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Mural masterpieces

Congratulations on your decision to create a mural - you’re about to embark on a project guaranteed to brighten up other people’s days!

Murals are a creative way to add colour and pride into a community, beautifying an area for all to enjoy.

Planning preparingand painting your mural

To help you create your mural, Resene has put together some tips and suggestions to get you started. If you have access to a professional muralist or artist make the most of their knowledge to make the job easier and get the best result.

Get your team together

Gather your team, allocate who is responsible for what and determine realistic deadlines for gathering materials and the mural painting. If you have a mural site in mind, a team visit would be a good idea. If not, one of the team’s first jobs can be looking for the site

Design your mural

Brainstorm with your mural team to come up with a range of potential themes for your mural and then vote on the preferred option. Then let all team members loose with pen and paper to sketch out their interpretation of the theme. You will then have a range of options to select from, or you may wish to combine a number of the designs together. Or run your own competition with the winner having the joy of seeing their mural painted.

Make sure the design is appropriate for the location - avoid words or images that may be offensive to others. Add details and logos to the mural so that others knows why it was created and who created it. Remember the mural will last a long time after you have finished.

Find a mural site

Search the local community for potential mural sites, noting the advantages and disadvantages of each. Contact building owners to determine whether the site is available for the mural. Make sure you have a second or third location as a backup as the first option may not be available. In some communities, the council may be willing to help identify a suitable space for your mural.

The ideal exterior surface is highly visible to the community, easily accessible, sound for painting and well lit.

Be realistic when choosing a location - if children are involved in the mural painting it may be better to pick a location with a wider mural and lower height so that all parts of the mural can be comfortably reached.

If finding a site is difficult, you may decide to create a temporary moveable mural painted onto wood or canvas. Temporary murals can be displayed in different locations such as libraries and shopping malls before being installed in a permanent home, which may suit your plans better. As interior temporary murals are usually smaller, they are generally cheaper to create as they can be painted indoors and require fewer materials.

Organise materials

Write a list of the materials you are likely to need to complete the mural, such as paint, brushes, dropcloths etc and determine the cost of the items. Many of these items, such as paintbrushes and dropcloths, can be borrowed from family, friends and neighbours and then returned clean at the end of the project. You may also wish to check with neighbours and friends and see whether they have any leftover Resene paint they don’t need.

If you decide to hire a professional muralist or artist, ask them to provide a quote for the job as this is likely to be your largest cost. If you are using volunteers, make sure you have at least one adult per 10 children to assist with the organisation and painting.

Community groups and local businesses may be able to support the mural with fundraising, publicity, volunteers and even the mural location. Send a letter to appropriate businesses and community groups outlining your plans, how any assistance they give will be recognised and arrange to follow them up within a couple of weeks for their response. Make sure you promote the assistance they have given you either on the mural or via any publicity you receive.

Prepare the surface

Now you have the location, the team, the design and the materials, it’s time to start painting! Make sure you prepare the wall properly first so that your hard work looks good for as long as possible.

If your mural is being painted over old unpainted porous concrete, wash down the surface with Resene Paint Prep and Housewash and rinse clean with water. If moss and mould are present, use Resene Moss & Mould Killer. Allow to dry. Seal the surface using Resene Sureseal penetrating oil primer, then you’re ready to start painting.

If your mural is being painted over an already painted surface, wash down the surface with Resene Paint Prep and Housewash. If moss and mould are present, use Resene Moss & Mould Killer. Allow to dry. Check the surface is sound with no flaking or peeling. If it is, you can start applying topcoats over the existing paint.

Murals will generally last longest on a well prepared previously unpainted surface. If the surface you are planning to paint is unsound or not referred to, contact your local Resene ColorShop for recommendations.

Most muralists prefer to apply one coat of white Resene Lumbersider waterborne low sheen paint to the walls as a neutral background before they start adding the colour. However if you have a predominant mural colour of perhaps light blue, you may wish to apply a full coat of this, to save you having to recoat it in sections later. One coat of paint must be applied prior to transferring the design.

Get your design onto the wall

There are a number of ways to transfer your design from paper to the wall. Here are some popular options:

  • Freehand - Each person simply directly paints onto the wall following the design guidelines. This is ideal when the mural is designed to show individual expression, not so good when there is a firm design in mind.

  • Grid System - The original design is divided into a grid. The wall is also divided into a grid. The original design is then marked onto the wall following the grid so that what appears in one grid square on the paper appears in the same grid square on the wall.

  • Projector - Photocopy your design onto a transparency and then use a slide projector to project it onto the wall or use a digital copy and a data projector. Outline the edges of the design. The projector option is the easiest way of transferring the design however you may need to borrow the projector from a local business. The projector option should be used in the evening (with adult supervision) so that the design can be easily seen on the wall. - Photocopy your design onto a transparency and then use a slide projector to project it onto the wall or use a digital copy and a data projector. Outline the edges of the design. The projector option is the easiest way of transferring the design however you may need to borrow the projector from a local business. The projector option should be used in the evening (with adult supervision) so that the design can be easily seen on the wall.

It’s time to start painting!

Resene recommend using Resene Lumbersider waterborne low sheen paint for all mural work as it is a self-priming finish available in a wide range of colours, including testpots.

If you are painting in the warmer months, try and start early in the day before the sun is too hot. This will help make the paint easier to work with and will reduce the time team members are exposed to the sun. Where possible try and shade the area being painted so that you can carry on painting without direct sunlight on your mural or your mural painters. If you find the paint is drying too fast, add Resene Hot Weather Additive. This is designed to slow down the dry time of Resene decorative paints.

