Basic Techniques for Planning and Painting of Murals
While most paint effects are easy to master following the simple steps, mural painting presents more of a challenge. So there are some general guidelines which should help to galvanize and inspire you. The most common creative ideas that you can apply are those scenes that’s inspire you as a creator.
The most successful murals are those which appear to extend the room’s living space beyond the wall and which make this illusion seem architecturally plausible: elements such as terraces, patios, balconies, flights of garden steps or the continuation of roof beams as if in a conservatory can all be helpful. The perspective of lines of tiles painted on the floor of a pretend patio, for instance, will lead the eye into the mural and, because they are in the foreground, will look like an extension of the real world. If you can match the style of the real floor in the room with the painted floor, so much the better.
If you are embarking on your first mural, a board or screen presents a less daunting “canvas” than a whole wall. It also gives you the option to decide where in the house to place your masterpiece, once it is completed.
Finding the right blank wall to paint is unlikely to be difficult: it usually stares you in the face. Garden walls and patio areas are traditionally popular. A conservatory often has a dominating high wall to which the structure has been added. Long passages and windowless rooms such as bathrooms and toilets are obvious contenders for pretend windows. Recessed alcoves on either side of the mantelpiece in a living room can be turned into interesting focal points. Built-in cupboard doors in bedrooms and on landings are favorite locations. Sky ceilings or beach scenes usually go down well in children’s bedrooms. Because of the humidity it’s inadvisable to hang pictures in bathrooms, so they are strong candidates for murals, particularly seascapes or plant-filled conservatories.
It requires thought to integrate and make sense of existing structural elements such as sloping ceilings, doors and windows. If the window has a distinctive characteristic such as an arch, you can echo the shape in other painted features. On walls where a solitary window or door is positioned off-center or to one side, you have the opportunity to improve the architectural proportions. If you double the shape you will end up with a pair of windows, one painted and the other real. A pair of anything creates a desirable symmetry. The painted window should have a vista to match the real view as far as possible. The same principle could apply in the case of a door. Most doors and windows will not “float” comfortably in a landscape so you need to create walls around them – even a half-crumbling stone wall can look decorative and atmospheric.
You can begin with only the haziest idea of what you would like to achieve, even with an initial doodle on the back of an envelope. You may be inspired by a travel poster or a magazine cutting, or a landscape view found in some classical architectural reference book. At the next stage, you should begin to structure the design to include a foreground, middle-ground and background. It is always a good idea to frame a mural in some way. A framework of trellis and climbing plants placed at the top and a low wall with a row of pots, or a line of grass, at the bottom will make the rest of the scene recede, creating the important illusion of depth.
A useful device which will save you time and energy, and also to improve the authenticity of any mural, is to incorporate some real architectural features in the illusion. Dado rails, moldings, skirting boards, window frames, window shelves, shutters and even hinged windows, preferably without glass for safety, can all be included where possible and appropriate.
As a general rule, begin by painting the wall in off-white vinyl silk emulsion, which is not too absorbent a base for paint effects. On a piece of graph paper, firm up your design and draw it to scale, so that it can be translated easily on to the wall. Then, to scale up the outline design on the wall, simply divide the surface into large squares using a soft pencil and straight edge, then copy the outline shapes, drawing them into the appropriate squares.
It is usually best to paint the sky first, starting with a band of mid-blue at the top of the mural. Thin the paint with water or glaze as you move towards the horizon, as this part of the sky needs to be palest. As a general rule, use pale colors in the distance, and increase color intensity as you move towards the foreground. The brightest and darkest colors need to be kept for images nearest the viewer. When applying color to seas, lakes or distant hills, always use a soft paint effect like stippling or mutton clothing. The nearest hills need a rougher, more distinct texture, which you can achieve with sponging or ragging.
For botch-proof professional success, use stencils to create the important images in the mural. Before painting them, stencil the shapes in several coats of white to obliterate the background colors.
For indoor scenes, once the stencils have been colored in, paint a shadow to one side using an artist’s brush and cold tea (or thinned brown paint). Decide on the direction of the light source first. This should reflect the real light source and to establish its direction, simply place a hand flat against the wall and then move it away a fraction. Note the position of the shadow created by your hand. For outdoor scenes, you can highlight one side of the stenciled shapes with white paint to imitate light.