How to paint a mural with students! - Part Two

I’ve had a lot of questions about painting the mural at Springville Elementary and how it was accomplished in a WEEK! I decided to write about the experience and offer some insight on a few things I learned along the way. Please know that I am no expert and I am happy to hear suggestions for future projects. In this post, I am going to go over how we painted the mural with students. For tips on how to prep a wall, read my post here.

1.Plan ahead!

Before you begin any mural, have a plan for how you want students to work together. For this mural, I wanted to design something simple enough for all ages to do with little skill level required.

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I first drew the design in Adobe Illustrator to plan out how the mural would be laid out. Always think two steps ahead! Since there are letters in this mural, I knew it wold be difficult for students to try to paint around them. Instead, I decided that we would just paint the background first and then later paint the letters on top. When it came down to painting the background, paint-by-number was the easiest method.

2. Draw the mural!

Everything comes down to PLANNING. From the very beginning, I knew projecting a design on the wall was not going to be an option. The wall is also a weird size (7.5ft high on one side and 9.5ft on the other). Picking a geometric, abstract mural helped with that problem a lot. Here is the wall after being primed.

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Drawing the mural was a bit of a challenge because of the uneven surfaces and the various straight lines in the design. I knew ahead of time that drawing it with a pencil wouldn’t hold up well with lots of hands touching the wall while painting. I ended up using a metal ruler and just a regular sharpie to draw on the wall. After I drew the entire design, I numbered the different shapes to ensure that no two of the same colors would be next to each other.

TIP: I left the plastic wrap on the ruler to protect it from the sharpie and for later use while painting!

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3. Decide when, where, and how you will paint

Have I mentioned that you’ll need to plan this out? I’m pretty sure I did 90% planning and maybe 10% actually painting. Which is what you want! Remember this is for your students. I often found myself giving directions a lot more than having a paint brush in my hand. Before you even begin, you’ll need to think about how, when, and where your students will paint. For instance, I was teaching 100 students in the middle of the summer in ALABAMA. We needed shade and access to water.

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Several people helped us by lending tents and tarps to keep everyone in the shade. Next, I planned that students would paint in grade levels to reduce the amount of people painting at once. I divided the grades into k-1, 2-3, and 4-6.

4. Paint!

In my previous post I talked about the types of paint I used for this. Before students started, I assigned the paint cans and the containers with numbers. In the beginning I assigned students numbers and told them they could change numbers once they ran out of spaces.

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With 4-6 grade, they were instructed to find spaces that they could reach at eye level. I didn’t want students to worry about bleeding over into other shape, so I told them to stay one finger distance from the shape’s borders. With K-1, I had 5 students paint the wall at a time and the rest paint rocks while they were waiting.

TIP: Remember, this is done by students and it’s just paint. If someone messes up, it’s OKAY! It’s about building confidence and having fun!

5. Final touches, letters, and sealing.

After a day with students, the mural was not quite finished. I invited the community to come out and help over the weekend. The adult volunteers primarily focused on cleaning up the shapes to make them look sharper. I also needed help reaching the top of the wall. Don’t be afraid to ask the community to help with projects like this. The support from Springville was incredible.

How we painted the letters:

This was the most difficult part of the mural. Once the background was dry, I mounted a laser level to the wall with command strips. I then traced the level line with chalk. We projected the letters on to large pieces of thick paper. After cutting the letters out, we carefully taped the letters to the wall and traced them with more chalk. Lastly, Wendy, Chelsea, and I used angled brushes to paint in the letters.

Sealing the wall was a little bit of challenge with finding the right material. After calling a few professionals, we decided that an epoxy was the best option. We did two coats to secure it.

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