Mural Painting

© Eric Grohe, "Liberty Remembers", Bucyrus, OH. Eric paints the fabricated metal cornices he had made and attached to the side of the building in order to continue the illusion of the painted ledge.

© Eric Grohe, “Liberty Remembers”, Bucyrus, OH. Eric paints the fabricated metal cornices he had
made and attached to the side of the building in order to continue the illusion of the painted ledge.

The many considerations an artist will face when embarking on a mural project may be imperceptible to a casual viewer of these large, often public, artworks. There are many different types of murals and mural applications, and each type presents its own set of challenges. The muralist will want to ensure the mural’s integrity by practicing a sound methodology, accounting for manifold factors that will influence the project’s success.

Whether the mural will be indoor or outdoor is a major factor that will affect the artist’s methodology. For an outdoor mural, an artist will need to consider the mural’s potential exposure to light or weather and prepare and protect the substrate accordingly. For an indoor mural, exposure to chemicals, humidity, contact or abrasion needs to be considered and accounted for.

The art materials used might also change based on whether the mural is interior or exterior. Certain colors are more lightfast and are more appropriate for outdoor work where there is a lot of exposure to light. Some colors are known to fade rapidly and may only be suitable for indoor applications. Artist-quality varnishes may offer the best protection for any mural; however, alternative solutions may need to be explored in indoor settings such as hospitals or schools.

Because of the large scale of most mural projects, expenses can quickly add up. Knowing how to get the most out of money spent, or learning some ways to cut costs without jeopardizing the integrity of the mural is important. Also, it is important to be realistic about the quantity of materials needed so that unexpected expenses won’t add up late into the project.

Time is an additional consideration. To an artist working spontaneously or in a limited amount of time, adequate preparation will be extremely important so he or she can move quickly. Another artist, whose project requires extensive research, preparation, and approval by many parties, needs to account for months of planning time in the project schedule.

Climate will greatly affect outdoor mural work. Climate changes can affect the drying rate of materials as well as the mural’s exposure to certain types of weather and extreme temperatures. An understanding of the specific climatic conditions of each individual project will help artists choose the right time to work and the right materials to work with.

Creating artwork for an environment where many people have the opportunity to see it is one of the most rewarding aspects of mural painting. This should also suggest the great responsibility of the mural artist. A mural is intended to enhance an environment, not clash with it or degrade it. If improperly done, the “work of art” can quickly become an eyesore. Many mural sponsors are now requesting that artists guarantee their murals for a certain period (usually 10-20 years). These agreements can be legally binding, which means artists will be held liable for problems occurring with the mural during this time. Careful planning, thoughtful preparation, and use of quality materials will help finished murals to have an impact that matches the artist’s good intentions.

Using Acrylic Products for Mural Application
Golden Artist Colors, Inc. has conducted testing and research on using acrylic products for mural application. The following paragraphs contain our specific recommendations for preparing substrates, selecting materials and giving protective finishes to murals made using GOLDEN Acrylics. Click here for more information about using acrylics on mural projects.

Substrate selection is often defined by a mural’s location. When working on the exterior of a building, (whether it be made of wood, cement, masonry, metal, etc.), and on interior surfaces as well, it is important to know how to prepare the substrate before beginning to apply paint. Different substrates may require specific techniques and materials. If not done correctly, the life span of the mural may be cut short.

Generally, it is always a good idea to take a substrate down to its original surface. Trusting the integrity of previous coatings can put mural work in jeopardy. It is also difficult to determine if these coatings will be compatible with other products that are being used.

If an artist chooses to overpaint a surface that is already painted, he or she should consider the type of the existing paint and its physical condition. If the paint is a water-based polymer (commonly referred to as latex), chances are good that the acrylic paints will adhere sufficiently. If it is a high gloss oil paint (or of unknown materials), then it must be abraded (or removed) for good adhesion. If the existing paint film is deteriorating, then it is best to have it removed (sand-blasted, power-washed, scraped, etc.). It is critical to wash any painted surface, even a newly painted surface, with soap and water to remove dirt and grime prior to application of acrylic products.

Previously painted high gloss surfaces can be cleaned and dulled in one step by using a household abrasive cleaner. Cleaner must be washed off completely with clean water.

Mold and mildew must be removed by hand-scrubbing with a mixture of 1 part household bleach to 3 parts water.

CAUTION: Never add ammonia or ammonia-based cleaners to bleach! Wear goggles and protective equipment while cleaning. After scrubbing with a brush, allow the solution to sit on the surface for 10 minutes before thoroughly rinsing off with clean water.

If there are cracks and grooves in the substrate, the method for filling and smoothing these gaps will depend on the nature of the substrate itself. Artists should consult an area architectural coatings store for recommendations on the best product available.

Once the surface has been cleaned, a primer coat will give better adhesion for the paint. One key feature to look for in a primer is whether or not it can be painted over by latex paints. This should ensure that the primer will be a compatible surface for the adhesion of waterborne acrylics.

To determine the best primer for a specific surface, we suggest artists contact their local supplier of architectural coatings. Such companies have extensive experience with priming the broad spectrum of building supplies, and typically have specific primers for the surface the mural is to be painted on. Their recommendations will also take the environmental concerns of the area into account. Architectural and maintenance paints are competitively priced, meaning that a product that costs more than a similar product will typically perform better as well.

When painting on brick, concrete, or other masonry surfaces, we recommend use of a masonry conditioner that can be purchased from a commercial coatings supplier.

In some cases, muralists will want to consider painting on panels (wood, aluminum, fiberglass, etc.) rather than directly onto a wall. There are various reasons an artist may choose to work on panels. Sometimes the existing substrate is too difficult to work on. It could also be a matter of convenience since painting on panels will usually allow an artist to work in his or her studio. Painting on panels is a good alternative for someone who doesn’t have access to scaffolding or other equipment. It can be much easier than painting off a ladder all day. Panels can also be a safer, cleaner way to work with groups of children or other large groups of people. If artists choose to work on panels, they will want to make sure they choose the right kind of panel for the right situation. Preparation of panel substrates will also depend upon the chosen material. (See Mural Quick Reference Guide, page 11.)

Paint Selection
Acrylics are some of the most durable and accessible paints for exterior application, used by many artists for painting murals due to their lightfastness and weather resistance. They also form an excellent bond to masonry or cementous surfaces. Oil paints are a poor choice for painting on these surfaces since the alkalinity of concrete can destroy alkyd or oil products. Ethyl-silicate paints form an excellent and permanent bond with brick or concrete; however this system can be time-consuming and costly, and a good working knowledge of the materials is required as well. Solvent-based enamels are a good choice for durability, but manufacturer’s pigment considerations are usually not the same as with a high-quality artist’s acrylic paint.

Golden Artist Colors, Inc. produces several lines of paints that can be used for mural work. Selecting which type of paint to use is dependent on each artist’s style and the surface to be painted. GOLDEN Heavy Body, Matte, MSA, Fluid and Airbrush Colors (see below) can all be used for mural work. The artist must determine if the texture will influence the way he or she paints. For example, if painting on brick, it will be tough to get a smooth line on such a textured surface with the Heavy Body Colors as is. They need to be thinned with GAC 200 (which also increases film hardness and potential durability) or the artist may consider switching to the Fluid Colors. The thinner consistency will allow the paint to flow into the crevices of the brick. Mixing Fluids and Heavy Body Acrylics together will produce a consistency similar to house paint, ideal for covering larger areas on most surfaces. (Refer to the chart above for assistance in selecting a suitable paint line.)

Color selection is especially important to minimize fading of acrylic paints. The GOLDEN Pigment Identification Chart ( lists the relative lightfastness and permanency ratings of all our colors. For maximum longevity, we recommend using only colors with a lightfastness rating of I and a permanency rating of Excellent. (See chart page 11 for best recommendations.)

