Paints and Brushes:

There is no difference between a mural and any other painting – the better the paint, the easier it is to use and the longer it will last.

For interior murals, I suggest using the very best oils or acrylics you can find at your art supply store.

Exterior murals can be done with a variety of paint:

Exterior house paint blends badly, fades inconsistantly and is hard to work with if you are trying paint anything subtle.  It is the cheapest of all the alternatives but use it as a last resort.  For most projects, the extra time you spend trying to get a good job done with house paint will far outweigh the savings.

For simple designs that do not require blending colors, professional quality sign paint will do well and will last a long time.  Sign paint does not play well with others  – if you start using sign paint, use it for the whole mural, don't try to mix it with something else and don't expect it to blend with another brand.  It usually costs about $75 per gallon.

Spray paint – If you are accustomed to using an airbrush, you will find that spray paint works very well.  The big problem is that of color fastness – most spray paints (especially the cheap stuff that Wal-Mart sells) fade quickly and unevenly.  The advantages are that spray paint can be very quick and cheap to use – if you have a mural that is low budget, temporary by nature and not expected to last for many years, spray paint might be your best bet.  You can add years of life to it by applying a UV protectant clear coat after you are finished but, be aware that the UV clear coat will yellow with age – if you subtract a little of the yellow end of the spectrum from your original painting it works well.  You must reapply the clear coat every year.  Always use a gas mask when working with spray paint and be nice to the environment by using only paint that has non ozone depleting propellant.

Multi surface paints:  There are some paints on the market that are fairly decent for general mural use called multi surface paints – they are better than house paint but still do not have the pigment concentration for extreme sun exposure.  They usually cost less than $100 per gallon.

Acrylic Mural paint – There are now paints designed exclusively for exterior murals and they are wonderful, easy to use and smooth blending – some have up to 50 times the amount of pigment that regular paints have, making them very colorfast.  They are also very expensive – hundreds of dollars per gallon.  Well worth it in my opinion but customers often balk at the cost.  Some of the cost is absorbable - they are easier to work with than most other paint and therefore faster.


Always use the best you can buy.  Good brushes save you time by applying the paint more evenly and money by lasting longer.  On the occasions that I have lost my senses and tried to save a few bucks buying cheaper brushes I soon found myself driving back to the art supply store cursing my own stupidity.
For large areas of single color and for priming the canvas or wall I like painting pads – they are fast and last a long time.  I also buy a variety of large, wide brushes – it saves time and looks better to have one large brush stroke instead of many smaller ones.
For detailing, I use any good, stiff natural bristle and sable for fine details and more subtle work.
For certain things I use an airbrush – they are the best and fastest way I know to produce soft gradations and clouds.  Large areas of sky and clouds can be painted in just a few minutes using an airbrush that would take hours to produce any other way. I don’t like the look of paintings produced solely with an airbrush, the surface lacks a painterly quality that I happen to love, but for some things, you just can’t beat ‘em.  It is definitely worth spending a few bucks on a cheap airbrush and compressor and learning to use it.

Priming walls and Canvas:

Prime your canvas the way you would prime any other oil painting except you should always prime both sides.  The front with Gesso and the back with any good exterior wall primer/sealer.

Prime interior walls first with a standard exterior primer (exterior grade primers are higher quality and will not accidentally reconstitute while you are painting on the gesso) and then prime again with gesso.

Prime exterior walls with at least two coats of Exterior primer - no gesso.

 I am trying to be brief and this should get you started.  Everything else you’ll figure out along the way.

Introduction to mural painting        Scaling a design to mural size       Paints, brushes and materials for murals

email us at:

copyright 2003 Doug Myerscough