I thought that it would be interesting and informative to write this article about the process of painting a wall mural but first of all I would like to talk about a few factors and experiences.
The job of a wall mural painter (not a service, which a lot of websites think) which I specialise in I find to be highly understated, underappreciated and undervalued. It is expected to paint a wall mural in a day by some people I've spoken too, it sometimes leaves me flabbergasted to think that my talent which I've built-up for nearly 30 years of my life could result in a whole wall hand-painted with a beautiful unique scene in the same time it would take to go to a painting & decorating store, buy a tub of magnolia paint and blanket paint the walls with a roller which requires little in the way of skill or talent and further-more be offered a similar price.
Then we have the situation of people wanting the mural painting carried out on a voluntary basis. Now, please don't get me wrong, I believe every artist should pay their dues in some respect and it would be good work experience to carry this out as college or university project but this is your job, your profession, your livelihood no-less. Let me ask this question to those that ask you to work on a voluntary basis, if your car broke down would you ask for it to be repaired free of charge? No, this goes for every situation in life, us muralist's do not do this for "the love of painting", we do it because it is our profession, our bread and butter, our day job to pay our bills.
I'm sure that many other professional mural painters out there that read this article will be nodding in agreement with my previous paragraph's above.
Anyway, now I have those negative experiences off my chest let's get back to my advice on painting a wall mural which I am going to keep as a beginners guide.
This is what I believe to be the most essential steps to creating a wall mural in the easiest, hassle-free way.
Develop your ideas on paper or on a computer using graphics software, I tend to devise most of my plans through the computer as I can easily print out a scale overlay grid onto my design.
I doesn't matter what software you use to create your plans, I would choose Photoshop or GIMP the majority of the time but it really doesn't matter as the task in-hand to get from a design idea/concept which you are happy to carry on further.
Please pay special attention of the following aspects of the planning your mural painting;
1. This is the most crucial part of mural painting, make sure your plans are exactly as you would like the final design to look.
2. Some people will choose to draw a design freehand but I would strongly advise against this for something like a person, animal or character. These type of things have to be pixel perfect and I would always use a scale grid for 100% accuracy.
3. Liaise fully with your client until they are 100% satisfied with your final design. Remember this is their wall and your final design should represent a near identical rendition of what will be painted.
Now that you have liaised with your client and they are happy with your design plans it is time to approach the wall or walls.
The first thing to do is always make sure the wall or surface is in a good condition for you to carry out your work. If you feel that the wall is not ready for you to work on then you may want to discuss carrying out any repair duties at a small fee. Maybe you will be faced with filling some holes and smoothing the surface where there was once screws/nails. Be upfront and let your client know if you are unhappy with the wall surface which you are about to commence your work on.
Now you want to draw a grid across the area that you're working which is in-scale to your design plan, although this is quite a boring aspect of the overall process this is extremely important to get right and spot-on with measurements. Remember not all walls are perfectly straight so you have to work with these imperfections to a certain degree but what is essential is that your grid lines on a horizontal and vertical axis are perfect. I have a 1200mm spirit measure stick which I use for this type of task which is invaluable to me, the average size I would draw my grid is (6" x 6") but this can vary depending on the space, shape and image complexity, remember a (6"x 6") can easily be modified even finer if needed.
Finally use masking tape to cover other walls, skirting boards and then cover the floors just in-case the worst happens. Personally I am very careful with my client's floors and carpets and I would lay newspaper, polythene sheets and decorators dust sheets on top.
These are the following steps I would take summarised;
1. Discuss any concerns of the wall which I discussed above.
2. Draw your scale grid making sure to be 100% accurate using a spirit measure.
3. Mask the near-by area and cover the floor and carpets thoroughly with polythene, newspaper and decorators dust sheets.
So now your mural design has been finalised and your client is satisfied and your wall is gridded accurately and masked accordingly it is finally time to draw your mural. Sometimes it can feel a relief to finally put your pencil to the wall but from my experience, thorough and precise planning is always the best policy. Never take shortcuts because in the end something will/could go wrong.
Draw your design lightly on the wall, keeping to your guide. One tip that I would say is to draw a section or object and then stand back and observe what you have drawn. When you are satisfied draw your lines bolder, you should also be aware of smudging your pencil and guide lines with your hand so work from one side to the other depending on which hand your draw with.
Now that you have your design drawn out nicely and it's very clear and accurate it is time to erase all your pencil and guide lines. I would strongly advise this step as painting over pencil lines can prove very tricky, they are very resilient those pencil lines!
Now it's time to start painting your mural. As this is my first guide to mural painting I am going to describe something relatively easy to paint, something which you would typically see in a school, hospital or children's bedroom - please don't miss-interpret what I mean here by saying easy, something bright and colourful like a cartoon or character with block colours rather than a realistic scene with highly detailed depth and shading.
Note - This example is for a relatively simple mural painting, I will create guides to more complicated wall mural paintings in the future.
I use acrylic odourless paints which I mix beforehand to create the correct colour variant which I will keep them in containers, I use small plastic decorators paint kettles with lids which you can buy in many sizes, use water to thin the paint if it feels "stodgy", get the consistency right as you don't want to be thinning the paint much at all. Most importantly of all is to mix more than enough of the colour you require, too much is never a bad thing.
Paint the areas now which have the most of a certain colour, if your mural has more blue than any other colour then paint the blue first, wait for your paint to dry then apply another coat of paint. When you are satisfied with the coverage do the same with your next colour.
Now this part can be tricky, you need to outline all the colours with a black (or outline colour of choice). Make sure to have a steady hand, a small brush with good resistance and your paint is not too thick, which is why I spoke of adding a little bit of water to your paint above.
To finish your work use an acrylic matte varnish which will act as an invisible layer of protection.
This is the short step-by-step guide of the paragraphs I spoke about it more detail above;
1. Draw your design, when satisfied draw your outlines bolder.
2. Erase all pencil and guidelines thoroughly.
3. Mix your paints to the correct colours and keep in containers with lids, making sure to mix enough paint.
4. Paint the areas with the most colour first and apply 2 coats or more to fully cover.
5. Outline your work with a strong/bold colour, be accurate and use a quality firm brush.
6. Coat the wall with acrylic matt varnish to give that hidden layer of protection.
Now your mural should be complete and your client is over-the-moon with joy, you are happy and now it's time to move on to your next exciting job which could be a totally different experience all together with a whole new set of challenges to test your artistic capabilities.
Being a Muralist, Artist, Interior Painter... whatever they like to call us (don't ask me who "they" are), is an extremely rewarding and often challenging career option and I'm not going to lie when I say this but, you're going to have to be extremely persistent and outgoing if you want to build a long lasting career.
In the future I would like to talk more extensively about the trials and tribulations of gaining a career as a full-time muralist, more specifically speaking about my personal experiences, education gained and the advertising and networking processors involved.
I would also like to talk in greater detail with regards to the actual tools that I use, the storage containers, paints, brushes and much more, there is a surprising amount of content to write here which I think would prove fascinating to share.
This article which is now knee-deep on to the fourth page of my writing software (no free plugs or advertising here) is only just scratching the surface on what I wanted to share as a muralist and only covers the very basics of my daily process.
If you made it this far then thanks for sticking with me and all I can say to you if you are just starting a career as a Muralist is keep pushing and working hard and eventually your opportunity's will arise... nobody said it was going to be easy, but persevere!