depth to your mural. This is where having accurate measurements really comes into play.
- Step Back and Evaluate: Periodically step back from the mural to get a broader perspective. This helps you make sure that everything is coming together as intended.
- Refine and Fine-Tune: Once the main elements are in place, go back and refine details, adjust colors, and make any necessary touch-ups.
- Protect and Seal: Once the mural is complete and has had time to dry, apply a clear sealant or varnish to protect it from elements like UV rays and moisture.
- Document Your Work: Take high-quality photos of the finished mural. These can serve as a portfolio piece or be used for promotional purposes if applicable.
Remember, each mural is a unique project, and adjustments may need to be made based on the specific circumstances. Trust your creative instincts and enjoy the process!
Take into consideration the distance from which your viewers will see the painting. Knowing the texture of the wall is also an important factor to consider.
As a general rule: Rough surfaces = Fewer details.
If you are painting indoors or on new buildings then you have a better chance of working on a smooth wall.
2. Scale your surface area in proportion.
Setting up the scale of your sketches in proportion to the wall you are going to paint on is a simple mathematical calculation based on a % of the final dimension.
Start with developing a few ideas about the main subject and then consider how you could integrate these ideas into a composition.
Here are a few examples of how I went about doing this mural.
As you can see in this drawing I have started to establish the general look and feel of the mural.
From here it is possible to develop an idea and bring character to your project. What is important to figure out during this process is:
Areas of interest, Form, Volume, Rhythm, and color.
3. Getting prepared to paint your wall mural
So what exactly do you need to do to paint a mural?
The short answer to that is: It depends.
There is no setlist that will determine what you need for every mural. It is advised that you do some research yourself before you start your project.
Here is a list of 4 essentials you will need to paint a wall mural.
I have included some links to help you find
You are welcome to shop around. I strongly advise you to do so, especially if you are working on a budget.
- 6 Ft ladder (This will get you to most places on a standard wall.) There are all sorts of styles of ladders. If you are limited with space, then consider finding a retractable ladder that will fit easily into your car boot.
- Paint Rollers, trays, paint brushes, and extension poles are a must if you are painting on walls. There are also a wide variety of paint rollers on the market. Be careful not to get caught up. The normal cheap brushes work perfectly fine for mural painting. Use the cheap brushes to cover all your large surfaces and keep a variety of other smaller more durable brushes for your details.
- Permanent markers, chalk, and a carpenter’s pencil are always handy to have when on-site painting a mural. Use these tools when starting the project to set up your proportions and place the guidelines before painting.
- You can pick up a set of Sharpies for about $4 online. Otherwise, go to any local hardware or commercial store and they should have something that will work ok. While you are at the hardware store, pick up a roll of masking tape just in case.
- Next, there is a small table and chair. Yes, painting a mural will mean that you are going to spend many hours on your feet. Depending on where you are, it is advisable to bring a small folding table and chair. Below is an example of what I use.
- Basically a plank of plywood with some folding legs and a small folding chair. This is as compact as I could find without losing too much comfort. Having a minimum of comfort on a long hot day will make a big difference especially over several days.
5. Make sure that you bring some additional water and cleaning rags for your paint. Keeping your paintbrushes and paint station clean will help you keep your colors clean too.
This is especially important if you are painting in a place where water is not easily accessible. Some old T-shirts or kitchen towels will do just fine for this. Getting access to your wall
6. The last few items on your list should be, sunscreen, a hat and jumper,
4. Transferring your idea to paint a wall mural
Great! By now you should have your basic or detailed sketch layout. Don’t worry too much about how detailed or finished your sketch is. You will have plenty of time to adjust any final details before you actually start painting the mural.
I find that 50% of the time, the design will slightly change depending on the real-life conditions on-site. What I mean by this is that sometimes there are details on-site that we can miss out causing obstruction to your work.
If this happens. Make the adjustments directly to the wall. Here is a case scenario. Maybe you spot a water pipe that is running through some important details. Perhaps there is a rough section on the wall in a place where you have planned a particular element.
by now you will have also sourced your basic materials to get started as mentioned above
Time to start your wall.
