Inspiration and Interpretation
Anything can be an inspiration for doing a wall mural. It is actually easier to do a wall mural than a canvas painting. You do not need to worry about layering or being exact. There is no real style to wall murals so you can do anything you want. Follow a few easy steps and you will be very happy with the results. But first, a few words of advice.
1. This is for you, not to impress visitors to your home. If they appreciate it that is great. Do not seek their approval since you have already satisfied the one person who matters, YOU.
2. You do not need little tiny brushes. You can get by with one 3" regular or cutting brush (I will explain later!) and a couple of household sponges. You can also use pieces of rags or paper towels. Additionally you will need a soft pencil or charcoal stick. Even Walmart sells charcoal sticks in the craft section so it should be very easy to get one. If you are on a budget then use a pencil that has been used a little bit and do not press hard when using it.
4. You do not need to make anything look 'real'. It can be any color you want.
5. If it goes with your other furnishings, your first attempt should be one color on a plain wall.
OK, now look at the pictures displayed on the right of this column. The first is an example of your "inspiration". This in no way needs to resemble your finished project. You are looking for a spark, something to interest you.
Look for your inspiration before you begin and decide which wall you want to use.
Do not get ahead of yourself , slow down and think about which wall first. Even if you have to bookmark this page, leave and think, then do so. Better to be inspired than frustrated and give up before you have begun.
Lets Get Started
By now you have decided which wall you want to use. Just because furniture may be in front of part of it, this does not mean you need to modify anything. The wall is the canvas, not part of the wall, all of it.
Next you will decide if you want to do one color or several. I always recommend one color to start. Silhouettes are classic and fit with most décor. If you must use more color your first time out then settle on a maximum of three or four.
For this exercise I will assume one color for now and address multiple color later.
When you look at the pictures below you will see that they are all examples of a one color wall with a complementary color painted onto it. Don't use a dark color for the full wall with a lighter color as the image unless you are specifically going for a negative effect. Negative effects are very stunning, but look at the examples below before you make your final decision. Also keep in mind that light colors painted on dark colors sometimes need several coats. Your finished mural will look "neater" if you use a light color wall and a darker complimentary color.
As you look at the examples, visualize how your finished project will be. Just like when you write a paper you may go through several drafts before the final is complete. However, I recommend doodling on a piece of paper rather than painting on several walls till it looks the way you want. Amorphous blobs are fine, you are looking for placement rather than critiquing your art.
You should make sure that the paper is the approximate shape of the wall you will be painting. For instance, if the wall you want to paint is 9 feet high and 12 feet wide then you should fill the piece of paper with your sketch as if it was the area of the wall because standard pieces of paper are 8.5 inches wide by 11 inches high and turned sideways it can approximate the area you want to cover. However, if the area you are painting on is say 9 x 9 feet then cut your paper to be a square rather than a rectangle.
Once you have your doodle filling the paper the way you want it on your wall, then fold it in half twice both ways to make it eight even segments. This will help you as you move on to the next step...
Down to the Nitty Gritty
As you can see the impression is pared down to a "skeleton" image. All the extra stuff will be added as you paint. This will not need to be PERFECT and may not be exactly as on your paper, but you are doing this for yourself so relax and have fun.
First: if the wall is not the color you want it to be then paint the wall and let it dry till tomorrow. Look at the wall in really good light to see if there are "holidays". These are places where the paint is missing (because you took a holiday from painting at that point). If there are thin spots then paint the wall again making sure you get the thin spots covered. Since this is going to be a focal point you should use paint tape on the other walls to ensure that you do not paint the contrasting color on them.
Once your wall is prepared and has dried overnight, draw the oulines as you have them on the paper in corresponding sections of the wall. If you need to make corresponding marks on the wall just put a few marks lightly on the wall that can be erased. No one will ever see your original sketch so don't worry about being exact. Just relax and put some general shape lines on the wall.
