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Paint Your Own Fresco

October 31 2010

Fresco murals have decorated homes well before 1500 BCE, says italianfrescoes.com. A fresco is really a mural painting that you put on a wall or ceiling, just like Michelangelo.

Though usually applied wet-on-wet by trained masters, there are some easy ways for you to add a colorful mural to any room.

Consider a few ideas before starting:


The mural’s content should be appropriate to the room. You can go with classic choices such as seashells and beach scenes in a bathroom or living room in a waterfront home, or images of food, chefs and wine bottles in the kitchen.

Pastoral scenes or a family tree complete with portraits are great for family rooms. Or go with interests you have, such as cars, airplanes or flowers. The mural should reflect your family and their likes as well.

You can project images onto the wall and simply trace them, you can “free-hand” your drawings, or you can trace a favorite design from a book or other source.  Cut out the image on a piece of cardboard and simply draw it on the wall with pencil and paint over it.

Appropriate locations

A fresco can be as small as a squiggle or as large as a landscape. They make wonderful focal points, but they can also bring surprise and delight in unexpected places, like a swirling grapevine painted along a wetbar wall in place of crown molding. Tone -on-tone corbels can be painted in the corners of rooms to add interest and to serve as an alternative to wallpaper.


Water-based paints like acrylic and tempera are the most favorable as they come in a wide variety of colors, are easy to use, and dry quickly. However, they cannot be used on oil-based paint without a primer base because water-based products won’t stick to oil, according to the fat-over-lean theory. You can paint oil over water-based paints, but not the other way around.

You can use oil paint, but oils take longer to dry, so you may have to wait a week between painting sessions for first coasts to dry. That will extend the length of your project indefinitely, but you may feel the rich creamy colors are worth the extra effort.

Keep in mind that oils can’t be cleaned with water, so brushes, rollers and spills will have to be cleaned up with harsher chemicals like turpentine.

No matter what you use, be sure to keep the area free from small children and pets to prevent smearing and tracking.


If you’re not an artist, and prefer an easier way, try stick-on wall murals. With a wide variety available online from vendors like walldecorshops.com, these wall stickers/appliqués can be repositioned around the room to create the ambiance you want. And they can be applied right out of the box. The stickers come in a wide variety of photographs and paintings, so you’ll be sure to find exactly what you want.

Stickers are limited only by where you can apply them. Porous textures tend to absorb the adhesive leading to a weak bond and the uneven surface of heavy texturing prevents the sticker from having an even application. Your best bet is applying the sticker on a painted, clean and relatively smooth wall, just as you would need for wallpaper.

Be sure to follow the instructions that come with what you order.

Hire an artist

There are plenty of artists who would love to work in your home on commission. To choose the right artist, ask about candidates’ experience with murals and the type of mural you want in your home. A portrait artist may do a capable job if you want a landscape, but a landscape artists would be even better. Artists have a signature style. If you would buy an artist’s paintings, she or he is the right one for the job.

Remember to look through their portfolio and get contact information of previous clients for testimonials on quality of service.

Family fun

Planning a fresco can be as much fun as making it. Depending on the mural’s size and number of hands available, this project can be a relatively quick task that you can complete in as little time as one weekend.

If you like the results, you’ll have a conversation piece that brings a lot of personality and individuality to your home.