Have you ever wondered how to paint a mural? Whether it’s for your home, garage, office, patio, bedroom or even business – I have some tips to help! Now I can officially I’ve contributed to three painted murals. Photo credit: Magaly Saenz.
NOTE: Scroll down for the free pan dulce coloring page
The third experience was July 2022 – YES, in the middle of summer, I helped paint an outdoor mural. I feel I’ve earned my mural painting badge from this experience. Not quite a pro, but definitely more experienced than before.
How does one become an expert? Practice, practice, practice! For this recent mural, I was invited by Tres Leches Cafe to recreate a version of the inside mural I painted years back.
The first mural experience – 2016: With the help of my husband, Patrick, we knocked out this design in a few days. Here is the one I did for Tres Leches Cafe!
The second mural experience, July 2022
The owners of Tres Leches opened a new spot in south Phoenix and wanted a new version of the first mural. The owner, E.T. just happens to have a cousin who is a master muralist, Adrian Garcia.
Adrian reached out to me and of course, I internally freaked out at the thought:
This wall was outside and about 20′ tall! Overwhelmed is an understatement, but I accepted the assignment.
Only because Adrian promised to guide me along in the process! Patrick said he would help again as well!
Adrian Garcia, a professional muralist, started by giving us a pep talk, an overview of the project, and his best tips for making everything go smoothly.
- Have fun.
- Get the outline on the wall the best you can.
- Stay out of the weeds. More on this later…LOL
How to paint a mural: Prep
If this is your first time, choose an easy, simple subject so you can get the hang of painting on a large scale.
Consider the time you have to spend. Make sure to add extra for redos!
Find a wall space that has a smooth surface and has good lighting. Because you know people will be taking pictures! so be aware of shadows, trees, etc. Especially outside, make sure there won’t be bird poop or even direct sunlight – anything that will mess it up.
Patch up any holes in the wall. Wash it to remove any dust or debris.
Recruit friends to help. Whether it’s helping you up the step stool or handing you a new paintbrush, you’ll appreciate the extra hands.
Start with a sketch, that way you can be aware of sizing, proportion. You can mentally prepare what you are going to paint!
Paints and brushes:
Outlining: Adrian turned us onto Posca Markers.
For outlining the mural: Adrian recommends these paint pens instead of chalk. Chalk is messy and hard to clean out of grooves. Also, the Posca markers are easy to cover with paint for clean up!
Color blocking: We used house paint and acrylic paint for both of these murals. I know spray painting is a popular method, but we went old school with brushes! Straight/square brushes for edges and juicy round brushes for filling.
Accents: Liner brushes for details.
You can also be creative and incorporate sponges, stencils, stamps, etc.
NOTE: Adrian says to always have extra paint handy of the background color. This is for easy touch-ups. Trust me, you will need touch-ups! And by having the background paint, it will look flawless.
Rent a lift for high wall projects
Waist-high table to hold supplies
Can of water for rinsing brushes
Tent to cover work area (if outside)
Water to drink to stay hydrated!
Transferring the design to the wall
I drew the design on Procreate and then we used a projector to size it to the wall.
From there Adrian handed us each a Posca marker and the outline process began. Adrian announced, “Get as much information on the wall!” This is because once daylight comes and you start painting, you want to have as many guidelines as possible.
They happen, but just roll with it, we’re learning, remember? And most mistakes can be fixed! Do your best to touch it up and keep moving forward.
Directions to paint a mural:
Once the outline is up, start with the background layers. If you really want an opaque look, start with a strong base coat of color.
I was nervous when it came to the girl. We took it step by step and she came out so vibrant.
The purpose of this mural is for Tres Leches Cafe was to offer a fun Instagram spot for guests, we thought of different angles and stories people could use for poses.
Basically, fill in all the background colors, then clean up the edges and go in with lighter colors for shading and accents.
It helped that each day, Adrian told us what to work on, we did it section by section.
“Stay out of the weeds!”
This was one of my biggest takeaways from working with Adrian. “The weeds” are those random idea spurts. Spontaneous creative decisions you’ll regret later because they extend the project timeline.
I added a stenciled design on the bottom of the mural that was not part of the original design and then I kept adding more and more and then I thought I needed to go tot the store and buy more spray paint to continue the look along the entire building. Thankfully, the team stopped me!
It was in this moment I realized I spend a LOT of time in the weeds in my daily life. I’m so easily distracted. This mural was a good exercise to mange those impulses.
When working on a tall mural, a lift – or cherry picker is often involved. Here is a behind-the-scenes of me and the lift:
and – the next day this happened:
Here is the mural from the indoor location, I created an area for people to stand and snap a photo!
For an outdoor mural, you can look into a sealer so it can be easily washed without destroying the artwork.
Here are more pictures from the outdoor mural!
it was such an awesome experience. Friends and family came out to help and little by little, we finished in seven days.
Because it was so hot outside, we started at 5 a.m. and stopped as soon as it hit 100 degrees, which was about 10 a.m. Then we came home and collapsed!
Okay here are some fun videos we made!
You can download the PDF above or right click and save this one. Tag me on Instagram or TikTok or Facebook is you color it!
Thanks for checking out my post about how to paint a mural! Here are the links to the awesome and creative folks who helped make this happen! Please give then a follow on social media!