Start in one spot and work from there. For example, start at the bottom of the trunk of the tree I have used as an example and work your way up and then over. Click on the images provided to enlarge them for a better view of these suggestions.
Next, there are several ways to paint what you want on your wall. For my example you will need:
1. A 3" brush. A cutting brush is cut at an angle and a regular brush is even on the end. Either will do, I like the cutting brush.
2. You will also need one to two quarts of paint. About 1/4 to 1/3 of what you used to paint the entire wall (if you painted the wall first). Most murals will use one quart. If you plan on finishing more projects with the same color then go for a gallon, but if not then get the smaller container(s) because paint can go bad and there is nothing worse than old paint stinking on a wall until it fades away in a few days. Sometimes the smell can last for weeks. (I speak from experience here).
3. Next you will need a household sponge or rag or papertowels. There are several effects you can achieve, but for a beginner we will stick to very basic strokes, shapes and combinations of those. Chose one of these, you will not need all three. I recommend the sponge. They are cheap and you can cut several shapes from it if you wish.
4. Cotton swabs or any small paint brush even a cheap child's paint brush are nice additions, but not completely necessary. I did use cotton swabs in the example I chose to show you.
4. Nice, but not totally necessary would be several pairs of disposable gloves. (Unless you don't like to get dirty, then by all means get the gloves!)
Slap It On!
You have all your tools, your paint and your initial tracing on the wall. Don't sit around thinking it over. Fill in the blanks on your major shape. Keep the drawing handy for reference, but don't analyze each line or shape.
To the right, the top example is painted with the narrow side of the brush drawn across the surface, the bottom is painted with the wide side of the brush. Use these strokes to fill out the major shapes of your mural.
If you are leary of taking the first step then paint a couple of strokes on a cardboard box first, but don't analyze too long or you will never get started.
Once you have the major shape filled in it is time to put on some minor details. You will not need to remove the pencil/charcoal marks till the project is done and dry.
Finishing Your Mural
Once your major shapes are finished you can add embellishment. Leaves and grass do not need to be the correct shape, but merely a representation of their shape. In the example to the right you will see that the leaves are represented by splatters or sponged shapes. You can also crumple up a rag and use that to apply paint for the suggestion of foliage.
Click on the images of embellishment and finished mural to see them enlarged.
For grass, flowers or a meadow look you can use paint on just the very end of your brush and blot lightly on the wall. Alternatively you can use a cotton swab to draw narrow lines. Just remember to not draw straight lines. All the lines should vary to appear natural. For flowers interspersed throughout you can cut several pieces of sponge into different size shapes or (my favorite) bring the tips of your fingers together in a circle. This will make a five petal flower shape (wear the gloves!) then dip your finger tips into paint and apply to the wall.
Once the paint has dried completely you can erase the pencil or use the cotton swabs to dab the lighter paint over it. If you did not paint the wall first use a cotton swab that is just damp, dip it in baking soda and rub lightly on the pencil or charcoal mark to remove. Dab after with a dry paper towel.
MY FINAL TIP: Less is more. Don't overdo it. Have fun!
healthy meals from Europe on March 07, 2014:
Great tutorial and I really like your first advice "This is for you, not to impress visitors to your home". You make it sound easy to do a wall mural. I think they look really good in children's rooms.
Marla J Neogra (author) from Parkersburg, West Virginia on February 19, 2012:
Thanks for the encouragement!
Trsmd from India on February 19, 2012:
Great hub. Unable to believe that this you have published here at the beginning.thanks for sharing:)
Marla J Neogra (author) from Parkersburg, West Virginia on January 28, 2012:
Great, I am glad you liked it!
Marla J Neogra (author) from Parkersburg, West Virginia on January 22, 2012:
Thanks, glad you got something good out of it.
Bonny OBrien from Troy, N.Y. on January 21, 2012:
Awesome well written hub with lots of great info. I really enjoyed reading it.