Tutorial Tuesday - How to Make a Canvas Mural

I started out painting right on the wall when my first son was born. I painted a beach scene in his nursery and loved it. Then we moved. I was heartbroken, but rallied and painted a cowboy mural onto his wall in the new house. Then we moved. It was a little harder to get over this time.

I decided there had to be a better way of decorating with murals. How can I take it with me if I move again? The answer is canvas.

You could paint the mural on prepared (read: gesso'd) muslin and actually wallpaper it to the wall, but that wasn't portable enough for me. What I needed were huge canvas paintings that could be moved or changed on a whim. A canvas mural.

Here are some of the murals I've painted for my kids and others in the last few years:

Here is what you will need to paint your own mural:

Inexpensive acrylic paints.

Any brand will do, but I am partial to Folk Art and Americana. These paints sell from $.99 to $1.99 a bottle. You can really go crazy with any colors.

Prepared canvas.

You can find this at any art supply store, but they sell the same thing at Michael's Crafts and you can use your coupon. A whole roll of primed canvas could cost you as little as $30!

If you'd like your canvas to be attached to a frame, you can build a simple one like this out of 1x2's. Support the corners as shown to sturdy it up.

You can staple the canvas to the frame like this, wrapping it around the edges. It can be hung right on the wall with picture wire.

Some of my murals are attached to a frame, and some are just attached at the top to a board or a curtain rod and hang freely. You can't go wrong either way.

If you want a larger mural than the canvas allows, it's sewable. Just sew two pieces together and press the seam flat. To hang on a rod, just fold over the top and sew to create a space for the rod to slide through.

Now, this is the hard part...JUST PAINT! Touching the brush to the canvas/wall is the hardest part, but remember to keep a rag and a wet paper towel with you to fix your mistakes. This is water-based paint that will wipe up easily before it dries.

If you are nervous about painting all willy nilly, try drawing it with pencil first then filling in the sketch with paint.

If you are worried about sketching all willy nilly, take a picture you like to Kinko's and ask them to make a transparency. Then, go to your local library and sign out a projector for the night. You can trace the outline of the picture right onto the canvas. You could even mark a grid over your picture and then onto your canvas and fill in each square. Kind of like we all used to do in the Sunday Paper's learn to draw section...or was that just me?

I just finished these backdrops for my son's production of the Jungle Book by roughly sketching the main trees then adding foliage here and there. I attached some silk greenery, hung some toy monkeys, and added feet. See? You can make it 3 dimensional!

You can brush or spray a finish over it when you're done to preserve it. Make sure to choose the non-yellowing kind. I haven't ever needed to seal my murals (maybe out to laziness).

Just remember to have fun with it and your kids will love the result. They could even get in on the act to create a unique work of art for their own rooms!


  1. very cool... I've always wanted to paint a huge mural and my bf wanted me to paint him a natural scene. Problem is that my apartment is so small there's no where to even set it up to paint.. maybe I'll go to his home and paint in the garage.. thanks for the pointers about the transparency and projector!

  2. Okay. But for me?

    Canvas - doable.
    Paint - buyable.
    Walls - available.
    Skills? LACKING!!!

    Now YOU? You are awesome, girl!!!

  3. This is such a cool idea, you've got me wanting to try it. I LOVE the one you did with the fairies. You are seriously amazing at this. You make it look easy but I'm afraid that for me, it wouldn't be very easy at all. Maybe someday I'll give it a try and let you know how it turns out.

  4. When I was in high school, my friends painted a mural on my wall to illustrate the lyrics to Stairway to Heaven. It was totally awesome, and I am still sad I couldn't take it with me. I think it would look great today in my dining room.

  5. You have no idea how incredibly timely this was for me! I'm going to attempt (I don't know why I say "attempt" because I actually paint/illustrate fairly well) to do some canvas paintings for the playhouse we're building for my son. So much cuter, more personal and less expensive than purchasing artwork from someone else!

  6. overhead projectors ROCK! :)

    Love your Jungle Book scenery!

  7. Wow, these are great! Thanks for the tips, I'll be linking.

  8. Nice jungle book Murals displayed on here. I am an artist too and last year painted King fu panda mural on wall at my sister's place. As a fellow artist if you are willing to check my mural collection you can visit my blog at: http://santhosh-vilak.blogspot.com/search/label/Murals%20on%20Canvas

    Started painting on canvas murals recently...Post any comments if you have on that...

  9. It was extremely interesting for me to read this blog. Thanks for it. I like such themes and everything that is connected to this matter. I definitely want to read a bit more soon.

  10. I am organizing a mural-painitng group for a village project. I have painted large-scale on canvas before but it has always been on a framed canvas. Does the material need to be stapled down/attached to a canvas when you begin? I only ask because I don't want it to crease-up or warp before we finish. Any info you can provide would be great thanks. :)


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