How to paint a sunset on a wall

Updated February 21, 2017

A dramatic, bold sunset washes the sky in reds, pinks, oranges and purples and creates a mood that is both serene and heady. Bring this mood into your home by painting a sunset mural over a wall. Choose a wall without doors or windows for this project and make sure that the area gets plenty of traffic, since you'll want to show off your DIY sunset mural once you complete it.

Search the Internet, landscape photography magazines and your own photo collections for a striking sunset image. Choose an unfussy image with few details; too-detailed wall murals can look too busy and distract the eye.

Cover the floor and furniture in the room with dust sheets and tape off outlets and fixtures with painter's tape.

Prepare your wall. An uneven, pockmarked wall makes a poor canvas for a wall mural, so fill cracks and holes with joint compound, sand off flaking paint and cover the entire surface with a coat of primer. Allow your work to dry before proceeding.

Choose a background colour. For a sunset, choose a yellow or orange background colour. Roll the colour onto your wall and allow the paint to dry. Also choose the remainder of your colours, which should focus on reds, oranges, yellows and purples.

Measure your wall from floor to ceiling. Mark a dot 1/3 of the way to the ceiling from the floor with a pencil. This is your horizon line. According to the author of, "How to Paint Tropical Sunsets, " Gina De Gorna, you should avoid placing your horizon at the centre of the wall, since it creates less visual interest.

Draw a horizontal pencil line across the wall at the mark you just made. Use a long level to keep the line perfectly straight. Apply a line of paint over the pencil line but be less precise. You want the line to be straight but slightly blurred since the horizon is in the distance. Use a darker colour from your chosen hues, since the horizon line should be slightly darken than the land or water below it. Rough up a too-sharp horizon line with a dry brush.

Paint the sky. Use a large sponge to apply the colours in the sky in a horizontal, back and forth and imprecise motion. Vary the amounts of paint on your sponge to create darker and lighter streaks in the sky. Use darker colours near the ceiling and lighter colours as you approach the horizon. Blend each layer of colour together with a sponge.

Paint the landscape or water using a large paintbrush and a limited number of colours. You want the sunset to take centre stage, so focus on the general shapes in the landscape or on the water. Make sure the horizon line stays slightly darker than the area below it.

Streak light yellow into the painting over the area where the sun just set.

Lightly pencil in any large shapes from your sunset picture, such as a grouping of palm trees, mountains in the distance or a mass of clouds. Paint the underside of clouds with a darker colour, and sponge white over the shadows to create soft, rounded cloud shapes. Paint distant mountains in the same colour as the sky, but use a darker tone. Paint palm trees or other landscape elements in silhouette to keep them simple and unobtrusive.

Bring colours from your sky onto the shapes you just painted to give the painting a cohesive look and to make the sunset look authentic.

Examine your reference images and determine where the light from your just-set sun would hit the different shapes in your mural, such as the tops of mountains or on the top of water. Add light yellow to these areas.

Things You'll Need

  • Image resources
  • Dust sheets
  • Painter's tape
  • Joint compound
  • Sanding block
  • Medium grit sandpaper
  • Primer
  • Paint tray
  • Roller
  • Measuring tape
  • Long level
  • Pencil
  • Glossy, water-based wall paint, various colours
  • Paint brushes, varying sizes
  • Paint sponges, varying sizes
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About the Author

Katherine Harder kicked off her writing career in 1999 in the San Antonio magazine "Xeriscapes." She's since worked many freelance gigs. Harder also ghostwrites for blogs and websites. She is the proud owner of a (surprisingly useful) Bachelor of Arts in English from Texas State University.