Painting a Tree Mural

I decided a month or so ago that I wanted to redo my daughter’s room. She and I discussed it and decided a painted tree was just what her room needed. I started researching tutorials on mural painting, as I’ve never done it before, and was a little worried because almost every single tutorial directed the use of an overhead projector! I don’t know where to get an overhead projector and didn’t feel like renting one. So, although I’m not an “artist,” I decided to go freehand. Am I crazy? Maybe. Freehanding the outline was an exciting thought. But how to change it as revisions would be inevitable? Then bam, it hit me: CHALK! Its easy to erase from the walls. Plush stuffed toys or dirty clothes are easy to find lying around kiddos rooms, and either one does an amazing job erasing chalk from walls without leaving anything permanent on the object you’re using as an eraser. Its a little hard to see, but there is a chalk sketch of a tree on the wall in this first picture! I want to empower you to attempt your own freehand outline!

I erased and re-sketched quite a bit. Once my outline was done it was time to start painting. I thought about the paint quite a bit. There are a number of different choices out there as far as paint. Ultimately, however, I opted for interior wall paint, as opposed to acrylic craft paint. I thought that with acrylic I’d have to go over the finished mural with some sort of fixative or my kids would slowly chip the paint off the wall! Lowe’s sells these small tubs of  “sample” paint for about $6. I picked a brown I liked and had them mix it up for me.

I’d had such success with sketching my outline freehand I decided to attempt painting freehanded as well. Sadly, the walls in my house are textured, not smooth. This means that no matter how gently, no matter how slowly, you drag your paint brush across the wall you’re going to get little “jumps” of paint ruining your straight edge. Here I’ve pictured the side I tried without tape. Not so great. I decided to move to tape before I went too far.

Taping is tedious. It took forEVER to get the entire tree outlined. I used regular, narrow width masking tape and a double wide masking tape. (Mainly because I didn’t have blue painters tape and didn’t feel like going to the store, but also because historically the blue tape hasn’t worked well on my walls.) ***TIP*** I tore the masking tape at an angle to create kind of pointy, tapered tape ends that gradually widened and uesd those narrow pieces for create the forks in the tree trunk.***I painted as I taped, just to give myself a sense of progress, but even with the husband and two older kids out of the house it took me a couple of hours.

Happily, tho, I finished before they got home from swimming. I gave the paint some time to dry before I pulled it off, and voila! One beautiful tree outline.

Now for the leaves. My daughter wanted leaves she could change with the season. No problem, I thought.

I wanted to do something super crafty and cool at first, but really, what’s better than a pad of autumn colored paper, a marker, scissors, and adhesive putty? First I sketched some leaf outlines. The oak leaves would have given a lot of texture to the tree, but my daughter is five. She would have had trouble cutting out leaves with such complexity, so I opted for a smooth, general leaf design. Then it was off to the craft store where scrapbooking embellishments and paper packs were 40% off! I bought a package of autumn colored photo mat sized paper.  Its a light card stock and would hold up to our task. I traced the outline of the leaf on a number of cards for my daughter to cut out, but I found it was easier and faster for me to simply fold the card in half and cut freehand (there’s that word again) the leaves. It took a while, there were 81 cards in this particular pack. We chose not to use the white, pink, and purple for leaves, but that still left seventy something potential leaves to be cut. It was fun, tho, and these leaves can be saved and re-used again next fall.

To attach the leaves to the walls we used plain ol’ Scotch brand removable adhesive putty, like you frequently find on school walls, and that’s working fine for us. My daughter LOVED pulling the putty apart, rolling it into the little balls and smooshing the leaves onto the walls. This project is definitely time intensive and a creative process not to be rushed.