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Mural Scaling Techniques

sydney mural

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How to Paint a Large Scale Mural

What I am going to share with you is a number of mural scaling techniques on how to paint large-scale murals. By that, I mean how to get your image from a small-scale mock-up to transfer to scale on a larger wall.

If you are looking for some basic steps of mural painting, view how to paint a mural.

At the bottom of this page, you can add your comments about mural scaling methods.

The following mural scaling techniques will be helpful from upscaling to a 2-metre wall to that of a 20-metre wall and beyond. As a street artist, I have used each one.

These days I will go between the techniques and even at times combine them as needed on a project.

Mural Scaling Techniques

  1. Grid method
  2. By eye / freehand
  3. Use of a Projector
  4. Pounce method
  5. Doodle Grid / Squiggle Grid

Scaling a Mural using the Grid Method

Using a grid to scale your artwork onto a wall is nice and easy. Ideally, you want a flat wall to work with this method. As you can see below I was painting onto a shipping container but this mural upscaling technique still worked.

mural grid
A grid used to help sketch the artwork onto the wall

The first time I used it the wall was pretty small, about 3 metres in height. I used a grid method though also applied inner circles as part of the grid to make it easier to reference when sketching on the wall.

This method is pretty straightforward. Draw up a grid over your work, eg printed on an A4 piece of paper. The grid relates to the wall size, say 3 metres by 3 metres. So if you had a grid using 3 rows/columns then those would be 1 metre apart. On your artwork, you just make sure they are evenly placed over your artwork.

The important part is just knowing the length and height of the wall and dividing it evenly to form the grid for the wall and artwork. The example below just focuses on the character I wanted to paint which used a perfect square grid which made it easy to draw the grid up.

grid for mural
Use the grid over your artwork and draw the grid onto the wall then sketch the artwork for the mural
Mural I used a grid method to get the basic outline upscaled onto the wall

Freehand Mural

I have to admit this is my favourite go-to method and when the artwork allows for it to be more organic or isn’t a client project that requires precision based on the original signed-off artwork.

It is straightforward in the sense you just sketch up the wall ratio onto paper, eg 10m x 3m wall might be a 30cm x 9cm box outline on paper. That is if you want to sketch your ideas down first.

Otherwise, you may just have your idea in your head and jump straight onto a painting or sketching onto the wall. Each to their own on using this street artist technique.

There are definitely times when this approach will not be a good starting point and you would look at one of the other options. You can combine this mural technique with another option then break back out into freehand if you feel comfortable in doing so.

painting a mural
Painting a mural by eye or freehand

Using a Projector for Murals

Using a projector can be very handy when needing to upscale your artwork onto the wall. Depending upon the power and quality of the projector will limit the size of the wall so have that in mind.

There are pros and cons to using a projector in regards to you needing additional resources to make it happen, eg electricity, the right lighting and the position of the projector.

I particularly like using a projector when having to paint typography as a part of the mural.

When selecting a projector you will want to consider a short throw if working in tight space conditions or if outside a more powerful and brighter lighting projector.

school bathoroom mural
Using a projector helped position the typography precisely onto the wall

Pouncing – Pounce pattern

Pouncing is another mural upscaling technique which is a little similar to the projector method but without the projector. By that I mean you can create the outlines on a large paper sheet which you use as the guide for the mural outlines. The outlines are created by using a pounce wheel, a tiny hand-held tool with a spikey wheel that puts holes into the paper when you roll over it.

pounce wheels
Example of pounce wheels

It is a bit of a fiddly process but one way of doing it by yourself is to create a drawing of your mural of the outlines you would like to upscale for the wall. This means having your artwork drawn in the same ratio as the wall size (if doing to a fixed size).

With your outline drawing, you would then get this printed more than likely at a commercial printer that can do tile printing. That means it will print out for example a 4 metres wide by 2 metres high artwork but in individual pieces of paper which you tile/stick together. With the printed-out outlines of your mural now start to tape all the pieces together.

Now with your pounce wheel run over all the lines to get clean holes/perforations created. Now with all the holes created tape your paper stencil to the wall. Now using a pounce pad (this has a chalky substance in it) rub it over the perforations which then creates the dotted linework to the wall.

Now with your mural outlines added to the wall, you can start to paint your mural.

Doodle Grid / Squiggle Grid Mural Method

I have read that RONE first started using this technique in Australia. It is also sometimes referred to as the squiggle grid technique.