5. Freehand drawing techniques
If you are familiar with the subject for your mural, then I recommend drawing in your ideas freehand. You might need to make some adjustments along the way.
Mainly for proportions and scale, however, this method will save you a great deal of time.
It will create a certain authenticity in your work that feels less calculated or revised. As a general rule. If you can draw or paint your subject on a smaller surface like in a journal.
You should be able to redraw the subject at a larger scale.
Drawing freehand gives you a bit more freedom to express yourself freely. It leaves open the opportunity to make decisions on-site that can help the overall outcome of the mural.
Do make sure that you have enough space to move back from your wall when choosing a freehand method.
Your main guide will come from the capacity to step back and see where changes are required. If you know that you will be limited by space. Consider using one of the other methods.
6. Use a Grid system to map your artwork on a wall.
Using a grid system suggests exactly that. Depending on the size of your mural, you can divide your template into evenly spaced squares. Try to avoid making your squares too small as this will result in time loss during preparation.
A good size could range from 60cm x 60cm to 1m x 1m.
This method is highly precise and will ensure that you are working on the exact replica of your template.
If you do decide to use this system. Making any last-minute changes once you have started working on your grid will be difficult. Essentially you will be completing a large puzzle in a step by step process.
7. Preparing Stencils in advance.
Stenciling remains a very popular method for mural painting and is predominantly associated with street art and spray painting.
Aside from that, stenciling is a great way to go if you are working with patterns and minimalist features such as silhouettes and flat color applications.
The advantage of this method is having the possibility to prepare most of your mural off-site. This is ideal if you have limited onsite time to complete your mural in which case some stencils will speed up your process dramatically.
There are a number of ways to prepare stencils for large format murals. If you are interested in this process and would like to find out more then leave a comment below with your questions.
8. Pros & cons of using a projector to prepare a wall mural.
Finally, there is a projector. This is by far the most accurate way to put your new mural painting on a wall.
It is also the most expensive way to do so.
If you are planning to paint a mural inside where the viewing will be at close proximity. A projector can be a good option especially if you don’t feel confident with the more traditional methods.
If you are working on a large surface area. Then keep in mind that you will be limited to the size at which your artwork can be projected.
This may result in some distortion if you have not set your projector to a high enough quality. Some other factors to consider are lighting and power sources.
Although it’s a sure way of showing off your artwork, it certainly is not the most practical option.
This method. In my opinion, will limit your capacity to improve your skills in mural painting if you are just starting out with this style of art format. As you are simply retracing what has been created.
This is not to say that I don’t recommend using a projector. Just be aware of why you are using a projector if you decide to. Have a think about the investment versus the various downsides before going out and purchasing one.
9. Starting the drawing and painting process
Consider how and where you are going to start with your mural. What are the colors and areas you need to focus on first? This will save you buckets of time and paint.
From here on you will find that mural painting is very similar to your standard painting techniques. This is the time when you can really start to enjoy the painting process.
Your mural will come to life and start to take shape.
10. Ideal weather conditions to paint a wall mural.
Knowing if it is going to be hot, sunny, rainy or windy is crucial when painting outdoors.
Here are a few more samples that I have tested.
In conclusion, painting murals is not only a gratifying creative endeavor but also an excellent way to transform spaces and express your artistic vision. I wholeheartedly encourage anyone with an interest in art to give it a try.
If the prospect of tackling a large wall feels overwhelming, consider starting small. Begin with a door or a modest section of a wall in your own home. This allows you to familiarize yourself with the process and build confidence at your own pace. With each project, you’ll find yourself more adept and ready to take on larger canvases.
Remember, there’s a wealth of techniques and styles to explore in mural painting. If you’re eager to learn about a specific approach or have questions about any step in the process, don’t hesitate to reach out. Leave a comment below with your feedback and inquiries. I’m here to assist and share insights on the wonderful world of mural art. Happy painting!