Never Have I Ever… Painted a Mural


By: Bryce Boigner

When it comes to public demonstration, the mural is a common and eye-catching way to express oneself, document or tribute, promote a political or social cause, or to simply beautify a space. From the immaculate religious frescoes of antiquity to the powerful renderings dreamed up by Roosevelt’s WPA, the mural as an art form is just as old as society itself. Today, they’re perhaps more utilized and accepted than ever before, especially in Gwinnett. 

Perhaps you’ve seen the Holtkamp mural on your way up I-85, the “Greetings from Norcross” postcard mural while passing through town. Perhaps you even read about “Suwanee Rocks!” right here in The DiG! Maybe you’re wondering if you could try your hand at some mural painting. And while I wouldn’t consider this article a one-stop testament on how to do it, I may be able to give you at least an idea of where to start and what to do.

Now before we dive into this topic, I find it fitting to include this little disclaimer: I’m no artist, nor have I ever painted a mural (maybe someday!). Your experience may vary; like all things, this takes practice! Also, if you plan to paint a wall that isn’t yours, always make sure you go through the proper channels before you start. No matter how good you think your mural is, it’s inevitable someone would prefer the wall the way it looked, especially if they didn’t ask for your artistic input. Be smart about it!

Getting Started

The first consideration you’ll want to make is the space you’ll be working with. Obviously, the drywall in your bedroom is going to make for a much different painting experience than bricks on the side of a 100-year-old pharmacy. If painting an outdoor mural, you’ll also want to account for environmental conditions: sun, harsh elements, traffic, fumes and pollutants that may strip or discolor your work. Oftentimes, murals seen in public are done on some kind of patronage: a local government, an organization, the business or building being painted on (remember what I said about proper channels), so additional considerations would have to be made on the content of your work — paint something everyone will love.

You’ll want to visualize and sketch your concept. Put your preliminary design to paper on a smaller scale before you mark up something that’s harder to erase. Again, practice makes perfect!

Prep & Paint

For the sake of argument, let’s say you have space on an outdoor shed that you want to do a nature scene on. When it’s time to actually get painting, you’ll want to make sure you have the proper supplies. Skillshare lists a few basic needs for painting an inside or outside mural:

  • Brushes (and a roller, optional)
  • Paints
  • Rags/paper towels
  • A bucket of water for cleaning brushes
  • String for measuring or using as a guideline
  • Stepladder

For our wooden shed, you may want to find waterproof paint that works for thicker walls: self-priming industrial paint is recommended. Start by cleaning your work surface to clear away any dirt, water or cobwebs that may impede your painting. If you wish, you may also want to repaint the surface with an even coating. Next, scale your design to the desired cover on your surface using a grid or projector, outlining the larger shapes before moving into the smaller details, and remember to take a step back every once in a while to see if your painting is still coming together as planned. Work in layers to ensure everything goes on and dries even.

Finishing Up

When satisfied with your mural, you might choose to seal the wall with an acrylic emulsion or spray varnish — this will better protect your design from harsh elements.

And presto…you painted a mural! There’s definitely more to the process than this, and you can find more in-depth tutorials online (Skillshare is a great place to start), but ultimately, how you go about plotting and painting your work will be up to you.