Please note: Cadmium pigments should not be used outdoors as premature fading will occur. Ultramarine Blue and Cobalt Blue should not be used at full strength for outdoor projects. Mixing with other colors or diluting with GOLDEN Gels or Mediums will improve exterior durability.

Although GOLDEN Acrylics are optomized for traditional easel painting, the acrylic resin is somewhat soft for mural work, and should be modified with a harder acrylic medium to maximize durability. Adding GAC-200 also reduces the pigment load of the paint mixture, making the paint more binder-rich, which extends exterior lifetime. This is especially important if the artist chooses not to topcoat with a varnish. We suggest blending 1 part GOLDEN GAC 200 for every 2 to 4 parts paint.

For exterior spray application, using GOLDEN Fluid Acrylics thinned with Airbrush Medium will be the most durable option. GOLDEN Airbrush Colors can also be used, but they should be blended with GOLDEN Airbrush Transparent Extender and given a protective varnish to increase durability. In spray application, the GAC 200 is not practical to use as it will thicken the paint and interfere with sprayability. Another approach would be to top-coat the Airbrush Colors with a sprayable isolation coat using a 2:1 mixture of GAC 500:GOLDEN Airbrush Transparent Extender.

Final Coats
A final topcoat will give a mural more durability when exposed to environmental factors. The mural artist has a few choices on how to provide additional protection to the finished mural. One option is to apply an artist-quality varnish that is removable with various solvents, allowing for graffiti removal and general maintenance. GOLDEN MSA Varnish w/ UVLS is such a product, and more complete application information is provided below.

Another choice for protecting the mural is to use some of the various graffiti-resistant finishes that are commercially available. These range from protective wax coatings that are removed with hot water to the 2-component solvent-based polyurethane coatings. They tend to have excellent chemical resistance, so that graffiti can be fairly easily stripped off without harming the coating. They also have excellent weatherability, and thus require less maintenance than some of the other choices. Please note: we have not thoroughly evaluated these systems. As the coatings are not removable should they fail, we suggest artists get all available information from manufacturers or consult mural groups having previous experience using these products to determine the best choice for each specific application.

Listed below are the application recommendations for using:

We recommend a 2-step system, the first being a permanent isolation coat, followed by GOLDEN MSA Varnish, a removable varnish. The function of the isolation coat is to physically isolate the paint from the removable varnish (which makes varnish removal much easier and safer to the paint surface). An isolation coat also develops a thicker layer of acrylic, which will give better protection and durability and serves to unify the acrylic paint layer.

Isolation Coat Application:
Choice of isolation coat should depend upon the artist’s application method. Another consideration is the surface texture, as brush-applying the isolation coat and varnish over a highly textured surface can generate foam in the isolation coat. For spray application, we recommend a 2:1 mixture of GAC 500 to Transparent Airbrush Extender. For brush application, we recommend a 2:1 mixture of Soft Gel Gloss to

Varnish Application:
After the isolation coat is applied and has thoroughly dried (1-2 days, but no more than 1 week for maximum performance), GOLDEN Mineral Spirit Acrylic (MSA) Varnish can be applied. The MSA Varnish w/ UVLS is an excellent choice as a protective finish. This product provides a tough, durable surface that increases resistance to moisture and pollutants. The UV stabilizing system will serve to reduce the destructive potential of ultraviolet radiation from the sun, thus enhancing the life of the system. This varnish is removable in mineral spirits, turpentine and various aromatic solvents, which is a useful property for either graffiti removal or maintenance purposes. Spray application is recommended (1-3 separate coats).

Note: Breathability is important to the successful adhesion of acrylic products. If a mural encompasses an entire wall made of a masonry product, it is advisable to apply thin coats of MSA Varnish. This will allow interior condensation and evaporating solvents and out-gassings to escape (some artists recommend leaving an uncoated breathing space near the edge of the mural as well). If this is not done, it may lead to premature adhesion failure between the coatings and the substrate.

GOLDEN only recommends its MSA Varnishes for exterior work, NOT the Polymer Varnish. Polymer Varnish does not have the same exterior durability as the MSA.

Eric Alan Grohe
Eric Grohe Murals & Design
During his 40 year career as a professional artist, Eric Grohe has received national recognition for painting large scale figurative and architectural murals for clients across America. In 1994 and again in 1998 he won Design Awards from the American Institute of Architects. He won first place awards two years in a row in the national Signs of the Times mural competition. Clients include The State of Ohio, The American Hop Museum, Miller Brewing Co., Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., and Nordstrom Inc.

When Eric Grohe undertakes a mural project, the process is usually long and very elaborate. His Trompe L’Oeil effects are extremely detailed and take a considerable amount of time to complete. He has worked on large-scale projects for major corporations and government entities. Due to the nature of his clients, he often uses costly materials and extensive planning time is included in his fee.

Eric usually paints alone, but on very large projects he will employ as many as 8 people to assist him. In the past he hired art students attending colleges near the mural site who displayed exceptional artistic abilities.

Eric is currently working on an indoor mural for Miller Brewing Co. The painting, to be installed in an active fermenting room, will portray an operating brewery at the turn of the 20th century and will give the illusion that the room expands into other rooms. For this project he chose to work on 16’ x 10’ aluminum panels. He reached this decision after considering what substrate could best resist a hot and humid brewery environment. The existing walls had also been previously coated with an epoxy-based material. Rather than grinding the surface down to something he felt comfortable working with, he chose to put the same time and money into design and purchase of the aluminum panels.

To prepare the aluminum panels, Eric washes them with soap and water. Then he etches the surfaces to give the panels some “tooth” for painting. There are two ways that aluminum can be etched: it can be physically etched by running an orbital sander over the surface (a protective respirator should be worn) or chemically etched by applying a mixture of Pre-etch Acid and Yellow Resin, both made by Triangle Coatings. Finally, the panels are primed with Triangle’s Multiblock Vinyl Primer Gesso, creating a white surface on which to paint.

Eric is working in oil paints on this project, although he occasionally works indoors with acrylic. He will also use artist’s enamels when a mural might be exposed to a lot of abuse. He appreciates the decal-like effect he can create with enamels as well.

On outdoor projects, Eric has had a lot of experience working on freshly cast concrete. To prepare this surface he also performs a three step process of washing, etching, and priming. He usually hires a contractor to power wash the surface, cleaning and removing any attached objects. The concrete is then etched with a muriatic acid which gives a nice tooth to the surface. Then it is primed and ready to be painted.

Eric often uses Keim mineral paints on masonry or cementous surfaces. These coatings actually penetrate, or “silicify” with, the surface of the substrate, making them incredibly durable. “Although they are more expensive,” says Eric, “the cost of materials is often an insignificant part of the overhead for my clients. If they are not willing to pay the extra money for longer lasting paints, they usually aren’t interested in the type of service we have to offer.”

When painting on north facing walls, walls not in direct sunlight, or when Keim use is inappropriate, Eric uses acrylic paints on his exterior murals. Although he has used a mixture of artist paints and house paints in the past, Eric plans to use GOLDEN Artist Acrylics exclusively for future projects. “At this stage it is not worth the risk of using less expensive and more doubtful materials,” he says.

For his protective coatings, Eric has adapted a two-step process that he learned from GOLDEN’s technical support team. He wanted to achieve a flat effect with his varnishes, and through experimentation he developed the following method. First he applies a layer of GOLDEN Soft Gel Medium Semigloss as a “shield” coat. Then he applies a coat of GOLDEN MSA Varnish Matte diluted with Stoddards Mineral Spirits. Eric found the Stoddards to be the best mixing mineral spirits. No final coating is applied to the “breathing” Keim surfaces. (Note: GOLDEN recommends using only Soft Gel Gloss and MSA Varnish Gloss for similar applications).

