The Mural Process
What is the process of making a mural?
That’s a good question. Every artist has their own process of making art. No way is the ‘wrong way’ and no way is the ‘right way.’ Whatever way that completes the project that is most aligned with the intention of the mural is the best way. This is my way.
I’m a professional custom muralist and with that I work with clients to bring their visions to life. My intention and my goal is to leave my clients 100% satisfied with their artwork. It’s their artwork on their wall. I want them to absolutely love it. That being said, I aim to work closely with the client through the art making process all along the way.
Here’s my general process
This is where the client and the artist get to know each other. This can happen over the phone, email, in person. It doesn’t matter. The artist and the client need to get to know one another just a bit. Where is the client coming from with their desire for their art? Why do they want a mural? Knowing this will help keep things on track in every decision that gets made.
The concept phase
This is derived from the why, but taken further. Sometimes clients already have a concept and vision and have this step taken care of, other times they don’t. The concept phase is the brainstorming phase. This is where different ideas come out, and we combine things together. A pinterest board can help with this step. What is the intended feeling? Is there a style to be achieved? Is there an overall message? These are good questions to ask at this point.
The design phase
This is where things get more concrete. This is where we ask ourselves ‘how can we achieve this feeling, style or message? What images can be used to convey these elements? How can we put visual ingredients together in a composition to give the mural an overall flavor that we’re desiring? These are the nuts and bolts of the overall engine.
The wall may or may not need to be prepared for paint. This depends on what the wall is made out of. Is it stucco, concrete, wood, drywall? Everything will need a different preparatory cleaning, coating or priming. This step will ensure that the mural lasts as long as possible and doesn’t peel or fade.
The lay out phase
Once you have your design it’s time to put it on the wall. This can be done in a number of ways. It can be hand drawn using chalk, it can be brush painted, it can be printed and then applied, it can be gridded, it can be projected, It can be spray painted, it can be rocket launched (if you’re getting really abstract)... It doesn’t really matter, so long as the basic structure of the image gets placed on the wall. This is the perfect time to consult with the client of the overall direction. Granted, it’s just the bare bones of what’s to come so it can’t be judged harshly on the look of it. This is just the time least everyone can get an idea of the placement of elements, sizing and compositional structure.
This is sometimes called blocking in. This is where base coats of paint are applied, filling in large spaces with color. These swaths of color set the stage for what’s to come. This should be done using rollers, sprayers, or the largest brushes possible. This step helps in shortening the time needed to produce a large scale piece of art.
This is the layer where the image really starts to develop. Here is where the color fades take place. This is where details start to emerge. This is where the artwork really becomes defined. This level will be done with smaller rollers, large brushes and small brushes.
Now is when you can get a good and clear critique from the client. The painting isn’t done yet but it’s getting close. There’s still time and room to change some things if needed. As the artist, one needs to be ready for positive and negative critiques. A readiness to hear anything will protect the feelings of the artist and make sure the client feels heard and is going to be 100% satisfied. This is how the mural ends up as a win win situation for everyone.
The finishing touches
Now with any and all critiques from the client, the final moves can be made. This is when highlights and deep darks can be added that will make everything really pop. This level is done with smaller brushes, the airbrush or spray cans. This is when any and all tape is removed, any plastic covering anything is taken off, any switchplate covers are replaced. Basically it’s readied for completion.
All done! Time to celebrate!
So that’s a basic rundown of the mural process. Every project is unique, so every process will have its own special nuances. But if you follow this basic formula you’ll be sure to have a relatively high level of success in whatever large scale mural project you go after. Happy painting!