How To Paint A Mural

There are lots of factors that contribute to a mural’s success, and like most projects, preparation and planning are key.

Site Selection & Prep

  • Examine your surface. Ideally, the wall should be in good shape. Has it been previously painted? Were oil paints or water-based paint used? Does the wall look fl at or shiny? Is the existing paint flaking? Does the wall exhibit efflorescence—minerals that seep through the wall, leaving a white salt-like stain? You’ll want your surface, indoor or outdoor, to be as clean as possible. All flaking paint needs to be removed and any cracks filled. If you powerwash the wall, allow a week or so for it to dry. Are you painting on canvas that will be installed like wallpaper? Be sure to seal and prepare your canvas as well.
  • Outdoor walls that have dirt around them can ruin murals over time, as the moisture from the earth seeps up inside, causing damage from the inside out. Try to select another location.
  • Seal and prime your surface. We recommend using Fusion I.A. Series Binder to seal your surface from moisture, and Fusion I.A. Series Gesso to prime and promote better paint adhesion.Test for compatibility with a previously painted surface prior to application. If you choose to use other products, also test prior to application.
  • If you are sketching or using a grid to transfer your mural, lightly mark off the outlines of where your mural will be, so you do not have to gesso the entire wall!
  • Chroma Mural Paints and Mural Paint Markers will work on just about any properly prepared surface – cinderblock, brick, plaster, drywall, stone, wood, cement, canvas, etc. They can also be used for stage backgrounds and sets. For best results, apply when temperatures are between 65-75°F. Colder temperatures can impact the film formation and the absolute minimum temperature is 50°F.
  • High humidity also affects the mural’s drying time; when the relative humidity is above 70%, use caution when applying.
  • Avoid painting in poor weather conditions, such as rain, mist or fog or if poor weather is predicted in the next 48-72 hours.

Transferring & Painting the Mural

  • To transfer a mural using the grid method, measure your surface, and mark it into 1’ squares. Using a chalk line can help with this. For example, your wall is 10’ H x 20’ W = 200 squares of 1’. Next, on paper make a grid of the same amount of squares, but in inches, so you’ll have a grid that is 10” H x 20” wide. This is your working model of your wall, and you can plan your mural accordingly in this space. Working on one square at a time, transfer what you see on each paper square onto the corresponding wall square.
  • Numbering the squares can be helpful if you are working on a community-based project, so each participant knows where and what they will be transferring.
  • When possible, start from the top and work your way down, filling in the main areas of color. Just block in the major lights and darks as an underpainting until the main composition is covered.
  • Back up and view your work! It’s easier to fix any compositional issues at this stage rather than later.
  • Working on a few adjacent squares at a time, build details. Remember, most murals will be seen from a distance, so you won’t need as much detail as you think. If your mural is representational, working from background to foreground is a standard practice. Use expressive brushwork and drybrush wet-over-dry paint to build up the realism. Use Mural Paint Markers for lines, strokes and splatters.

Finishing the Mural

Loryn Spangler Jones artist Photo by Michelle Johnson
  • Apply an isolation coat and let dry thoroughly (48 hours) for best results.
  • Apply Fusion I.A. Series Pro-grade Exterior UV Varnish (Matte or Gloss) with a brush. Test in a small area before committing to the entire project. Occasionally, a varnish can become cloudy as it dries. This happens because the varnish was applied too heavily, overworked, or applied during unfavorable weather conditions.
  • Most varnishes should be applied when air temperatures are between 55-75°F. Do not apply in direct sunlight. Do not apply to wet surfaces or if rain or heavy dew is expected within 24-48 hours.
  • Apply 2-4 thin coats, letting each varnish layer dry thoroughly between coats.
  • Chroma recommends using Fusion I. A. Series of Coatings, Grounds and Varnishes. If you choose to use other products, test prior to application.

Surface, temperature, humidity and paint application affect any paint’s performance. Due to the individual nature of art, Chroma makes no express or implied warranties regarding the suitability of Chroma Mural Paint, Chroma Mural Paint Markers or Fusion I.A. Series Gessoes, Binders and Varnishes for a particular situation.

Murals by Loryn Spangler-Jones. Photos by Michelle Johnson.

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