Mural Painting Techniques
There are a variety of techniques for painting public murals including fresco, encaustic, mosaic, stained glass and
photography. The type of mural of most interest to contemporary artists is either painting on canvas or art board, which is then
attached to a wall or painting directly on the wall surface itself.
How to paint a mural depends on what you’re interested in painting. First you sketch out your idea, prepare the surface for
painting and gather supplies needed for your particular surface. Then you transfer your image to the prepared surface using
a grid system. Then the painting begins! It is highly recommended that you take a class in mural painting before
you start your first mural.
Several Techniques used in
A fresco painting, from the Italian word affresco which derives from the adjective
fresco ("fresh"), describes a method in which the paint is applied on plaster on
walls or ceilings. The buon fresco technique consists of painting in pigment mixed
with water on a thin layer of wet, fresh, lime mortar or plaster. The pigment is
then absorbed by the wet plaster; after a number of hours, the plaster dries and
reacts with the air: it is this chemical reaction which fixes the pigment particles
in the plaster. After this the painting stays for a long time up to centuries in
fresh and brilliant colors.
Fresco-secco painting technique is done on dry plaster (secco is "dry" in Italian). The
pigments thus require a binding medium, such as egg (tempera), glue or oil to
attach the pigment to the wall.
Mezzo-fresco is painted on nearly-dry plaster, and was defined by the
sixteenth-century author Ignazio Pozzo as "firm enough not to take a thumb-print"
so that the pigment only penetrates slightly into the plaster. By the end of the
sixteenth century this had largely displaced the buon fresco method, and was used
by painters such as Gianbattista Tiepolo or Michelangelo. This technique had, in
reduced form, the advantages of a secco work.
In Greco-Roman times, mostly encaustic colors applied in a cold state were used.
Tempera painting is one of the oldest known methods in mural painting. In tempera,
the pigments are bound in an albuminous medium such as egg yolk or egg white
diluted in water.
In 16th-century Europe, oil painting on canvas arose as an easier method for
mural painting. The advantage was that the artwork could be completed in the
artist's studio and later transported to its destination and there attached to
the wall or ceiling. Oil paint may be a less satisfactory medium for murals
because of its lack of brilliance in colour. Also the pigments are yellowed
by the binder or are more easily affected by atmospheric conditions. The canvas
itself is more subject to rapid deterioration than a plaster ground.
 Different muralists tend to become experts in their
preferred medium and technique, whether that be oil paints, emulsion
or acrylic paints applied by brush, roller or airbrush/aerosols. Clients will often
ask for a particular style and the artist may adjust to the appropriate technique.
A consultation usually leads to a detailed design and layout of the proposed mural
with a price quote that the client approves before the muralist starts on the work.
The area to be painted can be gridded to match the design allowing the image to be
scaled accurately step by step. In some cases the design is projected straight onto
the wall and traced with pencil before painting begins. Some muralists will paint
directly without any prior sketching, preferring the spontaneous technique.
Once completed the mural can be given coats of varnish or protective acrylic glaze
to protect the work from UV rays and surface damage.
In modern, quick form of muralling, young enthusiasts also use POP clay mixed with
glue or bond to give desired models on a canvas board. The canvas is later set
aside to let the clay dry. Once dried, the canvas and the shape can be painted
with your choice of colors and later coated with varnish.
As an alternative to a hand-painted or airbrushed mural, digitally printed murals
can also be applied to surfaces. Already existing murals can be photographed and
then be reproduced in near-to-original quality.
The disadvantages of pre-fabricated murals and decals are that they are often
mass-produced and lack the allure and exclusivity of an original artwork. They
are often not fitted to the individual wall sizes of the client and their
personal ideas or wishes can not be added to the mural as it progresses.
The Frescography technique, a digital manufacturing method invented
by Rainer Maria Latzke addresses some of the personalisation and size restrictions.
Digital techniques are commonly used in advertisements. A "wallscape" is a large
advertisement on or attached to the outside wall of a building. Wallscapes can
be painted directly on the wall as a mural, or printed on vinyl and securely
attached to the wall in the manner of a billboard. Although not strictly
classed as murals, large scale printed media are often referred to as such.
Advertising murals were traditionally painted onto buildings and shops by
Today’s muralists creatively use surfaces in an unlimited
variety of ways. Many artists incorporate the use of
techniques which combine realism with a dramatic sense of scale and amazing depth,
combined with an
extraordinary sense of detail., telling the stories of their own 'moment in time.'