Help Me Paint a Mural (Please God help Me!)
April 17, 2020 1:53 PM   Subscribe

Unwisely, I decided to paint a mural on a wall in my house. I have very little mural painting experience. Not surprisingly, this is not going so well. I need materials suggestions. More after the jump.

The wall I'm painting is adobe, so it has a great deal of texture. I'm using accrylic paints. I need paint brush suggestions. I want to do a lot of detail work so I need a brush that is stiff enough to stand up to the texture of the walls but thin enough to put on some fairly fine lines. If you have any experience painting murals (or something similar) I'd love your paintbrush suggestions. I'm ever so grateful for any help, especially because right now this is feeling like a very, very big mistake (damn you Corona quarentine!).
posted by WalkerWestridge to Media & Arts (9 answers total)
Adobe? I'd use sponge brushes for all but the finest details. No actual brush is gonna play nice with that texture.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:58 PM on April 17, 2020 [6 favorites]

Is this an interior or an exterior wall? If it's interior I really, really think you need to deal with the texture before you try to paint any kind of detail on it. I'd suggest doing a skim coat then priming before you even think about painting a mural.

If it's exterior (and such is only going to be seen from quite a long ways away and is well ventilated) you might be able to use spray paints to a nice effect.
posted by Sweetchrysanthemum at 2:01 PM on April 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

Dittoing showbiz_liz: rough in the overall regions of color with sponges, which you can press into the texture of the adobe with far less frustration than any kind of brush. Come back after that with brushes for things like painting bold lines or cleaning up edges.

With such a rough texture you're going to have a lot more success if you accept and lean into the idea of a more mottled texture to the paint; short of spending far far too much time on it or using an airbrush, consistently filling the inner crannies of the texture may be kind of off the board from the word go, so try and step back from that as a goal if at all possible.

Without knowing the details of the design, my process would be something like:

1. Rough out the overall shape on the wall in pencil. Doesn't need to be perfect, just needs to give you a layout to work from.
2. Use sponges to apply large regions of color to fill in that layout. The edges do not need to be perfect here!
3. Maybe another sponge pass with more detailed color mixing if there's finer areas that need differentiation.
4. Use brush or smaller chunk of sponge to clean up the edges between regions and to apply small details and lines.

Another thing you could consider is combining sponges with some kind of ad-hoc stenciling if you want to get a much cleaner line. You might be able to mask off an edge with masking/painters tape if it'll adhere well enough (the texture may or may not be a problem here) but you can also cut a piece of paper with scissors to provide a curve/template you can just hold up to the wall while applying paint.

The good news with acrylics is they'll dry fast enough that you can be pretty experimental with some of this stuff without losing a ton of time. Maybe try a couple of these things in small patches just to see what works, and try and settle on a technique that seems more functional and less frustrating before you tackle the whole wall.
posted by cortex at 2:18 PM on April 17, 2020 [4 favorites]

Spray paint with art nozzles are great for this. There is a learning curve on how to apply them and what order you do the fills so it looks right, but if you have the time and inclination this is probably your best bet.

YouTube is your friend here. I suggest getting a roll of butcher paper and taping big sheets to your wall to practice on. Starting with a good primer is also key to getting a good end result. Dont forget to layer white under lighter colors if they go over darker paints.

Is this an outside wall? If not, use good ventilation and a respirator. Actually, use a respirator even if its outside
posted by ananci at 2:26 PM on April 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

Generally adobe is stuccoed on the outside and plastered on the inside, I'm assuming you are dealing with stucco as it has a very rough finish and plaster is pretty easy to paint

Murals on stucco are very popular where I live and I have seen people painting them a number of times, brushes and sponges used, definitely not by using any sort of sprayer when I have seen them being painted. Though people certainly do use sprayers or spray paint, as there is some graffiti styled art where the technique would most likely have been used.

Cardboard would be a good way to block out an area and paint a straight or shaped line along the edge.
posted by yohko at 4:18 PM on April 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

A few photos would be helpful. What specific kind of paint are you using? Is your wall unfinished adobe? If so, putting down a base coat (even if it's just an additional layer of the same paint) might help the design layer go on smoother.
posted by yeahlikethat at 4:37 PM on April 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

All that I will add to the excellent process suggestions above is:
Step back from the wall frequently. It's easy to get sucked into overworking a small section, and you wanna maintain awareness of what it looks like from farther back.
posted by D.Billy at 6:41 PM on April 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I did a mural where fine details were done with a paint pen. Held at a slight up angle to the wall they work really well and don’t drip the way a loaded paintbrush can and provide a decent amount of paint per pen. For large spaces I’ve used kitchen sponges in a pinch. Natural sponges give you much more abstract coverage but a smushed up kitchen sponge with corners snipped off so it’s not a block will be ok especially for large coverage. Also try a plastic bag scrunched together, you get weird interesting coverage.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:07 PM on April 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yep, I also recommend paint pens for small details and contours. I love the Posca brand myself.
Also, maybe you'll get good tips and inspiration from
She's focussing on murals on her feed/stories at the moment.
Good luck, and if you post pictures we might have more specific tips for your exact situation.
posted by PardonMyFrench at 1:33 AM on April 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

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