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How to paint outdoor murals on a shed

Adding a mural to the wall of a shed is a natural way to liven an otherwise bland, blank outdoor wall. However, some people find painting a mural to be a daunting tas; yet, by breaking down this task into small, manageable steps, almost anyone can paint a mural on their shed wall.

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  1. Brainstorm to decide kind of mural you'd like. Consider any decorating motif that you already have near your shed and stick with that theme. If you don't yet have a theme, one should emerge from this session. You'll draw your ideas for reference materials from this.

  2. Get reference materials. These could be photos from magazines, old photographs, movie posters or old advertisements.

  3. Create several thumbnail sketches based on your brainstorm.

  4. Make colour roughs of your design ideas using the coloured pencils. These images will almost look like the finished art, but not quite. In this step and the one before it, you'll want to work out any compositional imperfections and nail down your colour choices.

  5. Draw a small scale drawing of your mural on your sketch pad. This will be a small scale replica of the actual mural you'll be painting. Once again, make sure there are no major flaws in the design or composition, because an enlarged version of this drawing will go on your shed wall. Small flaws on the drawing mean large flaws on the wall.

  6. Purchase outdoor paint. Have your scale drawing along with you so that you can purchase the right colours.

  7. Prep the wall so you can paint it. Sand down any rough spots, fill in any holes and then wash it down. Allow the wall to dry for a couple of days before beginning the painting process.

  8. Create a large scale drawing of the smaller drawing on the wall of your shed. In this case, it's best to use a 1 inch to 1 foot grid for the enlargement. Use your ruler or T-square to draw the lines. You'll want to draw the grid in something erasable like chalk (see "Resources").

  9. Paint large blocks of colour first. These can be areas of the sky or the background, but not always. Particularly in the case of replicating old advertising posters, the blocks of colour are usually solid colour masses of one colour. Let these areas dry.

  10. Paint the smaller, more detailed areas. Let dry.

  11. Access your mural by standing back from it. You'll want to stand far enough away to get a good look at the whole mural. Any weak areas should be easier to see and correct.

  12. Tip

    Murals that recreate old advertisements complete with old fonts and colours are often a good choice for outdoor murals. If going with this theme, it's best to stick with recognisable images like peach orchard advertisements, old Coca Cola motifs or the Campbell soup kids. The colours will be bright at cheery and will compliment a garden area.


    Clean your brushes afterward using turpentine or some other solvent as recommended by the paint manufacturer. However, use caution: Most turpentine is toxic.

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Things You'll Need

  • Ladder
  • Sketch book
  • Pencils
  • Prismacolor coloured pencils
  • Chalk
  • Rulers and T-squares
  • Erasers
  • Spray equipment
  • Brushes and rollers
  • Paint pans
  • Paint stir sticks
  • Paints
  • Overhead projector
  • Turpentine

About the Author

Buffy Naillon has worked in the media industry since 1999, contributing to Germany's "Der Spiegel" magazine and various websites. She received a bachelor's degree in German from Boise State University. Naillon also attended New York University and participated in the foreign exchange program at Germany's Saarland University. She is completing her master's degree in educational technology at Boise State.

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