Eric reports one problem he had working with concrete. The contractor he hired to clean the surface was supposed to make sure all of the form release agent applied to the concrete was removed (form release agent is meant to aid the concrete in separating from the casting forms). A small area in one corner of the building was not cleaned sufficiently. A background color was applied by another contractor who failed to notice the form release agent still attached to the building. Finally, when Eric pulled up some tape used to protect an area of the mural, some of the paint came off. On the back of these paint chips was evidence of the form release agent, meant to gradually separate from the building over time. Eric had to go back and repair the mural, and he warns that if artists use a contractor it can be more difficult to ascertain if the job was done correctly.

When working on a previously coated wall, says Eric, it is always a good idea to take it back down to the original surface. He remembers a problem he had on his very first outdoor mural, painted on a wooden building that was freshly painted.Three years later the entire mural was reduced to “potato chips,” as Eric describes them, because the paint the mural was painted over had failed. He also suggests that artists should be wary of uninformed people who may overcoat their murals after they leave. In some cases the coatings may not be compatible, and that can be a big problem.

About 10% of Eric’s time and budget is dedicated to planning and preparation. He consults technicians and contractors to help determine how long a work of art, or the building it will be painted on, can last. Eric also cooperates with architects and park designers so his murals will work with existing or forthcoming architectural elements. Projects involving community planning usually take longer to plan and gain approval.

If Eric is working on a mural project for a community, he will conduct extensive research on the town’s history or simply visit for a while before he starts painting. He feels very strongly that murals should “belong” in their environment. He cites the negative example of murals that may be nice images but are completely disproportionate to their surroundings. “These murals can be a great disappointment,” says Eric, “and this is bad for everyone involved. A successful mural can be a source of renewal or inspiration for a community, and is great for the mural business in general. A poorly executed or disproportionate mural by any artist is not only disappointing but can discourage potential clients from commissioning murals of their own.”

Chuck Webster & David Ellis Barnstormers
Barnstormers is a collective of New York City artists who create large-scale collaborative murals. The group has produced two time-lapse films capturing a constantly changing mural painting created by many different artists. Barnstormers continue to experiment with performance and collaboration by painting murals to live music with DJs and bands in New York, Japan, and Cuba.

The Barnstormers are very interested in collaboration, spontaneous creativity and the public aspect of mural painting. Every year since 1999, Barnstormer founder David Ellis and about 20 other artists have made a trip to Cameron, North Carolina where the group painted a multitude of dilapidated barns, remnants of a faltering tobacco industry. There are about 45 Barnstormers altogether, although only about 20 at a time make the trip to Cameron.

Mural longevity is not as great a concern for the Barnstormers since the barns they paint on may fall apart before the murals will. Photo and film documentation are very important to the Barnstormers, however, and it is in this way they intend to preserve the imaginative murals created by members of the group.

Because the barn-painting project is conceptually oriented, substrates are generally defined for the artists rather than chosen. Ellis says that they have encountered barns made of wood, metal, and cinderblock, although the barns are usually made of wood. Many of the wooden barns were covered in tarpaper, similar to asphalt roofing shingles, that served as a layer of insulation for barns used to dry tobacco. Some farmers ripped this paper off to prepare the surface for the artists, but Ellis discovered that the tarpaper actually made for an excellent substrate. It completely protected the surface from moisture that could seep through the back of the mural, was non-absorbent, and had a nice tooth to hold paint. The wood underneath the tarpaper, however, was extremely dry since it had been protected from moisture for so many years. When the first coat of paint was applied to these barns, so much was absorbed that the paint no longer could be seen. For a 20’ X 20’ barn surface, five to ten gallons of house paint were needed just to build up an adequate base coat.

Cost is a major factor for the Barnstormers since they don’t receive paid commissions for their projects. They mostly use materials donated from paint companies and retailers. For this reason, materials vary widely depending on what is available. A lot of house paint is used, but artists bring their own GOLDEN Artist Colors and other artist paints for crucial details or key colors. In the past, for a protective finish, the Barnstormers spray-applied a clear, oil-based varnish that was also donated.

Chuck Webster, a member of the Barnstormers, adds a twist to making murals on a wooden substrate. On a 17’ X 14’ barn made of dried poplar wood, Chuck made a woodcut by carving into the barn siding. Although he used housepaint to prime the substrate on this project, he recommends preparing substrates for woodcuts by sealing the wood with a 50:50 mixture of shellac and alcohol.

© C.Webster, Barnstormers, "A Hand up for Cameron," 140" x 220", 2000

© C.Webster, Barnstormers,
“A Hand up for Cameron,”
140″ x 220″, 2000

To get the basic image on the barn, Chuck used an overhead projector to enlarge a sketch that he made (this had to be done at night). Then he traced the projection in paint on the substrate. Chuck only had six days to complete the project, so the projection really helped him to speed up the process of getting a scaled image to work with.

Chuck used traditional carving tools as well as a small, lightweight chainsaw for carving out the surface (protective equipment is recommended). When the carving was done he rolled out a few gallons of red paint on a portion of the mural that was to be the printing surface. With the help of some other Barnstormers, Chuck successfully printed his mural onto a 9’ by 7.5’ sheet of paper.

To protect the mural, Chuck roller-applied a glossy exterior polyurethane topcoat. This worked well since there was minimal paint coverage, and Chuck also really appreciated the finished quality the glossy coat gave to the bare wood.


© C.Webster, Barnstormers, “Cameron,” 104″ x 90″, Woodcut print from barn, 2000

Rain has plagued a couple of the Barnstormer trips, making the painting process more difficult and a lot messier. Since the trips usually lasted only 1 – 2 weeks, the Barnstormers persevered and painted anyway, setting up tarps or plastic tents to work under when necessary. In rainy situations, muralists using oil-based paints were more successful. Acrylic or latex paints had a tendency to wash off or run together.

Humidity in the North Carolina climate also affected the methodology of the mural painters. Because it was so humid, acrylic and oil-based products took longer than usual to dry. Since the Barnstormers were working on a tight schedule, it was important that the paint should dry quickly. Acrylic paint proved to be more advantageous in this regard, but they also mixed their oil-based products with Japan Drier to speed up the drying process. In some cases, mixing Japan Drier with the various paints produced cracking and other random effects. Since the Barnstormers enjoy spontaneity this was apparently no problem for them, but an artist looking for more controlled results should use caution when attempting this kind of application.

Typical mural cross section - more than is visible on the surface

Typical mural cross section – more than is visible on the surface

The Barnstormers plan on continuing their annual trips to Cameron, North Carolina, and they also plan to continue filmmaking and performing internationally. The group is currently seeking more towns, neighborhoods, or individual barn-owners interested in hosting Barnstormer mural projects.

Lenna Kay Weinstein
Mural Masters Of Colorado
Mural Masters Of Colorado is an art design production company specializing in murals and wall sculpting including frescoes and bas-relief. Clients include theater and television producers, restaurants and showrooms, and many private homes. Lenna’s work has been featured in Better Homes and Gardens, Colorado Homes and Lifestyles Magazine, and Denver Living Magazine.

Lenna Weinstein’s murals, which often cater to the home decorating market, are more than just paintings on a wall. Her murals are unique because she forms three-dimensional surfaces, building up layers of texture or carving bas-relief. Creating realistic walls of stones, bricks, marble, logs, wood grain and tile on drywall or wood surfaces, Lenna works to shape a whole environment. In addition to her murals she offers a line of sculpted or faux finished products including switch plates, medallions, picture frames and furniture.

© Lenna Kay Weinstein, "Textured and sculpted arch"

© Lenna Kay Weinstein,
“Textured and sculpted arch”

Lenna specializes in giving a classical or antique effect to contemporary building materials. She often works directly on drywall, disguising the substrate with her artistic finishes. Lenna tells us that no preparation is necessary on drywall that is painted with a flat or eggshell finish. On a gloss surface, however, she gives a light sanding and applies a layer of GOLDEN Acrylic Glazing Liquid (AGL) before she begins painting.

