Sign painting help.
June 30, 2009 2:45 PM   Subscribe

Anyone have any tricks or tips on how to paint a large sign/mural on the exterior of a building? I need help on how to get the image on the wall, which is roughly 20ft by 100ft.

The mural consists of a restaurant logo with lettering and other plant designs. It's nothing too complex, but I don't know the best technique to use. Any advice is appreciated.
posted by sharkhunt to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

Design a small-scale version of your mural. Print it on transparent acetate. Project it on the side of the building. From there it's basically colour-by-numbers.

I did this in Minneapolis last year with a group of other artists doing the same. Here's a blog documenting the process:

This particular post has good pictures of the projection process:

Good luck!
posted by ndicecco at 2:55 PM on June 30, 2009

Back when I was in the city, I watched how they did the mural on the side of the Cambridge, MA TJs over several weeks. I'm no pro, but I talked to him, and this is roughly what he did. He had the picture finalized with the client to scale. Then he made a color photocopy of it. He gridded out the the copy with lines representing roughly 2' squares on the big wall. He primed the big wall, then he made a very light grid with something. Then he penciled/sharpied the major shapes of each square. He then filled in the big shapes with color. He then went through and filled in the details. Last he sprayed some sort of clearcoat for permanency.
posted by Nanukthedog at 3:02 PM on June 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Seconding projection.

You might also be able to hook up a laptop to a projector and get similar results to printing out the image.
posted by Pangloss at 3:35 PM on June 30, 2009

You could buy a roll of slide film, photograph your original in four segments, and use a slide projector to do the final mural in four 20 x 25 ft. stages. You may get a bit of distortion if you're projecting upwards, but you could neutralize that by photographing your originals slightly from the bottom. Old Kodak Carousel projectors are practically given away nowadays.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 4:34 PM on June 30, 2009

Projection would be ideal, but ends to work poorly if you're painting during the day. The low tech way is to create a grid on your final design and scale that up. Make a similar grid on the wall and treat it as a bunch of paintings of what appears in each box in the grid.

We did this in sixth grade art class and, with a tight enough grid, even kids who weren't terribly artistic were able to make some incredible large scale drawings.
posted by advicepig at 4:53 PM on June 30, 2009

The professionals that I know who do this all use the grid technique described above.

My sister uses two small versions for reference. One that's back & white outlines of the color areas to pencil in the shapes. Then another with the colors and pretty much paint-by-numbers the whole thing.

Number and letter the grid squares (like a map) on the small version, then pencil in the grid coordinates on the big version to keep from getting confused.

Have the skilled artist(s) do the penciling and the final shading, etc. But you can have reasonably unskilled people help out with the fill in. And at 20x100 feet you will probably want help if you're going to finish it sometime this summer.
posted by Ookseer at 5:37 PM on June 30, 2009

We have a ton of murals here in Philadelphia, with over 2,800 of them painted by the Mural Arts Program.

This is from their FAQ:

What kind of techniques do muralists use?
One challenge every muralist faces is how to transfer a design from paper onto a wall, while preserving its scale, perspective, composition, and overall integrity. Muralists rely on four basic transfer methods: the Grid System, the Michelangelo Method, the Parachute Cloth Method, and the Projection Method.

What kind of paint does MAP use?
MAP uses a special acrylic mural paint called NovaColor, which is produced by a small company in Los Angeles called Artex Manufacturing. A mural painted with NovaColor and properly sealed with weather resistant gel can last 20 to 25 years.
posted by orme at 5:30 AM on July 1, 2009

Cartoons. This is the way artists have done it since time immemorial. Do you think Michelangelo used a projector?
posted by JJ86 at 5:43 AM on July 1, 2009

Also, depending on the complexity of the design, you could use something called a 'pounce pattern.' It's basically a sheet of paper with tiny dots poked through where the lines of the design are - you place that on part of your wall and throw chalk at it. the chalk goes through the holes and leaves a pattern you can paint over. Making one requires a particular machine, though, which means you'd have to contact a local sign painter... but talking to the sign painter isn't a bad idea anyway.
posted by ndicecco at 5:51 AM on July 1, 2009

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