Painting my first mural: aching arms and lessons learnt

Posted on: Jul 29, 2020

Mural at Zero store Leamington detailFirst things first: why start painting murals? My freelance illustration business was merrily ticking along. Murals are large, physically demanding projects and, unlike pushing pixels on a screen, mistakes are much harder to correct! So why suddenly swap a mouse for a paintbrush?

The short version of the story is I had been speaking to a business coach, Anna Turney, and we were discussing the importance of big ambitions. I was getting a bit bored with sitting at a desk designing everything digitally.

Murals would be a fun way to reconnect with a more hands-on process

And what bigger ambition than to take on a wall-sized piece of artwork?

Next thing you know, I’m walking into Zero in Leamington and nervously asking Charlie if she would be interested in a hand-painted mural. The shop is a perfect example of an independent business serving the community with fantastic values, and I wanted to contribute to that. Charlie was totally open to the idea and over the following weeks I sent three concept sketches. We chatted and evolved Charlie’s favourite layout to include a very fitting quote.

Over several Tuesday evening sessions, refreshed with beers and cookies kindly provided by my client, I got to work!

Painting my first mural was a huge learning curve

Here’s a few things I will remember for next time:


1. It's a marathon, not a sprint

The slightly awkward position of this mural involved a lot of ‘arms over the head’ action, stretching and balancing with one knee on a countertop. In other words, it was a lot more physical than I anticipated!

At first, I was frustrated that I could only work for a couple of hours at a time, but in hindsight I think that was a blessing in disguise.My shoulders and arms were aching enough, so dread to think what they would have been like after a whole day!


2. The right paint will save you time

As this was my first mural, I wanted to work with familiar materials, so used acrylics over a base coat of white emulsion to make the colours pop. I know now that acrylics are not opaque enough, and I had to paint several layers to get the right coverage.

A paint that only needs one coat would have saved me hours! For my next mural I’m going to do more research into different options like sign writers paint. 


Mural at Zero store Leamington detail 2

3. Take more brushes than you think you'll need

You won’t always have the time or facilities to wash your brushes on site, so take as many brushes as you can, in different sizes.

I also took a load of old Tupperware to mix paints in, which worked out great as if I had some left over, I simply popped the lid on and disposed of it at home. 


4. Be patient when mixing colours

Getting the right colour is so important, especially when you’re trying to match brand colours. For the teal colour I was in too much of a rush to get some paint on the wall and it ended up being far too dark and I had to put ANOTHER layer on. On another occasion I didn’t mix the orange properly and painted on a big splodge of red - d'oh! 

These mistakes were mostly down to me being out of practice with painting and mixing colours, but patience plays a big part too!


5. Baby wipes, kitchen roll and bin bags are your friends

Baby wipes are great for quickly wiping off mistakes (you can get a pretty clean line too!) and kitchen roll is really useful for wiping off brushes. Bin bags are perfect for creating a large clean area to place messy paint pots and brushes. 


6. Don't be afraid to offer your services!

This whole project came about because I took a chance and asked. There’s no way that Charlie would have known I was interested in painting murals if I hadn’t! So ‘put yourself out there’ as they say and offer your services to build up a portfolio, and shout about your ambition on social media.

Even after doing one mural I’ve had loads of people tagging me in posts about potential projects, which is brilliant. 


There you go, my hard-won lessons learnt from my first mural. I’m really pleased with the result and Charlie’s told me she can’t imagine the wall without it now!

Get in touch with me if you’d like to discuss a hand-painted mural or illustration for your business:


Mural at Zero store Leamington

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