If Lenna is building up one of her textured surfaces, such as brick or stone, she will begin applying layers of plaster or GOLDEN Molding Paste to the primed surface. She stresses that the layers of plaster should not be too thick as that can increase the risk of cracking. Often, after building the texture up with plaster, she applies Molding Paste as a finishing layer to paint on. She does not suggest mixing the two materials together.

For added ornamentation, Lenna uses sculpting techniques to create three-dimensional fruits, leaves, and flowers on her murals. In many cases she does this by coating artificial flowers, leaves and fruits with Molding Paste, building up layers until the objects appear to be sculpted. Occasionally she will sculpt these objects directly from the surface she is working on, or combine the two different techniques together. The three-dimensional objects are eventually primed with gesso or household primer, and then Lenna paints them with metallic paints or paints them to look like stone.

Generally, when working on large murals, Lenna will mix her color choices with GOLDEN Artist Colors, then have these colors matched with house paint. Most of her surfaces will be painted with the house paint, but she uses GOLDEN Acrylics to enhance certain areas when it is appropriate. Lenna has used up to 35 cans of paint plus artist colors on large projects. She uses a lot of AGL as well since she mixes it with most of her colors.

Lenna also uses the AGL as a final finish on interior walls. She applies it to the painted surface with a roller and then pats it down with a sponge. Working indoors most of the time, Lenna tries to stay away from solvent-based protective coatings, especially those with strong smells.

Living in Colorado, says Lenna, the air is very dry and that can make working difficult. Plaster and other sculpted work can crack if it dries too rapidly, and paint needs to stay wet for some time to create certain effects. Lenna finds ways of compensating for the dryness, such as using AGL with her colors to extend the drying time. Still, she has to be careful how she applies her materials to avoid problems with the dry environment.

Job preparation in any home or business, large or small, is extensive, says Lenna, so as not to cause any damage. She usually videotapes the area she will be working in to protect herself from responsibility for existing problems. When doing plaster work, Lenna uses a lot of masking tape and brown paper. She always puts a sheet of plastic down on the floor first, and then covers the plastic with heavy drop cloths.

Currently, Lenna is in the planning stages of setting up co-op mural programs for independent living facilities, nursing homes, art stores, YMCAs, and more.

Mark Switlik
Switlik Murals
Mark Switlik has designed and painted Trompe L’Oeil murals across the United States for thirty years and recently he has gained international commissions as well. Mark’s work is highlighted by bright, clean colors and depth perception, achieved through use of airbrush and brush combinations. Clients have included the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Arizona Science Center, the Phoenix Arts Commission, and the Phoenix Suns.

© Mark Switlik, work in progress circa 1992, Mural for the Phoenix Suns

© Mark Switlik, work in progress circa 1992, Mural for the Phoenix Suns

Mark Switlik, a mural painter based in Phoenix, Arizona, has created murals for large corporations and private businesses throughout his thirty-year career in addition to seeking commissions for public work. Since his projects are often quite large he will hire two to eight people to assist him, depending on the size of the mural.

Mark uses a lot of spray-applied paint because he believes that spraying is the most efficient method to produce what he calls aerial perspective. “The atmosphere, says Mark, “is made up of small particles that interact with light. Clouds are also water droplets collected and suspended in the sky. Both airbrush and larger spray equipment use similar small particles of paint to obtain coverage, creating more realistic results.”

Mark uses brushes to blend paint since a brush-like tool can leave behind a visual texture. Sometimes this texture is desired. Mark believes that the juxtaposition of a smooth airbrush technique and a visual brush texture makes for the maximum contrast necessary for illusion painting.

Usually, Mark paints on concrete or brick. To prepare the substrate, Mark hires a contractor to sandblast the surface as a cleaning measure. Then the surface is washed and primed. Mark does all the washing and priming himself to ensure that it is done correctly. A most important detail, says Mark, necessary for walls with minor cracks (not structural problems), is to use an elastomeric caulking that can be purchased from paint suppliers.

Mark uses 100% acrylic house paints for large areas of color and artist acrylics for more detailed areas. He uses GOLDEN Airbrush Colors, which are ready prepared for spraying, and he also uses GOLDEN Fluid Acrylics which are very easy to make sprayable by diluting. He uses up to 200 gallons of paint for large projects.

Mark says that all industrial acrylic paints can be easily sprayed, but the paint to be sprayed must be thinned with an appropriate thinner. Mediums can also be mixed with the paint to produce a sprayable glaze. With the addition of a medium as well as the necessary amount of thinner, the paint is fortified, extending the life of the color.

For his final coats, Mark builds up several intermediate layers of paint with glazes. The final protective varnish is always GOLDEN MSA Varnish with UVLS, applied by spray.

Mark considers the environment he is working in and how that will affect his projects. Because it is extremely hot in Arizona, he often begins working as early as 5:00 a.m. or else he tries to work in the shade. When the weather gets cold, he cannot use his water-based products when the temperature dips below 40 degrees. He warns that if a project is started too late in the summer it might have to be finished in the spring. This can end up costing the artist money.

Humidity and wind are two environmental factors that are very important for the mural artist working with spray equipment to consider. Humidity does not affect water-based products but can affect solvent-based products as moisture can be trapped under the paint layer. This moisture will have to exit sometime, and it usually exits in the form of blistered paint. Blisters occur when the sun’s rays are hot enough to turn the trapped moisture into steam, expanding until it breaks through to the surface.
Wind is a major factor that needs to be addressed, says Mark. Wind can affect the spray tool pattern making it difficult to control. It also makes it difficult to use masking materials. Wind can carry the spray paint particles a long distance outdoors, and indoor heating and cooling ventilation systems can scatter paint overspray throughout a building. This is a minor annoyance if the paint particles dry fast, but when they stay wet a long time the paint can stick to cars and furniture. This happens mostly with solvent-based alkyds and urethanes. However, in areas like Phoenix, an automobile surface can reach over 150 degrees and water-based acrylic can stick even if the paint is dry when it lands. Most auto paints these days are acrylic or acrylic urethane and the high temperature allows the molecules to crosslink. To get the paint spatters off usually requires rubbing out the car paint. To avoid this, the best idea is to plan well and carry liability insurance.

For Mark, planning time for a mural ranges from two weeks to four months. Once he receives a contract, he begins the design. Once the design is approved the project is scheduled in the order it is received.
Mark designs his maquettes using the same techniques that he will use on different portions of the mural (i.e. brush or spray). If he uses an airbrush on the maquette he will use a large spray gun on the mural. The larger spray guns are HVLP (High Volume Low Pressure) technology. Their turbine motors overspray less, draw less amps, and they are lighter than the air compressor which powers the airbrush.
Getting projects funded, says Mark, is the hardest aspect of the mural business. Depending on the funding source, completing a project can be more or less complicated. Many art commissions now realize that a project funded by tax money needs to have neighborhood input before design begins. Community likes and dislikes must be taken into consideration for the project to be accepted. Corporately sponsored murals also need to address community interests but the situation is usually not as critical.

Currently, Mark is working on several murals for Hilltop Hotel in Phuket, Thailand. He is rushing to get all of the exterior work finished before the rainy season starts. Once Mark completes this project he has two murals scheduled, one in the Phoenix, Arizona area and one in Paso Robles, California. Also in the works is a historical mural for a university.

Susan Togut
Children’s Murals
Susan Togut’s mural work with intergenerational groups is a natural development of her own work exploring transparency and layering, changing light and changing seasons. Susan has worked on volunteer and commissioned projects for schools, hospitals, and community groups. She resides in the Hudson Valley region of New York State.

