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How to Paint a Mural

mural workshop

From: Murals & Illustrations / Specific to:

How to Paint Murals

So you are wanting to know how to paint a mural and want some basic tips to get started?

What I will cover here is some of the mural basics to get you up and going for painting a mural.

I have a depth of skills and experience when it comes to painting murals, you can view my murals too if you like. You can also ask or add comments in the bottom section of this article too.

I will break it down into 5 basic steps in a mural list below then expand on each of those points to help give you some simple fundamentals to get you up and going on your mural painting.

Basic Mural Painting Needs

  1. A Wall & preparation
  2. Paints – You can use house paints or aerosol cans
  3. Painting Equipment – Things like brushes, rollers, trays, water, paint stirrer etc.
  4. Mural Idea – Artwork design
  5. Painting the mural

Mural Wall Preparation

Now how to get a wall to paint a mural on. You may have one in your backyard or a shed at home or some councils have legal graffiti sites where people can go painting on a public wall. You could even set up a temporary practice wall out of plywood.

Okay so let’s say you now have access to a wall. The first thing you need to do is prepare the wall so you can paint an undercoat. The undercoat lets you start with a fresh surface for your paint to stick to and let the colours shine.

Before painting the undercoat you need to clean the surface of the wall, remove any dirt or loose paint etc. Sometimes it is good to get advice from your local paint store if you are unsure about the surface.

paint a mural wall preparation
Undercoating the wall using a roller preparing for a mural

Once it is clean use an undercoat paint and cover the wall, use a roller for painting as it is faster than a brush if the wall is flat enough. Or sometimes using a spray gun is good if the wall is larger and has lots of crevasses like a brick wall.

And now you are good to go on a nice clean surface.

Quick tip: Ask to tint your undercoat with a light grey as it makes it less reflective of sunlight.

Mural Paints

The two most common forms of paint when painting a mural is acrylic house paints that you can buy from a hardware/painting shop and aerosol cans. If you are more used to painting with brushes then it might be best to use acrylic house paints. Painting with aerosol cans takes a bit more practice and also has fumes you need to think about.

Quick tip: Make a selection of colour swatches from the paint store to use those colours in your mural artwork design

Painting Equipment

To cover some of the mural basics, you will need:

  • Paint / Tin opener / Stirrer
  • Brushes / Rollers
  • Paint trays / Containers
  • Chalk / Markers
  • Drop sheets
  • Bucket / Water
  • Rags
  • Ladder if going overhead

I would recommend that you go through the process step by step at home before starting. By doing this you will think of things specific to your needs. See my extensive mural checklist.

When I first started painting murals I would go through the steps in my head of what I needed to do. For example, I would be like okay what do I need to paint the mural with, oh brushes, some small and big ones. Okay, now I have to wash my brushes so I will need a bucket and water etc.

Mural painting equipment
Mural painting equipment like brushes, rollers, trays, paint and gloves

Mural Plan – Artwork

There is no hard and fast rule about this though but it is common to pre-plan your mural artwork before painting it onto a wall.

For your mural artwork, you can sketch this up on a piece of paper or you might use a computer or table to draw your artwork. You can also start to think about what colours you want to paint your mural.

For your first mural, keep the design simple so you can get used to sketching the design easily onto the wall.

school mural workshop
Mural workshop students add the mural design to the wall using chalk and the grid method

Painting a Mural

Painting a mural is the fun part, using the artwork you prepared already as the guide for the mural, start to sketch some of the outlines onto the wall. There are several ways to help sketch your mural onto a wall, you can read about them here: Mural Upscaling onto a Wall.

You can use chalk to sketch the outlines onto the wall. You can step back from time to time to check that the sketch is going to plan. Chalk is easy to wipe off with a damp cloth too.

Once you have your outlines up choose a colour and start to fill in the mural. Be sure to keep your brushes from drying out too. I normally have a water spray bottle in which I can spray the brush and paint if to hot and drying out. Also, a good idea to either clean or use a clean brush to keep the paint running smoothly after a while of painting.

mural outines
Mural outlines so now ready to paint

Painting a Mural Steps

So to recap how to go about painting a mural, the following steps can be used as a guide.

Mural Painting Steps

  1. Get the wall dimensions to use as a guide for your mural design
  2. Design your mural either on paper or using a computer/tablet with a drawing app
  3. Prepare your wall by cleaning then giving an undercoat of white or grey
  4. Using your mural design start to draw your outlines onto the wall with chalk or pen
  5. Have all your necessary tools and equipment ready to paint
  6. Start painting and enjoy, keep an eye on the weather too if outside.

Painting a mural questions

Here are some common questions about painting a mural

What paint is good for murals?

There is no hard and fast rule for this though you will find it common that a lot of mural artists will either use acrylic house paints or aerosol cans. Acrylic house paints are longer lasting than aerosol cans.

What brushes can I use to paint a mural?

This will come down to personal preference and depending upon the size and detail of the area that needs painting. In general, getting a good cross-section from small and round to big and wide. The hardware/paint shop will have a good selection of brushes. You might also want to check out the roller options as these come in various sizes.

How to paint big wall murals?

The main thing with painting big wall murals is upscaling your artwork and also having the use of an elevated working platform or scissor lift. Painting large wall murals takes more time and effort, it is good to plan out the steps you will take beforehand to help make the job easier.

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