Thank you so much to one of my soul sisters, Tracie Davis of tiny by design, for taking time out of her busy schedule to help me out while I get settled here in Nashville :) She is an amazing artist!! read along to see her process of creating sweet interiors for the tiniest clients :)
Murals, Murals on the Wall
Hi Design Thoughts followers! My name is Tracie and in 2009 I started a business creating art for children called tiny by design. I am so excited to have been invited by the leader of Design Thoughts herself to write a guest post for her blog! Being an interior design forum, we thought murals would be a fun topic!!
my most recent mural...for a baby girl nursery
My adventures in murals began rather innocently and perhaps a bit hormonally. You see, I was hugely pregnant. Like most expectant mothers, I wanted a magical place for my new baby to sleep. Always having a knack for art, I decided to take on the nursery myself. Problem was, I had to go gender neutral (we chose the surprise route)…real problem was that I knew once that baby popped out, I would want something specific to a boy or girl. I decided to stay basic with a simple tree in the corner, gender neutral colors and a sweet phrase over the crib. After this first experience painting on a wall, I was in love.
My first mural...and my baby girl
My baby was a girl. Knowing that another baby was in our future, I painstakingly left the room neutral and went a bit nutso when we moved her into a big girl room. Itching to get murals on the wall, I got started right away…on another tree. Not very imaginative, I know. But my daughter was just starting to talk as we transitioned her to her new room. She loved the tree in her room, would always point to it and in that sweet little voice of hers she would say “chee, chee”. Hormonal again from baby number two, I felt guilty for moving her from her tree…so whalla – another tree.
Soon after came some bugs and a phrase….
Followed by a castle…
And then Toy Story…(I know Toy Story doesn’t really go with the castle and the tree . . . but she went through a Toy Story phase and I only have so many walls in my house)
When my son was born, I was quick to “man up” his tree and add some wildlife to his room.
Like a bear…
And a buck…
Somewhere in all this tree painting chaos came the idea to do this for a living. Wanting to add some knowledge to my love of painting murals, I bought some books. I credit my process to two books in particular: “How to Start a Faux Painting or Mural Business” by Rebecca Pittman for the business aspect and “Creative Kids’ Murals You Can Paint” by Suzanne Whitaker for learning the “proper” materials.
Here are some basic tips that I learned are necessary for painting the best murals you can paint (and I happen to believe that everyone is capable of creating beautiful murals for any room). I broke them into four categories – plan ahead, practice on paper, use your favorite materials, paint from your heart . . . or the hearts of the ones you are painting for.
A few of my favorite materials
1 Plan Ahead
I personally don’t get too caught up in the exact measurements of the wall, but I do make sure my sketches are proportional. Make note of door and window placement and decide how and/or if they should play a role in the mural.
This window was included as a part of the castle, paint was mixed to match the curtains and the frames made great windows on the side towers
The branches on this tree disappear behind this window. the shadowing was done to reflect light coming from the window and the branches are flowing as if a breeze were coming through the screen.
2 Practice on Paper
Thank goodness for a sweet little invention called a projector. Because of this little wonder, transferring murals to the wall is effortless. The first few murals I did were freehand on the wall…and I held my breath the entire time. I was so nervous to make any decisions for fear that I would run into problems. Now, thanks to my “Kwick Draw” projector, I can simply project my sketches onto the wall and draw them in place. You can make them bigger or smaller and adjust them to get perfect positioning for the room. I have a cheapo projector (less than $100) and truthfully it is all I will ever need. My “Kwick Draw”(you gotta love the name) can project images from up to a 6x6 sketch. For simple murals, I draw images on a 6x6 paper and project them to the size I want. For bigger, more detailed or more complex murals I draw them in the size I need, take a 4x6 photo of the sketch and then the photo onto the wall. The greatest thing is I can practice on paper as long as I need and make the bazillion changes necessary to get it just right!
The sketch for "Jordyn's Dream Tree" on a small sketch pad
3 Use the Your Favorite Materials
Here are a few of mine:
The best little piece of advice I took from the Suzanne Whitaker, Creative Kids’ Murals You Can Paint, is to mix all the paint with polyacrylic (roughly a 50:50 ratio – depending on the desired consistency). First, it saves on resources by getting more mileage out of your paint. More importantly, it makes the paint flow beautifully. Ughhhh, I didn’t know this when I painted the white castle my daughter’s wall. I really struggled to blend the towers evenly (white can be tricky to work with!) and they were so big that the paint dried too quickly for me to keep up. It took a crazy amount of time and paint to finish this project – and I now know it would have cut down significantly had I used polyacrylic with my paint. Oh well, hindsight is 20:20 as they say!
A side benefit to polyacrylic is that it gives the dried paint a protective seal making it easier to clean…and if your kids are anything like mine (and I know they are!) you will need to wipe their little fingerprints from your walls from time to time (or all the time).
Using a cupcake tin, I mix the paint ahead of time
Okay, I am almost embarrassed to put this obvious item in this post. However, I got a tad lazy while painting the Toy Story mural in my daughter’s room. My excuse is that I was painting in tiny snippets while the kids were occupied and I didn’t have time to deal with a drop cloth each time. But really I just got lazy. One day, my daughter knocked over the open can of polyacrylic and it spilled on the carpet. Let’s just say, it doesn’t clean up so easily (or at all)…and leave it at that. Actually, let’s just leave it at “if you want to hire me, don’t worry, I will always use a drop cloth!”
In the middle of a mural...and see, I am using a drop cloth!
Any combination of acrylic and latex paints will work. I started this whole process using cheap acrylic craft paint from Walmart. The murals I painted with it are still intact, have been wiped down from handprint marks and still look as vibrant as the day I painted them (and I would know, because they are in my house!) When I started doing murals in customers’ homes, I upgraded to Liquitex soft body acrylics (which most of the books recommended) and am happy with the quality and the vast selection of colors. This brand can be found in most craft stores. I purchase mine from www.dickblick.com. Blick art materials are delivered crazy quick, they have outstanding customer service and the lowest prices you can find.
I am not one to spend a ton on brushes for murals. Mural painting is hard on brushes so I prefer to go cheap and replace frequently. Some of my mural favs are Blick Mega White Synthetic Brushes for bigger areas and I love the Robert Simmons Expressions Brushes. I discovered them when I was offered a free wash brush with an order I placed with Dick Blick. I used this same brush on all my murals to date. I have since ordered this brand in different sizes and have been very happy with them. They tend to be my go to brushes, although I do use a wide variety.
Special effects stuff
I like to use old burp rags as clothes to make a muted whimsy look. Sponges also come in handy for creating cool textures. I also always have rulers, tape and a level on hand to ensure my lines are straight.
I used a wet burp rag to create the soft "leafy" feel for this birch tree
The soft branches in this willow tree were also created by using a wet burp rag
(aka disposable diaper)
I used blue painters tape to help keep my lines straight on the castle
4 Paint from your heart . . . or the heart of the ones you are creating for
Murals are a perfect way to transform a room. I specialize in kids’ rooms and truly believe that artwork can help bring tiny imaginations to life. I have the beautiful opportunity to see this everyday as my kids “interact” with the paintings on their walls. These genuine and innocent reactions are why I passionately do what I do.
My boy hugging his "moosey" before bed - every night
My girl in her "I will dress myself phase" talking to her owls.
I would love to hear from you! Questions, thoughts, comments…please feel free to leave a comment here or send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are also more murals and lots of wall art at:
Thank you for reading!
tiny by design