© Susan Togut, "Healing Arbor", 22' x 12', 2000

© Susan Togut, “Healing Arbor”,
22′ x 12′, 2000

Susan Togut is a public artist who has become involved working on murals with children, the elderly, and those touched by serious illness. She has created mural projects involving large groups of people for schools, community sites, and hospitals. Susan faces special concerns about substrates and materials because of the types of groups she works with and the sensitive locations where her murals appear.

Substrate choice is greatly influenced by the groups that Susan works with. When working on exterior or interior walls, Susan prefers to work on wooden panels rather than on the walls themselves. There are a couple of reasons that she gives for her selection. When working on an indoor mural in a school, for example, it is messy and difficult to have the children working on the walls directly. Many of them won’t be able to reach the higher portions of the mural, and it is too dangerous to have them standing on ladders. Having a lot of children and materials in the narrow hallways at one time can interfere with school traffic.

Susan also prefers the wood panels because she finds that they can help control the chaos factor of working with large groups of people (she has had up to 500 people working on a single mural). By assigning smaller groups a specific theme and area, it helps them to focus their energies and fine tuning the work becomes a lot more manageable.

For indoor murals, Susan has used fourteen 4’ X 8’ panels of MDO plywood, ½’’ thick. For exterior murals, she has used up to twenty-four 4’ X 8’ panels of ¾” MDO. Susan primes the panels with Sherwin Williams Heavy Duty Latex paint. Indoor panels are primed with 2 coats on the front side. On outdoor panels, she primes both the front and the back with 2 coats, and uses additional coats on the edges where the panels are most vulnerable. She also says that building a frame around the edges can increase longevity.

Susan uses GOLDEN Heavy Body Acrylics on the wooden panels, and she draws from a wide gamut of colors including metallic, iridescent, and interference colors.

For a protective finish on outdoor murals, Susan uses a two-step process prescribed by GOLDEN Artist Colors. She applies an isolation coat of GOLDEN Soft Gel Gloss. Then she puts on two coats of MSA Varnish, Gloss or Satin. Indoors she doesn’t use any topcoat unless the mural is in an extremely high traffic area or directly exposed to natural light.

Susan warns about one problem that can come up when working on wooden panels. Scale is very important to the success of a mural, and when artists are not working right on the wall or working away from the site, creating an appropriate scale can be more of a challenge. Artists should consider issues related to scale carefully before they start working.

Lexan, a polycarbonate with excellent impact strength, is another substrate that Susan enjoys working on outdoors. She creates simulated stained glass installations and environments using mural components such as her “Healing Arbor” in Kingston, NY. Susan says the transparency of the Lexan is very effective, and it can successfully resist most outdoor conditions.

No preparation is needed for the Lexan since transparency is key to achieving the proper effect. Susan mixes GOLDEN Fluid Acrylics with GAC 200 to make the paint adhere better to the plastic and GAC 500 to make the paint layer less tacky and more durable. For a topcoat she uses a minimum of 2 coats of MSA Varnish Gloss which increases the glass-like quality of the Lexan.

Susan experimented with a variety of products before deciding to use the Fluids to paint the Lexan. She didn’t want to use toxic materials when working with children or cancer patients. This eliminated some products that produced excellent results but were so toxic she wouldn’t even use them herself. She also worked with a dye paint that looked beautiful, but it was not pigment based, not good for outdoors, and faded quickly. GOLDEN Fluids, however, were safe, permanent, and were able to produce the effects that she wanted.

Planning a mural project can take anywhere from one month to six months, says Susan, depending on the project and how many people are involved. When working with school or community groups she meets with everyone involved, and this can take a while. Each project usually has a unifying theme and she needs to consider how to engage diverse age groups (she works with 3 to 100 year olds). “It is always a challenge,” says Susan, “figuring out how to engage everyone in the project without total chaos. Planning is an important part of that.”

Many of Susan’s projects are site specific, especially the “stained glass” installations which interact with the position of the sun and changes in seasons. She says that each time she has a new project she consults GOLDEN’s Technical Support department for any specific advice related to the site. She feels this has greatly contributed to the longevity of her projects and she encourages other artists to do thorough research before they begin painting.

GOLDEN is continuing research on using acrylics for outdoor mural application. Please contact us to report your personal experiences or to contribute any information to this ongoing study.

Mural Procedure Quick Reference GuideMURAL SURFACE:Bare Wood
Cleaning – none
Priming – Knots and pitch streaks should be sanded and spot-primed.
Apply primer coat (suitable for latex).
Painting – Apply GOLDEN Acrylic Paints to surface.
Isolation & Varnish Coatings –
Apply isolation coat. Let dry thoroughly (at least 48 hours).
Apply GOLDEN MSA Varnish* or suitable alternative.

Previously Painted Wood
Cleaning – Remove any loose material, power-wash clean.
Abrade non-waterbased coatings.
Priming – Inspect knots for staining, sand and spot-prime as needed.
Apply primer coat (suitable for latex).
Painting – Apply GOLDEN Acrylic Paints to surface.
Isolation & Varnish Coatings –
Apply isolation coat. Let dry thoroughly (at least 48 hours).
Apply GOLDEN MSA Varnish* or suitable alternative.

Bare Masonry
Cleaning – none
Priming – Apply Masonry Conditioner. Apply water-based latex primer.
Painting – Apply GOLDEN Acrylic Paints to surface.
Isolation & Varnish Coatings –
Apply isolation coat.
Let dry thoroughly (at least 48 hours).
Apply Golden MSA Varnish* or suitable alternative.

Previously Painted Masonry
Cleaning – Remove any loose material, power-wash clean.
Abrade non-waterbased coatings.
Priming – Apply Masonry Conditioner. Apply water-based latex primer.
Painting – Apply GOLDEN Acrylic Paints to surface.
Isolation & Varnish Coatings –
Apply isolation coat. Let dry thoroughly (at least 48 hours).
Apply GOLDEN MSA Varnish* or suitable alternative.

Bare Metal
Cleaning – Remove any grease, dirt, solvents. Abrade surface.
Priming – Apply alkyd or latex-based primer.
Painting – Apply GOLDEN Acrylic Paints to surface.
Isolation & Varnish Coatings –
Apply isolation coat. Let dry thoroughly (at least 48 hours).
Apply GOLDEN MSA Varnish* or suitable alternative.

Previously Painted Metal
Cleaning – Remove any loose material, rust, grease, dirt. Abrade surface.
Priming – Apply alkyd or latex-based primer.
Painting – Apply GOLDEN Acrylic Paints to surface.
Isolation & Varnish Coatings –
Apply isolation coat. Let dry thoroughly (at least 48 hours).
Apply GOLDEN MSA Varnish* or suitable alternative.

Cleaning – none
Priming – 3 parts GOLDEN Acrylic Gesso to 1 part GAC 200
Painting – Apply GOLDEN Acrylic Paints to surface.
Isolation & Varnish Coatings –
Apply isolation coat. Let dry thoroughly (at least 48 hours).
Apply GOLDEN MSA Varnish* or suitable alternative.
(Use Hard MSA Varnish for exterior applications.)

* For complete varnish procedures, refer to the GOLDEN Varnish information sheets.

GOLDEN Suggested Color List
for Exterior Murals

Although GOLDEN uses only the most permanent pigments available within each chemical classification, we have compiled this list of the best pigment choices for use on an exterior mural.Application of isolation coats and MSA Varnish layers is highly recommended.

BEST PIGMENTS – The most stable GOLDEN colors for exterior use.