It is similar in nature to the grid method but you are either using existing markings on the wall or adding some to the wall, eg masking tape or painted marks.

You then take a photo of the wall with the markings and using your phone or iPad etc you superimpose the artwork over the photo of the wall using an app like Procreate. Add some transparency to the artwork so the wall and makings start to show through the artwork.

Using the image you have created showing the markings through the artwork you can then start to use the marking on the wall and reference the artwork to see where to start drawing lines on the wall.

overlay grid
Two images with an artwork with transparency on top showing the doodle grid below

Below was a wall that I used reference points, like the air conditioner and various cracks in the wall using this method of overlaying my artwork over a photo of the wall.

moruya street art
I was able to use the overlay method for this one combined with freehand

Here is Ten Hundred a Seattle-based street artist explaining how he uses the Doodle Method – Squiggle Grid. I’ve set it to play at the part he starts talking specifically about his approach to using the Doodle Grid.

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14 thoughts on “Mural Scaling Techniques

  1. I am trying to use similarity to copy a map, but I cannot get the original image I am using to fill the page, so the ratios of the original and completed sides would not be the same. Is there a way I can manage this anyway without a lot of hard math?

    1. Do you need to fill the whole wall with the map? If not then you can just add to the space. Otherwise, you may need to crop your map so it is in the same ratio or if you can not crop the map you could think about adding some more illustrations to it to fill the empty space. Also, view my “squiggle grid” explanation for a more in-depth guide to upscaling your artwork for a mural. Let me know if this helps.

  2. thank you very informative for a usually smallish 2D artist wanting to go big! I use typewriters to draw with and so its very small – to scale up my originals I would extend onto separate sheets.. but I love it when I enlarge my work so that the characters are clearer – I’m wondering what the best technique/s would be to paint a mural of enlarged typics as I call them. I’ve experimented with stencils and paste-ups but I’m not sure it’s adding anything to it, impact-wise.
    I’ll keep experimenting – and definitely would try the doodle grid technique that’s a new one on me. Thanks again.

    Keira

    1. Hi Keira, your work looks amazing indeed and creating it on a large scale would be another interesting layer to it.
      You might find using a projector if not going to big might be the best as you can easily trace the letterforms. In general, there would be no easy way around it but take the time and patience with your details.

  3. Do you use a special type of paint to make your squiggle grid or a sketch that is easier to cover over with your next layer? Or diluted paint? I have heard of using chalk but have seen other places that say that is hard to paint over. Watercolor pencil? I am painting a large floral mural on an exterior siding wall with a dark green background and want the colors to be very bright. Thanks for any advice~your work is amazing!

    1. Hi Carrie, you can use the same paint as the rest of your mural paint. Or you can use coloured masking tape as an alternative too and just remove it once you have your lines marked out.
      But yes use a paint colour that you can easily paint over and cover with your artwork.
      Can even recommend doing it on small scale first so you can feel confident before painting on the larger wall.
      Let me know how it goes and feel free to ask further questions if need be.

  4. I find the information very helpfull , A little worryed I m painting corraged iron gate way.

    1. I’m glad some of the information was helpful. Painting on wonky surfaces is not much fun but can be rewarding once it is done.

  5. Hello
    Thank you for answering our questions

    How would you approach (grid etc) a landscape mural on a curved stairwell ?

    Thank you!

    1. I would consider two methods grid and by eye method. I probably need to see a photo of the stairwell to respond better.
      But for now, create a grid, maybe use squares then place that over your artwork and draw the square grid onto the stairwell. I hope this helps.
      Other than that you may need to also consider just sketching by eye onto the surface.

  6. I am still learning how to draw using charcoal and chalk for my drawings, I would love to express my thoughts on a larger scale for example on walls outside , charcoal and chalk would only work if it is doesn’t rain unless you have a solution? I cant use spray paints for health reasons, are there waterproof paints that don’t have poisonous fumes?

    1. Hi Greg, you could look at using marker pens like Posca or MTN Street Paint Markers.
      There is some aersoal that are water based and less toxic fumes like MTN Water Based 300.
      OTher then that if using other aerosol paint you could buy a Half Face Respirator with the correct filters to help reduce fumes.
      I hope this helps.

    1. Hi Chrissy, sometimes you will need to clean up the artwork a bit afterward if the final “cleanliness” of the art is important. It is a tricky one that is for sure. Maybe you could set up two projects one that the kids can do and just have fun with it and the other one that you take more control of?

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