How to Paint a Wall Mural

Tips on how to paint a mural, what to use, and how to prepare the wall

Artists painting mural wall
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The most important requirements for painting a wall mural are enthusiasm for the project and stamina. You're painting a large area and it's going to take a while, but the rewards make it worthwhile. If you've never painted a mural before, don't panic. You'll simply be applying the painting skills you do have from your 'normal' painting. Be inspired by the murals of the greats such as Leonardo da Vinci and remember that in past centuries mural painting was more highly regarded than easel painting!

Prepare a Surface and Get Your Mural Design on the Wall

Thoroughly clean the wall to remove any dust and grease, and leave it to dry. Consider applying a fresh coat of paint or primer before you begin your design, especially if there are color variations on the wall.

The easiest way to transfer your mural design to the wall is to use the grid method. As you become more experienced, you'll likely find you sketch the design out in less detail on the wall.

Simply put, to grid a design, you draw a set of 1" or 5cm squares across your original design and then a grid on the wall that's got the same number of squares but obviously, they're considerably larger. You then use the squares to guide you as you redraw the design on the wall.

What Paint to Use

If the mural is going to be exposed to the sun, you'll need paint that'll stand up to this. Check the lightfastness (UV) qualities of the paint you're going to use.

Quality acrylic mural paints are the ideal, but check your budget as they may work out too expensive for the whole mural. If this is the case, use them for the details and 'ordinary' household paint for blocking in the under layers or large areas. Choose paint with a matte or eggshell finish so light doesn't reflect off the mural.

If your wall mural is accessible to small children with their inevitable sticky fingers, protect the mural with a final coat of protective clear varnish, which also makes cleaning it simple.

Tips for Painting

  • Remember to step back regularly and see what the mural looks like from a distance. A wall mural must 'look right' whether you're close-up or just entered the room. Step back to get some perspective on what you've done.
  • Use decent brushes; cheap ones will make it even harder work.
  • For loads of useful info, read this mural painting information sheet from Golden Paints. It's aimed at exterior murals but is relevant to interior murals too.