How to Paint a Mural

In the age of digital reproductions and high-end printing, some of the old ways are still the best.  Hand painted murals provide a high degree of impact for both interior and exterior spaces.

Large scale canvases, like the one above, require a production facility and a team of people to execute in a timely and cost-effective manner.  Mural Makers in Los Angeles helped me with this one and provided all the resources needed for production and installation.

Below are the steps typically used to create a mural using traditional methods. 

Facing a blank canvas is the most daunting task, so an overall value is laid down first that will serve as a base for the rest of the composition.  The inspiration for this one relates to a previous blog about collecting movie and theme park props.  The orignal, from the Haunted Mansion attraction at Disneyland sold at auction for a whopping $35,000.  For about $100 I can make my own.

Using an overhead projector, project the line drawing onto the canvas and trace it off with a pencil.  Make sure to have the reference material close at hand.


The painting process is pretty straight forward.  Set out a palette and comfortable work area.  The palette needs to reflect the overall tone of the piece.  Large brushes help fill in the canvas quickly.

Rather than moving up and down a ladder blocking the mural in, I chose to paint one section at a time to near completion.  This technique will require an overall final pass at the end to get everything balanced properly.


Larger shapes are blocked in first and then refined using a combination of wet into wet and dry brush to achieve the desired modeled effect and form.

After about three solid days of prep, drawing and painting, the finish line is in sight.

Blocking in the face is a “sneak up” on it process.  Little by little until the look is right.  It’s only paint, so if something is not right, it’s easy to fix.  The style for the piece is a modeled animation look, so broad strokes help achieve the effect.

And there it is, complete with grommet’s just like the original.  My mural painting mentor is a man named Frank Armitage.  He is a wonderful teacher and will help any artist get over their fear of a large canvas.

About PhillipFreer
Draws, paints and builds stuff. Designs Theme Parks, places and family destinations.

6 Responses to How to Paint a Mural

  1. Lindsay says:

    Wow. Simply amazing!

  2. Katherina says:

    Bookmarked, I really like your site! 🙂

  3. pb says:

    Impressive! Great info, thanks! But I’m curious — what about copyright infringement? How do you know which images can be used, and which ones cannot?

  4. Thanks very much for your comment and kind words.
    As far as copyright, are you’re referring to the reproduction of the original painting? If I reproduce someone else’s work, I always give them credit and I keep the piece in my private collection for my own personal enjoyment. They are never for sale.

    • pb says:

      Thanks. I was wondering if I was correct in thinking that reproducing an original painting is not a problem if the reproduction is not made to be sold, and you have answered my question.

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