25 Basics of Painting Murals

Get tips from a professional muralist on the basics of painting a wall mural in a child's bedroom, playroom or nursery.
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November 25, 2014

Scenic Murals

Murals are one of the most popular design elements for children's rooms and nurseries. Homeowners Marco and Elena Ciotti hired a professional muralist to fill the walls of their kids' rooms with inspiring, colorful scenery.

Professional Muralist Michelle Morse

Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based muralist Michelle Morse completed two bedrooms for the Ciotti family in just four days for a little less than $1,000 per room. Daughter Bianca's room features sweeping green vistas, and sons Luca and Vincenzo's walls are covered in a nautical, New England-style landscape.

Scale and Proportion

To add a 3-D, layered element to Bianca's room, an antique desk, passed down from her paternal grandmother, was placed directly in front of a painted tree. When incorporating tall elements, such as trees and buildings, stick with proportion and scale that work well with furniture while providing a prime vantage point for kids. If you paint them too small, they can get lost behind furniture and lose their visual impact.

Adding Dimension

To add depth to painted objects such as trees, bushes and mountains, double-load the brush. To paint sweeping vistas, load green and cream together on the same brush so the green takes on different hues. Brushing on two colors at the same time creates a blended, gradient effect.

Painting Branches

The key to creating lifelike tree branches is using one color in different hues. Highlights and shadows give branches depth and make them appear more three-dimensional. Keep the room's light source in mind prior to adding shadow detailing.

Painting Clouds

To create realistic looking clouds, don't use white paint. "Clouds are not just white — they're different shades of gray, white, blue and lavender," Michelle says.

Using Logos

Experienced muralists can take any image and make it adaptable for a wall mural. For example, local Fort Lauderdale's Nova Titans sports team has a simple logo that didn't translate well as a mural due to its lack of ornamentation and contrast. By adding layers and contrasting colors, Michelle adapted the image to create an interesting mural.

Customized Sketches

Muralists have several stock options available. If you want a custom design, make little revisions over email to avoid costly in-person consultations.

Making Transparencies

Before a muralist begins painting, sketches need to be transferred onto a transparency using a commercial-grade copier and transparency paper. They'll then project the image onto the wall, fine-tune placement, then sketch the image onto the wall.

Tracing Supplies

Key supplies essential to proper projection, tracing and application include: a level, a spackle knife, colored pencils, No. 2 pencils and black ink pens.

Projecting Transparencies

To project a transparency on the wall, rent or purchase a projector from an art store. Michelle suggests tracing the design with Col-Erase pencils because they're water-soluble, and you can wipe or erase unwanted marks easily.

Detailed Murals

Mural costs are based on the level of skill and time required to complete the application. While a simple, graphic mural can be as quick as five hours to project and paint, designs with multiple layers and detailed elements can take up to several days. Michelle's fresco design is an example of a costly mural due to the level of difficulty and precision required for proper application.

Painting Ceilings

For a seamless transition from wall to ceiling, it’s best for the top of the walls to be rounded to avoid visible lines. This involves extra contractor costs and should be done before the muralist begins painting.

Lifelike Details

Layering effects give murals their lifelike appearance. A white picket fence gives Bianca's room an extra layer of detail. To make the fence, cut several pieces of MDF to size with the tops mitered at two 45-degree angles. Install with a nail gun, then spackle, caulk and paint white.

Simple Additions

Murals, specifically landscapes, can be added to at any time. Bianca's design simply called for trees and vistas. Once the project neared completion, Michelle incorporated a robin's nest into one of the trees. Since she painted the nest onto the existing surface, it took a short amount of time at little extra cost.

Supply Fees

Homeowners seeking a professional muralist should consider various elements that determine pricing. Supplies, transportation and use of specialty materials will add to the total cost of the muralist's fees.

Essential Painting Supplies

Essential painting supplies include: colored markers, paint pens, tape measures, protractors, X-Acto knives, acrylic paint, mixing cups, latex paints, quick-drying spackle, hand sanitizer and erasers.

Pink Accents

Instead of painting Bianca's entire room pink, it was added in small accents to contrast the vivid greens, blues and yellows featured in the mural.

Decorative Corner

In Luca and Vincenzo's room, Michelle added decorative elements to take the focus off the room's many hard edges. The top-right corner of the entry door features a round sun enveloping both sides of the corner.

Neutral Furniture

An antique white crib blends in with the nautical landscape and allows the mural to remain as the main focal point of the room.

Incorporating Furnishings

Color placement is key when it comes to furnishing a room with a mural. This wall is mainly blue, which creates the look and feel of a New England bay. The color is carried through to the comforter, creating a serene, consistent look.

Red Accents

Red accents, such as this teddy bear, contrast well with the blue and white landscape of the mural while adding a classic American look.

Small Details

Adding small and simple details have minimal extra costs because they're easy to do and don't require extra materials or time.

Proper Placement

To ensure this painted fishing shack isn't covered by furniture, Michelle lined up the bottom of the shack with the top lip of the changing table and storage chest.

Writing Tools

Small detail brushes and paint pens work best on tiny illustrational details, such as script or ornamentation.

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