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How to paint an outdoor mural on a wooden fence

While a beautiful mural painted onto the side of a wooden fence can add significantly to your landscape, the idea of creating a painting of this impressive size can be intimidating. Taking a small sketch and making it become a very large painting on an exterior surface requires a unique approach to painting. To complete such a project, you must first determine how to prepare the surface, what kind of paints should be used and how to copy a small sketch onto the fence that is to be painted.

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  1. Pressure-wash your fence and fill any blemishes on its surface with wood filler.

  2. Mark a sheet of drawing paper with a grid of 1-inch squares. One square inch on your paper will equal one square foot on your fence.

  3. Draw a sketch of your design on the paper grid and colour it in lightly with coloured pencils.

  4. Apply two coats of acrylic primer to your fence with a roller.

  5. Apply one coat of acrylic-based exterior white paint to your primed fence with a roller.

  6. Use a level and dark chalk to draw a grid of 1-foot squares on your fence.

  7. Using your small drawing as a reference, copy the drawing, square by square, onto your fence in dark chalk. If you transfer your drawing one individual square at a time instead of viewing the drawing as a whole, it will be easier to copy onto the large grid.

  8. Paint in the chalk outline with the outdoor-use acrylic paints. Match the colours used, square by square, to the colours used in your small drawing.

  9. Paint two coats of acrylic varnish over the fence with a roller to protect your painting from the elements.

  10. Tip

    If your fence was originally painted with a high-gloss, oil-based paint, you will need to sand the gloss off of the surface before you can apply your acrylic primer or paints.


    Cadmium and cobalt colours are prone to premature fading. Varnish should not be applied during windy or damp weather.

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Things You'll Need

  • Drawing paper
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Outdoor acrylic primer
  • Acrylic white exterior paint
  • Paint roller
  • Level
  • Chalk, dark colour
  • Outdoor-use acrylic paints
  • Paintbrushes, assorted sizes
  • Acrylic varnish

About the Author

In 1982, Mary Love's first book, "Shakespeare Garden," was published. She also authored professional brochures. Love was the subject of a PBS special profiling Northwestern Pennsylvania artists, highlighting her botanicals and birds. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in art education from Edinboro University in Edinboro, Pennsylvania.

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