Who Paints Those Amazing Murals in Your City? It Could be You

Image: Mural
Eli Pousson under Creative Commons

As an artist, you can invest a small fortune in tools and supplies only to have your paintings hang somewhere unsold for years. And an occasional sale might just cover the cost of materials for the unsold pieces. On the other hand, you could make $50 per hour painting murals, and you make the sale before you ever pick up the brush.

One of the great things about a mural-painting business is that you can run it just on weekends and otherwise work it around your current schedule. Another advantage is…

Low Startup Costs

Depending on the types of murals you do, you could start with as little as $100 for tools and materials. Typically, customers pay you half upfront for a job, so you can use that advance to buy your paint.

To keep startup costs low, just buy tools as necessary. For example, a step stool may be sufficient for painting bedrooms, and you can buy a ladder from your profits later, when you get jobs involving higher walls.

Once you have some experience, you might want to sign up for an online referral service that will help you find clients (or help them find you). For example, FindaMuralist.com charges $150 to $200 per year to list your business and upload a portfolio of your work. The site includes a website, and it doesn’t charge anything extra for the referrals sent your way.

Learning to Paint Murals

For certain niches, you don’t even need to be an artist. For example, paint-by-number mural kits can be perfect for doing children’s bedrooms. These patterns come with complete instructions, and as you get better you can alter the designs to get as creative as you or your clients desire.

For other types of jobs, you might consider any of the many mural stencils sold online. There are some great designs for living rooms.

A mural painting workshop can provide training and a certificate, but you can also learn from mural painting videos on YouTube. If you already paint on canvas, this might be all you need to get started on wall murals. Otherwise, you can stick to stencils and paint-by-number designs while you practice freehand work on the walls at home.

Where to Sell Your Murals

Once you develop enough word-of-mouth exposure, clients may come to you. In the meantime, look for a good place to put a mural, and ask the owner if she’s interested. Here are some of the places murals are found:

  • Old buildings
  • Children’s bedrooms
  • Living rooms
  • Bars
  • Restaurants
  • Garages
  • Garden sheds
  • Schools
  • Libraries
  • Airports

Most of the time you’ll paint walls (inside or outside), but you can also find murals on ceilings, floors and even roofs. For example, in Denver, CO, the roof of the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company has a painted mural/logo, which is visible to guests at the Hyatt and other tall hotels. Rooftop murals or logos on low roofs make sense in any city where there are always hundreds or thousands of people high enough to appreciate them.

Mural-Painting Prices

Murals are priced in a number of different ways. For example, mural painter Cindy Baer Webster charges $60 per hour. That’s for painting. She charges $30 per hour for research and planning, and a mileage charge for travel. The first 30-minute consultation is free, and basic paint and materials are included in the hourly charge. So that customers can get a rough idea of what the total cost will be, her extensive online portfolio includes the final price of each mural.

A more common arrangement is to charge per square foot, according to how difficult the design, surface or conditions are. And the range is wide. For example, Charlie Davis charges $10 to $20 per square foot for his murals, while muralist Michael Cooper says, “We tell clients that they can expect most interior murals to cost between $100 and $200 per square foot, but it could be less, or it could be more, depending upon the level of detail required.”

According to RedBeacon.com, the average price nationally for custom murals is $537 for a work 4-by-4 feet, which would be $16 per square foot. But an entire room averages $1,877, which for a normal room of say, 12-by-14 feet with 8-foot ceilings would be about $4.50 per-square-foot. They note that charges go up for painting around doors and other obstacles.

Obviously there is a lot of variation in pricing. Partly it is what you offer. You can get top dollar for trompe l’oeil designs if you have the ability to do that kind of hyper-realistic art. If you’re doing stencil murals for kids’ rooms, you might be at the lower end of the pay scale.

To set your pricing, look at what muralists close to you charge. And by “close to you” we mean close geographically, in skill level, and type of murals painted. Then aim a little higher. You can always lower your prices later if you aren’t getting enough business.

If you want to make some serious money, look for big walls to paint. Muralist Drew Brophy charges $34,500 for a mural that is 44-by-28 feet.

Your Turn: Would you consider mural painting as a part-time or full-time business?