Burnt Sienna
Burnt Umber Light
Carbon Black
Cobalt Green
Cobalt Teal
Cobalt Titanate Green
Cobalt Turquois
Graphite Gray
Mars Black
Mars Yellow
Orange Oxide
Phthalo Blue GS
Phthalo Blue RS
Phthalo Green BS
Phthalo Green YS
Pyrrole Orange
Pyrrole Red
Pyrrole Red Light
Raw Sienna
Raw Umber
Red Oxide
Titan Buff
Titanate Yellow
Transparent Red Iron Oxide
Transparent Yellow Iron Oxide
Titanium White
Violet Oxide
Yellow Ochre
Yellow Oxide
Zinc White

GOOD PIGMENTS – Stable colors,
but avoid thin layers or glazes for
minimal color shift.

Cerulean Blue
Cerulean Blue Deep
Turquois (Phthalo)
Diarylide Yellow
Hansa Yellow Opaque
Quinacridone Red






42 Responses to Mural Painting

  1. Marika April 12, 2016 at 5:01 am #

    How do I prepare red outdoor brick for simple alcove tromp l’oeil painting, please.

    • Sarah Sands April 14, 2016 at 4:16 pm #

      Hi Marika – Usually with outdoor brick we recommend first making sure the surface is solid, and any missing mortar or crumbling surface be repaired using the proper commercial products. After that use a masonry sealer to help reduce the absorbency of the brick and prepare it for painting. On top of that apply a compatible high quality exterior latex primer. Once all of that is done, you are ready to paint! On a textural surface like brick we typically recommend Fluid Acrylics and would strongly suggest you read and follow our guidelines covered in this Tech Sheet on Exterior Murals – especially the recommended color list:

      Once the mural is complete you then want to apply an Isolation Coat and a final UV Protective Varnish. Those are touched on in the Mural tech Sheet and you can find more information in the following Mural Resource Guide:

      We hope this helps and if you need anything else or have further questions, give us a call at 800-959-6543 or email

  2. Bonnie White June 21, 2016 at 6:55 pm #

    I would like to do a painting for my outdoor kitchen that won’t receive any rain or sunlight onto it. Should I prime a wood product to paint on or can I use an artist’s canvas? I will be using acrylics.

  3. Tina Stoffel October 29, 2017 at 2:01 pm #

    Great read. Loved the helpful information. Thanks

  4. Alicia Etcheverry February 19, 2018 at 8:10 pm #

    I want to paint a mural on the side of an old garage but it’s moldy and been painted years ago. Should I power wash and primer it first?

    • Michael Townsend April 10, 2018 at 8:50 am #

      Hello Alicia.
      Thank you for your questions. To answer your question: YES! You’ll need to make sure the surface is clean from mold, grime, dirt and loose paint as best as possible before applying primer and paint. Start with selecting an exterior commercial primer intended for exterior acrylic (“latex”) housepaint. Their instructions will guide you as to their best practices for surface prep. You might also want to consult with local professional house painters that have worked on similar building surfaces. Local painters tend to have a better idea of what works and what doesn’t. Depending on the project size and importance, you may wish to ask them to check the site for you and possibly do the prep work. This can be extremely valuable for a muralist because it 1) allows you to not have to deal with surface prep and priming 2) allows you to focus on creating the artwork instead of preparatory work, and 3) gives you access to their scaffolding or cherry picker equipment. On a larger project, these companies can make sure the surface is sound and are more aware of local codes for painting in public spaces safely. If this project warrants this level of service, work with them to learn what products they are using and the process, as it can serve you greatly for future projects.
      – Mike Townsend

  5. Julie Isom February 21, 2018 at 1:47 pm #

    Two art teachers working for a non prifit art school would like to create a mural on the ground. Our Bike Rack Mural will have heavy foot traffic. 1. How do we set up the area to keep any rain and wind from getting on it? 2. What extra measures should be taken to keep our mural from being damaged by foot traffic and bikes.

    • Michael Townsend April 10, 2018 at 8:41 am #

      Hello Julie!
      Sorry for the delay in response to your questions. Ground murals are difficult to take care of, and protective coatings do not offer much extra durability than the paint already would have built into it. That said, there are a couple of things you may be able to do. First, the surface needs to be power-washed to remove as much dirt, grime, oil and salts. There are commercial acid-etching coatings to further prepare the surface of masonry materials such as concrete and brick. Masonry conditioners are then applied to prime the surface for painting. Ideally, use a product that is made from the manufacturer of the exterior housepaint you plan to use. The masonry sealer products (an example is Ben Moore’s UltraSpec line). It is possible they can advise a paint to use between their products, or possibly they can add colorant into their product to use as the primer and paint in one coat, and then a flat clear product to finish it. However, don’t expect them to be able to provide much assistance for a mural on a sidewalk path. I doubt this a standard application for them. I would think your best chance for success is to appreciate you are asking the paints to be used in a very demanding application, and plan for regular repainting and touch up. After all, even road stripe traffic line paints need repainting every few years. This makes keeping excellent records and paint swatches on hand for this maintenance. Keep leftover paints in tightly sealed containers in an indoor temperature-stable location. If you have further questions, please contact us at or 1-800-959-6543
      – Mike Townsend

  6. sally July 18, 2018 at 2:29 pm #

    What recommendation would you have for painting an outdoor mural on Granite. Would a leathered granite surface or a honed granite work better?

  7. CF August 30, 2018 at 6:09 pm #

    Great, helpful article! I am going to be painting a mural in an indoor (heated) poolhouse above a saltwater pool. The pool is not filled yet, and hasn’t been for years, as new owners are bringing a fun old location back to life. The walls are drywall and have already been primed and painted, but should I re-prime them for the mural? I was planning on using acrylic paints, any type you recommend? Thanks!

    • Michael Townsend August 31, 2018 at 8:29 am #

      Hello CF.

      Thank you for your comments. If the existing paint surface looks to be in great shape then you shouldn’t need to recoat the wall unless you’d prefer to start with a new base color that better suits your mural. Otherwise, a good wipedown with a sponge and water (with just a touch of mild dish detergent to help the water remove any grime or fingerprint oils, etc.). Paint with acrylics as desired. I would suggest Heavy Body Acrylics extended with our Glazing Liquid which adds a little working time for painting details and blending. Afterwards, apply a good sealing coat to reduce moisture from getting in once the pool gets refilled. “Clear Protectors” are commercial housepaint products used in bathrooms and kitchens to seal housepaints and decorative paints. They are water based and easy to apply. If you want to use a polyurethane, make sure it’s non-yellowing and brush apply to avoid generating bubbles and a stipple pattern. – Mike Townsend

  8. Raymond Matteo September 1, 2018 at 3:06 am #

    What recommendations do u have from prep to seal for a mural project of concrete floor in a 2 car garage of a residential home indoor with bay door opening to outside.

    • Michael Townsend September 4, 2018 at 9:27 am #

      Hello Raymond.
      Thank you for contacting us with your questions. A commercial clear sealer is your best bet for long wear. There are several on the market that are acrylic or acrylic/polyurethane or pure polyurethane-based, such as Seal-Krete

      I found some good information about their use for decorative applications: . In this they state that you can use the product over decorative applications, probably an initial base coat, then the mural, then a final coat. After this cures, floor waxes serve to further product the mural. The waxes should be removed and reapplied as needed to reduce the wear of the decorative mural layer.

      – Mike Townsend

  9. P. Attwood January 9, 2019 at 12:25 pm #

    Brilliant article! I was wondering if you knew a technique for me to paint the inside of a plastic perspects bike shed at my school. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!! 🙂

    • Michael Townsend January 14, 2019 at 9:55 am #

      Hello Patt.

      Thank you for your kind words and questions. I believe you mean “Perspex” which is a brand of acrylic sheeting? This surface should accept acrylic paints well, with a couple of caveats.

      Paint the interior of the plastic, as heavy rains or standing water are very likely to compromise the paint layer and it will likely peel from the surface given enough time under these conditions.

