DIY Home

You Don’t Need to Be an Artist to Paint a Mural in Your Home

An expert shows us how.

May 16, 2022
Photo by Banyan Bridges

Picture this: you’ve just moved into a new home and there are nothing but white walls as far as the eye can see. While all-white interiors are still having a moment, if you’re someone whose aesthetic leans towards color and texture, you’ll likely be itching to layer some of that in—and quick. Enter: the DIY mural.

Whether it’s a living room that could use some personality, a nursery in need of warmth, or a run-down backyard fence that’s calling for an update, murals do the trick every time. You can certainly hire a professional muralist to come in and beautify your space, like Racheal Jackson of Banyan Bridges—or, as she recommends, you could easily take it on yourself.

“I started painting murals because I wanted my home to be more interesting on a budget,” she says. “I loved the look of wallpaper, but I didn’t have the funds for it, so instead I bought a few sample pots of paint for $3 each and used the two paintbrushes I had to create my first mural.”

Jackson says that for as little as $35, you can make a room feel dramatic, bright, playful, or calm. “I love murals because they’re so versatile,” she says. “Need a focal point in a space? Mural. Need something to balance out a wall? Mural. Feel like your space needs a pop of freshness? Mural. They’re the strongest tool in my arsenal when I’m problem-solving.”

If Jackson hasn’t sold you on murals already, read on to learn how easy it is to create your own by following these steps.

Photo by Banyan Bridges

1. Study Your Surroundings

The first thing that Jackson does when considering a mural for a space is to take a good, hard look at the surroundings.

“I want to create something that complements the rest of the room,” she says. For instance, if you’re drawn to geometric, ‘70s-inspired murals but you have a farmhouse space, that particular mural may feel out of place. Jackson recommends feeling it out and deciding for sure if this is something you want to add on. You can ask yourself these questions about the type of mural a room calls for before painting:

  • Does it need something strong?
  • Does it need to feel soft?
  • Do you need more curves in the space or some structure?
  • How is the color balance in the room?
Photo by Banyan Bridges

2. Start Sketching

Once you’ve figured out what you want to accomplish with your mural, it’s time to start sketching—and don’t worry that you’re not a pro artist.

“I use Adobe Illustrator for my sketches, but any method will work,” Jackson says. She suggests taking a picture of the room and using your phone’s editing software to draw on the photo. She’s also cut color swatches from the paint store into shapes so she can rearrange them to create a collage of the design. “Do whatever works for you,” she notes.

Having trouble coming up with a design that’s kind to newbies? Jackson says that when she was first starting out, all her murals were geometric because they’re so beginner-friendly. “I combined rectangles and circles to create stripes and arches,” she says. “That might be a consideration if you’re new at this.”

Photo by Banyan Bridges

3. Pick Your Colors

Once you have a sketch, you’ll need to choose your colors—something that Jackson says is the hardest part. “If you’re unsure about picking colors, find a piece of fabric or art that has the colors you like. Use that as a reference when choosing your swatches from the paint store. I prefer matte or flat paint for murals,” she explains. Also, take into consideration the color palette you’re aiming to create in the room.

Photo by Banyan Bridges

4. Sketch on the Wall

You may be comforted to know that you won’t use paint immediately on the wall. To minimize making mistakes, you’ll actually sketch your design on the wall first. “I typically prefer mechanical pencils for this step,” Jackson says. “I keep a pink pearl eraser handy. If my design has curves, I use a string, thumbtack, and a pencil as a homemade compass. If I've got straight lines, I use a level.” Jackson goes into detail about her favorite tools for the sketching and painting process on her website.

Photo by Banyan Bridges

5. It’s Time to Paint

The moment has finally arrived—get ready to paint your mural! But before you start, consider these helpful tips from Jackson.

  • Keep baby wipes handy for any errant paint strokes.
  • Use Ziploc bags to keep paint brushes fresh in between colors.
  • Make sure you paint as many coats as you need to make your colors completely opaque.
  • Keep tiny brushes around for any touch-ups you’ll need to make.

And most importantly—if something isn’t feeling right, you can easily fix it. “Remember that it’s just paint,” Jackson says reassuringly. “Anything can be fixed, and sometimes you don’t know what you want until you see what you don’t want. So, enjoy the playfulness and experimentation. You never know what ideas will come as you go.”

Have you ever painted a mural in your home? What did you paint?

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Shelby Deering

Written by: Shelby Deering

Freelance writer, flea market frequenter, dog enthusiast