Mural Tutorial (A.K.A. What I Should Have Done)

I have been asked to share my tips and methods for creating a mural like the one I just completed in my Dining Room. 
This is really scary to me because I really don't have a "process" or "methods".  As with most projects I do, I just jumped right in with a half-baked idea and no clue as to how I would successfully pull it off.  So instead of sharing with you what I did, I will tell you what I should have done.  Ready?

1. Decide on a pattern and colors.  (I actually did this step!!!)  Pick something that you think is classic and that you can live with for years to come.  Look at wallpapers, fabric, art, magazines, etc. to find some inspiration.  Mine was this wallpaper from Farrow & Ball:
Then decide which colors you want to use.  I chose to only use 2 colors since the pattern was so busy: "Granite Dust" by Valspar and a custom match to the trim in our house, which I think is Sherwin Williams "Antique White".  Remember to think about staying power when deciding which colors and pattern to use - you don't want to decide a year from now that you don't really like your mural after all your hard work!

2. Decide how you're going to transfer the pattern to the walls.  You can free-hand it, get an overhead (check craigslist and rentals first!), make a pattern from cardboard to trace on the walls, or draw a grid on both your pattern and the walls and use it to sketch the design.  I free-handed mine, but if I had been able to find an overhead I'm sure it would have gone much faster!

3. Lay out the design.  (I skipped this step - oops!)  If you have an overhead, a pattern or a grid, figure out how your design will fit on each wall.  If you're free-handing it, you can still try to determine where how big your design should be, what should be centered on the wall and how the designs on each wall will meet.  You may want to enlarge your design (I enlarged mine considerably) to make things easier and faster. 

4. Gather supplies.  Buy your paint.  I recommend going with a low-sheen if you're doing a more detailed design.  I ended up painting over parts of my design and re-doing them, and a low-sheen paint hides the imperfections.  You'll also need a pencil or two, a good eraser, some decent paintbrushes of different sizes, and possibly a ladder and dropcloth.

5. (Optional - I certainly didn't have the foresight to do this!) You may want to do a mock-up of your design on a piece of cardboard or wood.  Practice sketching and different brushstrokes.  Then hold the board up in your room to make sure you like the design and colors.

6. Paint your base color

7. Start sketching!  Use whatever method you've decided to start transferring the pattern to the wall.  Try to draw lightly so that your pencil marks will be more easily covered up by the paint.  Keep in mind your layout and how you want your design to fit on your walls.  If you mess up, just erase it!  If it's a pretty big screw-up (I had several of those) you can paint over your marks in the base color.

8. Fill in with paint.  Try hard not to be a perfectionist.  Just fill in your design and have fun.  I personally like the look of longer, freer strokes, even if they are a little messier.

9. Go back with your base color and clean up edges and stray pencil marks.

A few tips:
* You may want to work in sections instead of sketching the whole design and then painting it all.  This made it seem to go faster, and if you drag your project out over weeks like I did, it looks more finished to have a section or two completed instead of a whole room in progress. 
* I am a big fan of Behr Interior Flat Enamel.  It is very low sheen, but it is smoother feeling than most flat paints and it's scrubbable.  It's also only $17 a gallon!
* Try not to choose a pattern with symmetry, especially if you're free-handing.  If I had taken the time to think about this before jumping in, I would have realized that my pattern required that my main wall be perfectly symmetrical.  This made things very difficult!
* Don't obsess over the imperfections.  I'm working on this one.  It's hard, but the imperfections are what make it art. 
* Consider doing this on one accent wall instead of the whole room for a "pop".


LIz @ It's Great To Be Home said... Best Blogger Tips

So gorgeous I almost don't know what to do with myself! Congrats, it looks amazing.

Amanda @ Serenity Now said... Best Blogger Tips

Great tips! It really is stunning, Britt. :)

McVal said... Best Blogger Tips

I'm surprised you didn't make your own stencil for it! I'm amazed it was all freehand!

~Country Lady~ said... Best Blogger Tips

I'm still shaking my head at the talent you have shown in free handing this. It's simply stunning and absolutely amazing.

Shelia said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi Britt! I so admire you tackling this huge job! You did such a beautiful job! At first I did think it was wallpaper!Thanks also for the tutorial! I've signed up to follow your blog - maybe I can learn something from you. :)
Be a sweetie,
Shelia ;)

The Pleasures of Homemaking said... Best Blogger Tips

I agree about not looking for perfection! I think everyone will be alot happier with their projects if they cut themselves some slack! This turned out just beautiful!


