Laying out Your Design
Reim offers her expert advice for how to create a beautiful mural. "It's important to plan it out really well," she says. Reim always starts with a sketch, and uses a projector for the most complex portions of the image.
Using a projector is the easiest way to create a professional looking mural. Rent or borrow an overhead projector from work or your child's school. The image you choose to paint can be traced onto the transparency film (available at educator supply or office supply stores). If that pushes your sketching abilities to their limit, it's not cheating to use a laser printer to get the image onto the overhead transparency.
Next, you've got to consider your canvas: the wall. Is the paint in relatively good condition, or is it chipping off the wall? If it's fresh paint, you just have to "clean it and prime it with acrylic primer," suggests Reim. But if "it's cracked or old paint, you've got to get rid of the old stuff first," says Reim; or else your hard work won't last long.
Once your wall is prepped, set up the projector. Move it back away from the wall until the image projected on the wall is your desired size. Ensure that the picture doesn't get distorted by angling the projector; it should be aligned with the wall so that the image is straight on the wall. Next, place tape around the base as a marker, just in case you have to move the projector or it gets bumped during the project.
You might need to tell yourself, or your child (if she's old enough to help), that this is one of those few instances when it's OK to write on the wall! Using a soft-tipped pencil (don't use a pen or draw too darkly because these marks might show through light-colored paints), trace all the lines of the projected image, including the shadows and shades. If your design includes straight lines, use painter's tape to make them straight. "That was something my husband, John, helped with," smiles Shatney. "It was great to work on it together."
Finally, you're ready to paint. What type of paint works the best? Reim always uses acrylic for the quality, but it's more expensive. If you're just starting out, Reim says, "You can use wall paint. It's not as good a quality, but you get bigger quantities at a better price." And remember that any mistakes you make aren't set in stone. "It's only paint—if you run into problems or make a mistake, you just paint over it and start again," encourages Reim.
Start out by painting the background. Shatney and her husband did the large grid of colors first, and then filled the quilt-like effect in with smiling animal characters. Don't stay close to the wall as you're working; instead, step back every few minutes to take a look at the perspective, coloring, and spacing. Once you've finished painting, make sure you erase any still-visible pencil marks.
Your infant or child will be delighted in a custom-created mural for her room. Your creative effort personalizes her space, and encourages imagination and fantasy. Shatney says that she's proud that they took the time and energy necessary to create a special work of art for Timothy. "I remember the first time he noticed the animals on the wall, and when he smiled up at them when we were sitting in the rocking chair." That special and rewarding moment, says Shatney, reminds her of "being pregnant, working on it, and wondering what my baby was going to be like."