This past summer, an old friend from Miami reached out, asking if I wanted to paint a mural for his new Bushwick apartment. I immediately jumped at the opportunity, even though I had zero previous experience.
One of the most rewarding things about this project was not only getting to do it for a friend who gave me 100% creative freedom, but also diving deep into researching how the hell I was gonna make it happen. (To know more about the concept behind the mural, read here.)
In my mind, I thought it'd be as simple as buying some paint, some brushes, and voila, I’d just show up and get straight to painting. But like with any new project, there’s more to it beneath the surface.
I soon found out that painting an outdoor mural would be a lot different than an indoor painting. So, whether you’re looking to paint your first outdoor mural or simply curious about the process, below are some things to consider:
Material of wall: Is it brick, masonry, wood, etc? Knowing this will affect what kind of primer you should use.
Color: In this case, the wall had been previously painted dark grey. This means I’d need a high-quality primer (and more than one coat) so that my bright colors could show through.
Texture: This wall in particular was porous, just like many outdoor walls are. This means: a)buying rougher brushes b)putting in more work to cover any small openings (in all honesty, this was a bit tedious) c)finding a way to work around the bumps, especially with detailed work (inevitably, your lines won't always come out as smooth as intended)
Wear & tear: Not only does this mural get direct sunlight most of the day, but it’s exposed to the city's pollution and car exhaust. This meant I’d have to seal the wall after I was done so that the colors won’t change and so the paint doesn’t crack.
Paint: I got some mixed advice on which paint to use. The best thing to do is to ask a specialist from a store like Sherlin Williams. To be safe, as long as it specifically says “for outdoor use” then you’re good. If it doesn’t, then don’t risk buying it.
Wall size: This wall was approx. 11ft x 7ft, so I was able to use a projector to transfer my image. For larger scale walls, consider using a grid system.
Woodster brushes (2.5 inches slanted angle) and a small square top brush for fine lines and to fill in small openings
Ziplock containers: cheap way to store excess, mixed paint
Chalk for tracing image
Carpenters tape: any other tape could tear the paint off
Paint roller & extension pole
Bucket for water
A printed version of my image to refer back to
Wooden paint mixers: depending on which hardware/paint store you go to, they’re most likely free
+ Things to consider:
The paint will look brighter when wet (as shown in the photo). Once it dries it will darken. Consider this while mixing/applying the paint. (I spent an hour painting my background a darker shade of green, only to have to do it all over again until I got the exact color I wanted.)
I used chalk to trace, but consider using a carpenters pencil if the wall isn't too rough.
1 - Apply two coats of primer.
2 - Use the projector to trace the image onto the wall [even better if you have a pet-assistant by your side :)]
3 - The fun part...get to painting! Endure the heat, cold, hanger, whatever comes your way (shoutout to my friend David for keeping me fueled on iced coffee and constantly ordering food during that August heat).
4 - Once paint is dry, seal the wall, sign your name, and give yourself a big ol' pat on the back for your hard work.