Mural madness

October 8, 2012
This enchanting swing mural from Elephants on the Wall is easily reproduced by tracing and paint by numbers.
The concept of a focal wall is not new. We have painted scenes, motifs, diagrams and personal images on interior surfaces for thousands of years.
Employing these decorative features was once the purview of artists who had the talent to paint and draw and add dimension to images so that they appeared lifelike.
Today the keen do-it-yourselfer has the means to replicate any theme in large format on walls, ceilings and floors with only a modicum of artistic ability. Here are options for creating a mural that will enhance any room and lifestyle. You pick the place and the subject, then find the resource that suits your style.
Paint-by-number wall murals are an affordable way to add imagination, color and fun, or a touch of elegance to any room. Devised by Patti Newton, who worked as a designer for Walt Disney Imagineering, her company, Elephants on the Wall (, offers all you need to produce a mural such as the girl on a swing shown above.?
The kit includes the pattern, transfer paper and instructions. Patterns can be repeated, reversed and reused.
There is a large selection of designs available for kids, but also adult motifs: Mega Fashionistas, Ferns, Bamboo, Zebra stripes and a few funky pics, one called Unzipped.
For my TV series “The Painted House,” I used another method called projection stenciling. Artist Linda Buckingham has produced two books on the subject, showing the endless possibilities for creating murals using a projector to project your choice of image onto a surface.
You can get the size and position you want by moving the projector and adjusting the setting. Freezer paper can be used to trace the projected design. Cut out the stencil with an X-acto knife. The stenciled images are filled in with paint.
You can check out the collection of large-format architectural stencils through The Stencil Library at and other online sources.
Various columns with finely detailed architraves, capitals and bases, pillars and arches, balustrades, pedestals, railings, finials, borders and panels are generally available in three sizes.
To replicate the effect of three-dimensional decorative details, two or three stencil overlays per image are required, and can be costly. This type of focal wall suits a grand entrance hall or dining room where a dramatic visual effect is desired.
An altogether different approach to wall murals is the wallpaper mural. Imagine one wall in a bedroom or den that is covered with your favorite serenity scene. It could be a view of a woodland, or a sandy beach at sunset.

Find a photo of the scene you want blown up and take it to a printer who can reproduce the image onto adhesive-backed wallpaper measured to fit your space. Vinyl-coated wallcoverings are durable and good for high-traffic areas.