      Prepare the plastic before painting. It’s likely the plastic surface has hand oils, smudges and grime on it, so get some 70% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol and use a soft cloth such as clean tee shirt fabric to wipe the surface down well. This alcohol should not cause any damage to the plastic.

      After the artwork is complete, apply the MSA Varnish or a suitable clear EXTERIOR topcoat. There are some good waterbased topcoats available but test to assure it is very clear and not just untinted. Some of these clears are more of an amber tint, so make sure before using them on a project.

      Please realize that good adhesion doesn’t mean the paint or varnish are impervious to scratching or scraping. After the project is done, document all of the products, and possibly even create a set of “touch up” paints in small amounts for later repairs (all depends on how “permanent” you expect the work to be).

      Let us know if you have any other questions!

      – Mike Townsend

  10. Sally Nold January 13, 2019 at 9:20 am #

    When using Golden fluids for an exterior mural on new plywood, How many square feet per oz will the fluid acrylic cover? Can the Golden acrylic heavy body be thinned for mural application? If so, what is the coverage area for this paint?

    Thanks for this info.

    • Michael Townsend January 14, 2019 at 9:27 am #

      Hi Sally.
      Thank you for contacting us with your questions.
      As a general rule, most products will achieve in the neighborhood of 300 to 400 square feet per gallon. That works out to an average of 2.73 square feet per ounce (350sq.ft./128oz).

      This would also be a good estimation for the wood primer (commercial, acrylic based housepaint primers from companies such as Sherwin Williams, Valspar, and Ben Moore). If you extend the paint with a medium, you can factor this addition as well. For example, if you blend 1 quart of GOLDEN GAC 200 with 3 quarts of Heavy Body Acrylic, you’ll end with with a gallon of paint that is a bit thinner and you’ll also have added a fair amount of hard acrylic binder which improves adhesion and film strength.

      Please let us know if you have any other questions!

      – Mike Townsend

  11. Kate Welling January 29, 2019 at 4:26 pm #

    I was surprised that there would be a big paint selection for mural paintings. It makes sense that it would vary depending on the metal you put it on! It would be nice to hire a professional to do a commission for you because they would know all of this information.

    • Michael Townsend January 30, 2019 at 8:59 am #

      Hello Kate.
      I would not assume that every artist, even those that have done some murals, know the best pigments for use in exterior murals. Many believe that just because a color is listed as “ASTM LIGHTFASTNESS I” it is automatically a good choice for outdoor exposure. Our research is ongoing and before starting a new mural, it is a good idea to review the recommended colors first.
      – Mike Townsend

  12. Anneliese Sorpo January 31, 2019 at 9:02 pm #

    Hi! We are painting a mural using acrylics on inside steel doors that were primed with commercial grade/outdoor primers. It’s all done, but we wanted to protect it to preserve it for years to come. Is the varnish clear and does it turn yellow with time? Thanks for all and any advice. Great article!

    • Michael Townsend February 8, 2019 at 3:32 pm #

      Thank you Anneliese.

      The varnish doesn’t yellow from age or UV light, so the MSA Varnish is a great option for long term protection. We would suggest doing a bit of practice using it – thinning it with the MSA Solvent as needed, trying different brushes, etc – to minimize any potential issues. This is a great picture varnish for acrylics, oils and other media.

      – Mike Townsend

  13. Cally February 12, 2019 at 8:25 pm #

    Where is this?: (See Mural Quick Reference Guide, page 11.)

    I’m painting a Mural on panels to attach to a very large building I’m probably going to use three panels. My questions are: 1. what type of panel do you recommend and 2. do you think acrylic would work well? And 3. what kind of sealant?

    I’ve only done indoor mirrors on walls and such never outside, I want it to last THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

    • Michael Townsend February 19, 2019 at 3:03 pm #

      Hi Cally.
      Thank you for contacting us with your questions.
      1) M.D.O plywood is a great option for exterior murals. Aluminum surfaced “DiBond” is an excellent choice as well.
      2) Yes, acrylic can be used for exterior murals, when sufficiently primed with a “DTM” bonding primer.
      3) After the artwork is complete, allow several days for the paint to dry, then apply an “Isolation Coat” over the acrylic paint, allow that to dry overnight, and then you can apply the GOLDEN MSA Varnish as the final topcoat.
      Please let us know if you have any other questions!


      Mike Townsend

  14. Ellen February 22, 2019 at 6:21 am #

    I’m looking to paint some brand pieces of a business onto a corrugated metal building: any tips for application here or transfer of images on this tricky surface? As far as I know, the building was never painted, but came with a color (i’m ignorant to the manufacturing of corrugated metal, no idea how they are pigmented/what kind of paint is used etc)- would this be treated the same as the above metal prescription? Just clean and apply Primer/paint? Would primer be totally necessary, or would latex paint be sufficient? I realize this is mostly about golden paints, but are you aware if any spray paints would adhese to this type of surface (with or *ideally* without primer)?

    Thank you!

    • Michael Townsend February 25, 2019 at 9:06 am #

      Hello Ellen.
      Thanks for your questions.
      It’s very likely the corrugated metal has been “Powdercoated”, which means the paint was applied via electrostatic charge. You probably do not need to apply a “Direct to Metal” (DTM) bonding/primer, but it would be a good idea to mask off the area you intend to paint, then sand it evenly to create a dull surface. Wipe the sanding dust with isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol and then re-tape. Alcohol will eat at the masking tape adhesive so remove the tape first, then clean and let evaporate, and retape the design. After that is done, use an “Acrylic Enamel” spray paint such as Duplicolor or Rustoleum. That should be all that you need to do but be sure to read the labels carefully on the cans and follow their prep recommendations. If you are able to do a smaller test piece that would be a great idea!
      – Mike Townsend

  15. Jessica March 8, 2019 at 11:06 am #


    We hold a yearly mural making event, using clean wood panels that are primed. Unfortunately, it misted throughout the day and while we did our best to allow the murals to dry before glossing, some moisture was trapped. Additionally, the murals stay outdoors for several weeks before being brought into storage. We are taking them out of storage to hang indoors, however, sections of the paint have separated from the wood in various areas, mainly where the two attached sections of wood meet. Most murals are done in acrylic paint, some in spray paint, the latter having the most damage. The paint is all in one piece, the image is clear, just separated from the panel. WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND to fix, without being able to have them re-painted completely? We have been recommend to use some type of adhesive and put clamps on the wood but nothing specific. Thank you!

    • Michael Townsend March 11, 2019 at 9:21 am #

      Hello Jessica.
      Thank you for contacting us with your questions.
      Several questions come to mind:
      What was the primer used on the wood?
      What type(s) of spray paints were used?
      Did the paint layers separate from the primer, or did the paint AND primer lift from the surface of the bare wood?
      What product(s) was used for the “glossing”?

      Not being able to see the damage you are dealing with it’s hard to say what would be your best remedy, but assuming you would be able to slip some acrylic gel under the now fully dry pieces, you could potentially re-attach the separated pieces. If we need to take this offline, that would allow some images to be sent to us for review. Please send an email to “” and we’ll have a better understanding of what is going on.

      – Mike Townsend

  16. Caitlin June 6, 2019 at 11:52 am #

    This article has helped me a lot. I’m painting my first outdoor mural on a concrete slab. I have a few questions…

    1. Would you still suggest that I use GAC 200 mixed in the heavy body acrylic paints? On golden’s website it says to only use on nonporous surfaces; however, concrete is porous (although it will be primed).

    2. I’m painting two areas, 6×7 feet (42 sq ft) and 4.5 x 7.5 feet (33.75 ft). What size of MSA varnish would be enough to cover both of these areas? (knowing that I will dilute with a 3:1 ratio?)

    • Michael Townsend June 10, 2019 at 9:06 am #

      Hello Caitlin.

      Thanks for your questions and kind comments.

