How to Create a Gorgeous Painted Mural (Minimal Artistic Skill Needed!)

This colorful paint trend is easier to achieve than you might think.

Color is making a big comeback. As the popularity of cool gray walls and farmhouse-style shiplap begins to wane, paint trends are shifting toward bigger, bolder splashes of color. In tandem with a larger maximalist movement, colorful painted murals have been popping up all over social media lately.

living room with blue geometric accent wall behind sofa
Jason Donnelly

Muralists like Liz Kamarul and Racheal Jackson of @banyanbridges, for example, frequently impress with walls covered in color-blocked geometric shapes or sweeping squiggled lines. Other examples include watercolor-like abstract designs and organic scenes featuring tropical leaves or floral motifs. These hand-painted murals fill living rooms, bedrooms, hallways, and more with colorful, one-of-a-kind art, and they're easier to pull off than you might think.

In fact, part of what makes this project so popular is its accessibility. Painting a mural typically requires less paint than an entire room would, so you can often use leftover paint, sample pots, or even water-based paint pens to create your design. And because you're only using paint, you can easily touch up mistakes or repaint the entire wall if you don't like the final result.

If you're attempting to paint a mural for the first time, it's best to start small. Choose a spot above a dresser, at the end of a hallway, or in a corner that you could easily paint over if needed. To plan out your design, use a program like Adobe Illustrator (or a free design website such as Canva) to arrange a pattern of shapes, lines, and curves. You can also do this manually by cutting up pieces of paper or paint chips or by simply sketching a design freehand. Once you have it finalized, snap a picture or download your digital design. Keep in mind that free-flowing, organic murals can be easier to paint because they don't require the precision of geometric designs, but painters tape and careful measuring can help you achieve crisp, clean lines if you don't have a steady hand.

How to Paint a Mural

Once you've got your mural mapped out, follow these steps to bring the design to life.

What You Need

  • Drop cloths
  • Painters tape
  • Primer (optional)
  • Projector
  • Level
  • Measuring tape or ruler
  • Thumbtack
  • String
  • Pencil
  • Angled paintbrush
  • Detail brushes
  • Paint roller
  • Paint
  • Water-base paint pens (optional)
  • Baby wipes

Step 1: Prep the area.

Lay down drop cloths and use painters tape to mask off any areas where you don't want paint, such as the ceiling or trim. If you're covering an entire wall, prep the surface with a coat or two of primer. Otherwise, use high-quality paint that doesn't require priming, such as chalk-finish paint, to create your design.

Step 2: Sketch out your mural design.

Use a projector (you can often rent one from event rental companies if you don't want to buy) to project your mural design onto the wall. Experiment with the position of the projector to achieve the desired scale. Using a soft touch to avoid denting the drywall, trace the design with a pencil.

Alternatively, you can sketch out the design manually using a ruler or measuring tape and a level to achieve straight lines and equally spaced shapes. For curved lines or circular shapes, create a makeshift compass by placing a thumbtack in the center and using a piece of string pulled taut to guide your pencil.

Step 3: Paint the mural.

For extra precision, use painters tape to mark off straight lines. To prevent the new color from bleeding through the tape, paint the original wall color over the edge of the tape first. Once dry, apply the new color and remove the tape while it's still wet.

A bit of freehand painting will likely be necessary for circles, curves, and other irregular shapes. Use an angled brush and small detail brushes to paint the outlines, then fill in with a paint roller. Water-base paint pens are great for drawing thin lines or adding detail. If you make a mistake, use a baby wipe to quickly remove the stray paint, then clean up the edge with a small brush.

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