Mural Mural On the Wall
March 27, 2011 9:03 PM   Subscribe

I want to paint a mural in my bedroom. Where to start?

I'd like to paint a mural on the walls of our bedroom...funky colorful objects against a black or dark backdrop.

I have never done any murals before. I have painted in acrylics before, on standard canvases.

Anybody have some tips? Websites I should visit before I begin? I don't know basic stuff like what paint to use, or whether I should paint the entire room in the dark backdrop first (or paint the objects first and fill in the empty spaces with black.) I'd prefer to use nontoxic paints.

Any suggestions appreciated. Would love to hear anybody's personal experience painting a mural in their home, especially the kind of mural where you "mostly make it up as you go along" and are not concerned with exact measurements of what you paint. Thanks!
posted by The ____ of Justice to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If you have a picture you think you might like, project it on the wall and see how it looks. If it looks good, trace around the main features with a pencil and make a sort of paint by numbers template. Work with the photo in hand to guide coloring.

Of course, this is easier if the original picture is has fairly large simple shapes. The more detail, the more time consuming it will be.

Put down a background of flat white and it will be easier to see what you're doing when tracing.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 9:21 PM on March 27, 2011

An art professor (retired) has painted essentially his entire house by hand like this. If it isn't a mural or a trompe l'oeil ceiling (clouds, seraphim, gilt border, the works) it's a faux finish like marble or distressed wood. I'm not in direct contact with him, though, and there are lots of resources for this sort of thing.

The most important consideration, probably, is the work surface. Drywall is pretty much gypsum with a paper finish, which will accept many types of paint, but plaster is going to be a slightly different issue. Are you on top of oil paint or wallpaper? You will probably want to start with a good, solid covering primer, in any case, such as Kilz.

I don't know about a dark background -- I haven't seen that often. I would imagine, because of the difficulty of concealing a dark color with a lighter one, that you'd prefer to avoid putting it on first. At the scale you're contemplating, I don't think it would make that much of a difference.

Planning is something you'll want to engage in here, even if there are dynamic elements to the design. Any sort of centering (or deliberate off-centering) or other engagement with the shape of the room/wall/furnishings is going to be something you want to get right or it could annoy you for years. You can't "adjust" a mural very easily.

Projection is certainly one way to get a pre-existing or drafted image onto the wall, or at least help you lay it out.
posted by dhartung at 9:31 PM on March 27, 2011

you definitely want to start with a white background and add your dark bgd after you paint the colourful objects - a dark base coat will muddy your colours. Acrylic paint will work fine, but make sure that you are not painting it over an oil-based paint - it won't stick.

It's a good idea to have a basic design mapped out before you start - when painting a big space, it's easy to lose track of the bigger picture when you are painting up close - you need to make sure that there is a balance between the small interesting details that you see when you are close to the wall, and the overall design when you see the whole thing from a distance.

I've painted a lot of murals, but it was a while back. I'm sure that there are a lot of other things I know that will be of help to you - but they're not leaping to mind right now. feel free to memail me with specific questions as you're progressing, if you like.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:09 PM on March 27, 2011

I painted two wall murals as a surprise for my husband over the weekend in our bedroom. We're moving, and will be doing a version of the mural again in the new place. Basically, you need a painted surface as a canvas - ours are white plaster walls. I washed the walls thoroughly first, top down so they were clean. Then I freehand drew in a light pencil the pattern I wanted. I googled leaf background repeats and found a couple of abstract prints I liked. I started in the middle of the wall and just drew outwards, checking against the print-outs. You could if it was complicated do a whole proper grid or projector style copy - we do that for murals in my workplace - but I wanted something more random and organic-y. Then I got a tiny set of paintbrushes, some pots of metal paint (it's silver leaf outlines) and painted over the pencil lines. I used a bit of melamine eraser to remove all the pencil outlines left once the mural was done. For your first mural, I'd do something in a single color with a fairly simple abstract outline. You can always paint over it!
posted by viggorlijah at 2:02 AM on March 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can get a projector at an art supply store. This is a must-have unless your mural is going to be really abstract or free-form.

You can hang out in some of the mural forums and I'm sure you'll get lots of advice.

Do use acrylic (or latex), not oils, as acrylic dries much faster and it's easier to clean up.
posted by Ostara at 9:24 AM on March 28, 2011

Response by poster: Whoa, I want to best answer everything. Thanks much, people. That mural forum is extremely helpful, Ostara.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 11:07 PM on March 29, 2011

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