      The mixture of GAC 200 and Heavy Body Acrylics should be fine on exterior-primed concrete. Adding the GAC 200 is a great way to extend and also strengthen the paint layers.

      For product estimate purposes, you can use 100 square feet per quart (32 ounces) to help figure out how much paint, primer and sealing coats you’ll require. You have about 75 square feet total, and many layers will require 2 layers, so use 150 sq.ft. as your amount, and better to round up when working on some texture. So, if you use 200 square feet as your number, you’ll need 2 quarts of commercial primer (most likely best to just get a gallon) and then your paint amounts can total up to the 2 quart (64 fluid ounces). You can use a grid system of a small maquette – with 1 square inch equalling 1 square foot – and then tally up the number of squares for each color. If you blend the GAC 200 in, that also counts towards the total amount. For example, you need 50 square feet of “blue”. That’s 16 ounces with 12 ounce of paint and 4 ounces of GAC 200 (for a 3:1 ratio). Same with the varnish. The MSA Varnish amounts are also 2 quarts, but you need to thin it. 2 quarts of varnish and 1 quart of the MSA Solvent will assure you have enough for the project and any leftover varnish may be used on interior artwork such as oil paintings or acrylic paintings.
      – Mike Townsend

  17. Caitlin June 19, 2019 at 1:48 pm #

    Hi again,

    I’ve decided to paint the exterior mural on dibond aluminum panels. The company that I’m ordering them from sells the panels already painted white. Will I need to use any primers since it’s already been painted? (Knowing that the panels will be placed outside)

    I’m also planning on ordering golden heavy body paints and the MSA varnish to use on the ACM, would you recommend these paints and the golden varnish?

  18. lucan mulder January 4, 2020 at 5:20 pm #

    Hello, I am doing a large mural that covers the entire wall, its a fresh cement finish, I will use a acrylic paints, breathable Primer first, then 2 coats of egg shell sheen, then a scumble glaze acrylic, then a varnish to protect. I noticed this Note on your information above.

    Note: Breath ability is important to the successful adhesion of acrylic products. If a mural encompasses an entire wall made of a masonry product, it is advisable to apply thin coats of MSA Varnish. This will allow interior condensation and evaporating solvents and out-gassings to escape (some artists recommend leaving an uncoated breathing space near the edge of the mural as well). If this is not done, it may lead to premature adhesion failure between the coatings and the substrate.

    Does this mean thin coats of varnish on the final layer, and uncoated layer around the boarder, I can’t really leave and uncoated areas on the middle of the wall. any other advice?
    Many thanks,
    P.s Love your help and advice.

    • Michael Townsend January 6, 2020 at 9:17 am #

      Hello Lucan.
      Thank you for your questions.
      Your application sounds fine, as you are working with breathable products and they are relatively thin applications. The approach is to leave the very bottom open, which is nearest to the ground. Water tends to find the easiest way out of the wall. Gravity and a more porous lower area facilitate drying, instead of the water trying to push its way out of the mural. This doesn’t need to be a large area and it is more important of the wall is coated with tighter products like “Drylok” which is a coating meant to prevent water from seeping through cementitious walls.
      Let us know if you need any other details!
      – Mike Townsend

  19. Dylan Peterson January 9, 2020 at 10:45 am #

    It’s good to know that muralists need to practice a sound methodology to ensure the project’s success. My brother has been telling me about how he wants to paint a mural soon. I’ll share this information with him so that he can look into his options for professionals who can help him with this.

  20. Suzanne February 6, 2020 at 1:43 pm #

    What type of paint can I use on galvaneal steel surface? Outdoor project.

    • Michael Townsend February 6, 2020 at 3:16 pm #

      Hello Suzanne.

      Thank you for your questions. This is a bit of a complex subject. Galvanized metal is difficult to paint because it’s coated with a layer of oil to prevent white rust. Alkyd and oil-based paints may seem to stick at first, but the oily layer eventually “sheds” the paint. Beside this, the zinc content of the galvanized coating reacts with paint’s binder to create a film that causes the paint to peel [source: Sherwin-Williams]. Therefore, it’s important to follow the correct procedure when painting galvanized metal.

      Here’s what you’ll need to paint galvanized metal so that the paint won’t peel off [source: Do It Yourself]:

      Heavy duty sandpaper, 240 grit
      Metal primer – It should be listed as a Direct To Metal (usually listed as “DTM) Bonding Primer, such as this one from Sherwin Williams
      Tack cloths

      Here’s how to paint galvanized metal:

      Wash the metal thoroughly with hot soapy water.
      Rinse the metal and let it dry completely for several hours.
      Rinse the metal with a weak solution of water and ammonia and allow it to dry.
      Sand the entire metal surface thoroughly.
      Wipe the entire surface with tack cloth.
      Apply the primer as directed, covering the entire surface of the metal.

      The above advice is general. When you obtain your DTM primer, carefully read their directions as to their ideal preparation method, as it can change from product to product. After the primer has cured, you can then use acrylic paints to create the imagery. The most current color suggestions and topcoat products are listed in our Mural Information Sheet, located here:

      – Mike Townsend

  21. Kristen Krempasky May 20, 2020 at 1:11 pm #

    Very informative page! Perhaps you can offer advice on my project. I’m painting a natural PA fieldstone to create a headstone for my pup. Originally I did not expect it to be very elaborate, as I haven’t picked up a paintbrush in years. I chose rustoleum enamel since it was on hand and i knew it would be fairly durable, even though its intended use is not on stone. I primed first–just the area for the painting, leaving the rest of the stone bare. Well I ended up with a beautiful portrait of my pup, much to my surprise I can still paint! So now I would like to preserve this as long as possible. It will be outdoors. Had I known from the start how nice it would turn out I would have done preliminary research on paints. The rustoleum blended wonderfully and although much quicker drying than artist oils, the colors look great. My local hardware store recommended spar urethane spray on the entire stone. I have ruled this out due to stone breathability issues, but would it be appropriate to use over the painted area and perhaps a 1-2″ border around it? Or should I do the isolation coat/MSA varnish as mentioned in the article? Thank you in advance for any advice you can offer!

    • Michael Townsend May 26, 2020 at 11:21 am #

      Hello, Kristen.

      Thank you for your questions and comments. You should not use an isolation coat of acrylic on enamel paints, just apply the MSA Varnish. You can apply 1 or 2 coats by brush, but just apply it to the painted section of the headstone. Leave the rest of the rock uncoated as to allow moisture to migrate out of the rock over the seasons. Spar Marine Varnishes should not be used on painted works, not because they are not durable, but because they are notoriously amber and only become deeper over time. Great on bare wood, but bad news for painted pieces!

      Let us know if you have any other questions!


      – Mike Townsend

  22. jordan June 11, 2020 at 8:15 am #

    hi michael.Love the page has so much info . i wanted to ask if theres anyway i can paint a mural on Composite Fencing? do i need a specific type of primer?

    thank you

    • Michael Townsend June 29, 2020 at 8:38 am #

      Thank you Jordan.
      This is a difficult question from our end, but I would start with the manufacturer of the fencing, and see if they can suggest primers meant for it. Some of this fencing can contain HDPE plastic, which is extremely difficult to get paints and even primers to adhere to. Look for exterior bonding primers meant for plastic, if you just want to try something.
      – Mike Townsend

  23. Kristofer Van Wagner July 7, 2020 at 8:03 am #

    Thank you for sharing that the location of where the mural painting will be painted will impact the artist’s methodology. My friend was asking how an artist will execute having an indoor wall painted as he would very much like to have a wall in her dining area painted with a mural. After reading your post, I will advise my friend to consult with the artist directly so that she will know how the artist will paint the wall.

    • Michael Townsend July 21, 2020 at 11:14 am #

      Thank you, Kristofer. Let us know if you have any other questions by emailing us at
      – Mike Townsend


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