Top tips

  • Protect the area around the mural by laying down dropcloths.

  • Where it is decided to create an outline that can be coloured in later, it is best to get 1-2 people to do this work so that the complete work is consistent. Everyone else can then get involved at the painting stage. Aim to have a consistently thick outline - it’ll look better when the mural is done. You can of course add the outline at the end... provided the person creating the outline is confident with a brush as it will be harder to hide any mistakes.

  • Make sure the team wears old clothes as they are guaranteed to get paint on themselves no matter how tidy a painter they are.

  • Start with large expanses of flat colour so that everyone can build up confidence before tackling the detailed areas.

  • Make sure you adjust your brush size for different areas - use large brushes for large expanses and smaller brushes for the detail. When painting large areas, large brushes can be used for the bulk of the interior and then smaller brushes to do the more detailed work where the colour meets another colour.

  • If using stencils, tape on with low tack masking tape and remove masking tape before paint dries over it.

  • Step back from the mural regularly just to check how everyone is going... there is nothing worse than finding annoying differences when you think the job is finished!

  • Make creating the mural fun - if the team isn’t enjoying the mural creation, there’s something wrong!

  • Hang up or display WET PAINT signs next to the mural to avoid accidental damage.

  • Don’t rush the work - tired team members will make mistakes. It’s better to work for a shorter time with a fresh team, than a long time with a tired team.

  • Wrapping a paintbrush in cling wrap will prevent the paint drying on the brush while you take a lunch break or overnight. Similarly put your roller into a plastic bag and tape it around the handle.

  • If touch-ups are required, work from the top of the mural down. That way drips can be covered up as you work your way down.

  • For long-term protection, the mural may be overcoated with a protective glaze and/or anti-graffiti finish, such as Resene Uracryl GraffitiShield. Check with your local Resene ColorShop for various options from acrylic glazes (suitable for anyone to use) to engineered coating systems glazes (best applied by a professional).

  • Accept mistakes as part of the process - don’t worry, they can always be covered up with more paint!

  • If you haven’t already painted it onto the mural as part of the design, remember to add sponsor logos and your group details to the mural so that others can see who has helped create the mural.

Clean up

Allow enough time at the end of each session to clean up materials. Make sure paint is stored correctly so it can be used again. Keep all the materials together and assign one person the responsibility of looking after them and making them available for the next painting day.

Consider donating any spare paint or materials left at the end of the job to a local school or use them to create other artworks. Alternatively, if stored properly they could be used for touch-ups if required later.

How to clean brushes/rollers

This system is based on the use of two containers in which brushes, roller sleeves and other equipment are first washed then rinsed. By rotating the containers the solids in the paint are separated from the liquid making it easier to dispose of each component, without polluting the environment.

This system will work well for both waterborne and solventborne (oil or alkyd) paints. For solventborne paints use mineral turpentine and any other paint solvent recommended by your local Resene ColorShop.

Follow these steps:

In the case of waterborne paints:

  • At the end of the job wipe or squeeze excess paint onto an absorbent material such as old rags, shredded newspaper or cardboard boxes.

  • Allow to dry and dispose of with household waste.

  • Wash brushes, rollers and other equipment with water in a 20 litre or similar sized container.

  • The most effective method is to use a roller spinner

  • Transfer the washed equipment to a second container filled with water for a final rinse.

  • Place lids on the containers or cover in some other secure manner and allow to stand overnight.

By morning the paint solids in the first container will have settled down to the bottom of the container. The clear water from this container may now be poured into a garden or any grassed or open area away from streams, rivers or lakes, where it can be absorbed into the ground.

Now to dispose of the paint solids at the bottom of the first container.

Scrape this out onto the absorbent material such as old rags, shredded newspapers or cardboard boxes. Allow to dry, then place in a plastic bag and dispose of with the household rubbish or take directly to the nearest council tip.

The second container now can be used as the first wash. Use this rotation system until the job is completed.

In the case of solventborne paints:

  • Follow the same procedures as for waterborne paints but with these exceptions:

  • Use solvents to wash equipment.

  • Allow the first container to stand at least 24 hours as it will take this long for the paint solids to settle.

  • Do not pour the clear solvent onto the ground - use it to top up the second container or decant and keep for future use.

  • Use the least amount of solvent


Never allow waste water or chemical solvents from washed paint equipment to enter household or storm water drains or sewers. The waste may find its way into natural waterways where it can reduce oxygen levels and threaten the survival of fish and other aquatic organisms.

Planning ahead

If you’re working with solventborne paint, it’s a good idea to keep a container of ‘dirty turps’ on hand for cleaning purposes. Kept in the original container and in a safe place, you will be able to reuse the solvent time and time again. Remember not to shake it up as this will disturb the paint solids, which will have settled to the bottom of the container.

Tips for dealing with spills

If paint is accidentally spilt, clean it up as best you can with a cloth or newspaper/media. Then treat with Resene Emulsifiable Solvent Cleaner and rinse with water. By treating the spilt paint with Resene Emulsifiable Solvent Cleaner before washing down you will save solvent and give yourself less work to do.

Unveil your mural

Have a party, invite guests or even just celebrate with your team - completing a mural is a major achievement so make sure you celebrate your success. Invite the local newspaper along to write a story about your project. Enjoy the praise you get - your team certainly deserves it.

Tineka McLean and team, GEB Community Kindergarten
Tineka McLean and team, GEB Community Kindergarten

Alpha Support Centre, Christchurch
Alpha Support Centre, Christchurch

Helen Weblin and Amanda Heeneveldt, Glenholme School, Rotorua
Helen Weblin and Amanda Heeneveldt, Glenholme School, Rotorua

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