Jane said... Best Blogger Tips

Wow, it looks fabulous!


Just Bri said... Best Blogger Tips

I really want to try this... I think I need to find a small room or decide on a focal wall. Thanks for the inspiration and tips. I'm the same way... jump in and then learn as I go. It's beautiful and classic!

lupismore said... Best Blogger Tips

it looks amazing, truly a work of art... handpainted? OMG!! and i totally agreed on the "imperfections are what make it art" thing CONGRATS!!

Its So Very Cheri said... Best Blogger Tips

Just checking in with everyone and to give an update.
I have a new party starting- Wed Sept 2. So each week I will have the Knock Off Knock Out party on Mondays and the Holiday/Seasonal party on Wed. I hope you come for a visit.
New buttons to grab as well.
Its So Very Cheri

Freckles Chick said... Best Blogger Tips

Did you hear that? That was the sound of my jaw hitting the floor. I am AWED by your skills and this room!! That damask stencil handiwork, the stunning wall color, the furniture! I think I need to sit down, all this is making me a little light-headed. GORGEOUS work.

(Thx for dropping by my blog w/ your sweet comment!)

Shannon @ The House Creative said... Best Blogger Tips

I think I left a comment on the DIY showoff, and I wanted to comment here as well. This is so AMAZING! I really want to try this in my bathroom downstairs. You did an excellent job!

Karli @ RockyBella said... Best Blogger Tips

I can not believe you did that freehand!!! I'm ridiculously impressed.

Becki said... Best Blogger Tips

Wow, what an awesome job! Too bad that you live so far away...I would be hiring (begging) you in an instant to work your magic at my house! :o) Becki

Catherine Hansen Peart said... Best Blogger Tips

Holy paint job, Batman!! Oh. My. Gosh. You freehanded THAT???? I consider myself to be pretty handy with stuff but I am STUNNED. Well done!!

PattiVZ said... Best Blogger Tips

WOW! You are one incredible woman!

Jess said... Best Blogger Tips

Wow! Great job. Amazingly talented.

Kara said... Best Blogger Tips

I can't believe you painted that by hand. It turned out absolutely gorgeous!!! Simply stunning!

mary beth said... Best Blogger Tips

Good Golly Miss Molly! How theheck long did it take you to do the free hand sketching??? I am stunned! You need to start hiring yourself out for real money to do this! no wait..don't do that, it wouldn't be fun anymore. Congratulations on a wonderful job!

Amber said... Best Blogger Tips

Wow! This is SO fabulous! I love the look and can't believe you free-handed it and hand painted the pattern! Your dining room looks so chic. The colors are beautiful and now there is a little piece of "you" in your room, too! I hope you aren't planning on moving anytime soon. ;)

HeathahLee said... Best Blogger Tips

That is amazing! You did a fantastic job!

Melissa @ The Inspired Room said... Best Blogger Tips

I have hand painted a room before and it was a big project, especially for me who doesn't like to paint...you did a fabulous job! It is LOVELY! Beautiful room!

Kim said... Best Blogger Tips

Wow, this was amazing. Thank you for sharing your insights and helpful hints.

AnNicole@Our Suburban Cottage said... Best Blogger Tips

Oh my gosh! I'm so glad I discovered this post. I was just playing with the idea of doing the exact same thing in my master bath! Hmm, great minds :-).

Anny said... Best Blogger Tips

This looks amazing! Thank you for the tips :)

Gina said... Best Blogger Tips

Truely a wonderful classical look great job

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

I, too, can't believe you freehanded that! Wow! I'm going to try to "wallpaper" my bathroom using wallpaper stencils as I don't feel I could manage freehanding a design. I'm going to try the trellis stencil at stencileaze.com.

Erica @ Erica's Inspirations said... Best Blogger Tips

I just found your site through The Nester and I LOVE it! Keep up the good work! I can't wait to see more design ideas and hear about your upcoming adoption! I'm becoming a follower :)

Mrs. Stranded said... Best Blogger Tips

I have never been so impressed! I wish I had that kind of natural talent. There's no way I could free-hand anything, much less a damask wall. It's amazing.

Jen-uinely Inspired said... Best Blogger Tips

Wow! I am totally in awe that you did this freehand! Amazing work!!

Mark Brandon said... Best Blogger Tips
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Brandon said... Best Blogger Tips

DIY projects is most appreciated.. Why hire a contractor to build something when you can do it by yourself.

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