I've done a number of murals and have found ideas and techniques that make it easy. After all, that's what I'm about; easy crafts.
1. Less is more. The first client I had convinced me that in a room with baby, baby furniture and toys, a full mural would add to the cacophony. You need calm, not mess. We did vignettes and I've done them ever since. Better to tuck a nest of baby birds in a corner and a bouquet of flowers behind a door than fill all the walls with busy jungle animals. I usually paint a focal piece over the bed and tuck small relative objects around the room.
2. Less is more. Make it pale, rather than bold. The very fact that you are working on a plain wall will make what you are painting pop, so you'll be more effective if you try to be subtle. Believe me, it will be bright enough. Sometimes I achieve subtlety by mixing some of the wall color into my paints.
3. Copy. Unless you are a prolific artist with a large portfolio, it's hard to come up with a perfect mural. Use book illustrations, greeting cards, wrapping paper, etc. as your templates. Don't feel guilty. Remember "Good poets borrow, great poets steal." It's the same with artists.
acrylic bottle paints
black paint pen (not a permanent marker -these are sold with paints and made by Elmer's or Krylon)
light box ( look at older posts in this blog to learn to make one)
I found this photo of a duck and traced it onto a piece of copy paper using a light box. You can blow up your drawing on a copy machine till it is the size you need. (You may have to join several sheets of paper)
Place graphite paper under the copy and trace it onto the wall. I like graphite paper better than carbon paper as carbon paper is more permanent. Graphite paper is like the lead in a pencil and can be erased. If you can't find it (it's available at Michael's), scribble a pencil on the backside of your drawing. If you would like to try this picture, download the duck drawing here.
Fill in the shapes with acrylic paint just like a coloring book. You learned this in elementary school. It should be familiar and easy. Use three shades; lighter, medium and darker. This looks like a white duck, but it's actually a pale gray. This allows me to add the white for highlights and the deeper color for shadows. (I used gray-blue for the shadows, white for the highlights in the body and mixed the 2 as the medium color)
Now comes the artistic part, the shading and highlighting. It's all about wet into wet. If you shade or highlight onto a dry surface, you may have defined edges between light and dark and it won't look natural.
You have to work rather fast or just repaint as acrylics dry fast.
1. Decide where the light will come from. The opposite side will be shaded. Repaint the shape in the medium color. While it is wet, roughly scumble the shade color on the dark side. The edges will soften and blend into the main color. The same goes for the highlights. Sometimes I use my finger to blend the edges a bit more. (I did that for the body of this duck.) I didn't need to blend the beak and feet. I used a yellow-orange for the medium color, darkened with an orange and highlighted with yellow.
2.If you want a sharp highlight; a catch light in an eye, or a highlight on a shiny surface, wait until the underpainting has dried, then paint on the highlights. (I did this on the eye of the duck)
The slightly textured surface of dry wall makes it hard for me to make neat and clean edges so I outline everything with a paint pen when I am finished.
I used a large stamp for the leaves on the trees in the very first examples. If you can't find one, cut it out of a mouse pad with an Exacto knife or strong scissors.
The graphite paper is "old school". If you have access to an overhead projector, use that. There are projectors for computers. Scan a picture or pull something off the web and project it onto your wall.
A permanent marker will bleed through if you ever decide to repaint your wall. If you do use a marker, rather than a paint pen, cover it with a primer such as Bin before repainting.
If you click on each of these pictures in this post they will enlarge and you can see them in better detail.