Introduction: Retro Room Mural (RRM)

Not long ago I decided I really needed to up the cool factor to my son's bedroom.  It had always just been a plain old blue.  He has always loved Mario so we decided that would be a good theme to go on.  I had seen the wall clings but they just didn't quite fit what I was looking for.  We needed something bigger that tied in more of the room.  I finally stumbled on the idea of just painting it right on the walls.  I decided if all else failed, I could just paint back over it again.  He started playing SNES Super Mario World when he was 5 and loved it even though he quickly beat it several times. So I thought that would be a really cool retro theme for his room.  Plus its totally unique and cool as well as being simpler to do than the new high-res Mario.  I tried to take some pictures through the process that I will use throught this Instructable.  Hopefully this Instructable will give you some ideas and tips to help you along.  I didn't track it but I spent probably $30 - $50 on this project and probably spent a good 15 - 20 hours working on it off and on for a couple months.  Pretty much the only cost was on the Home Depot sample paints, they were perfect for this project.  I used the Behr and Gliden 8oz sample paints that are tintable to any color you can find for about $3 or $4 each.  I did opt for the quart size for the green because there was so much of it and I didn't want to run out.

Paint brushes
Laser level

Optional but VERY helpful:

Step 1: Step 1: Pick Your Theme

The first step is to decide what you actually want to do.  Sometimes this is the hardest part.  My son loves Mario, so that made it pretty easy for me.  The tough part for us was to figure out what version of Mario to use.  After studying online images of various versions, I decided that the older NES / SNES versions were far easier to replicate for a non-artist like myself.  Graphics back in the 80's were not nearly as complex as they are now.  Everything you see is the original NES version so I went with the SNES version to be different.  This version was far simpler to draw out and paint also.  Try to plan ahead when selecting your theme.  A highly detailed and realistic / 3D looking images will be much harder to replicate.  8-bit and 16-bit video game images are fairly simple with very few details and shading.

Step 2: Step 2: Plan Your Layout

After you have decided what your theme will be you will need to figure out the best way to incorporate it into your area.  You will need to design around things like doors and windows and fit them into your mural as best as possible.  One creative thing I did was to turn the door between my son and daughters rooms into a warp tube.  This helps to hide the door as well as add a fun aspect to the room in that he can go "in" the warp tube and end up somewere else.  My daughter is hounding me to paint her room next, so it will probably be a warp tube on both sides eventually.  Try hiding or accenting various features of the room to create the feel your are going for.  You can also make use of  the room features, like how I made the level complete / exit be the bedroom door.

This step is also important for later steps.  You will want to take some decent quality images of the area you are going to paint.  Try to take them as straight on as possible.  Also, you may want to clean the room first, as you can see in my photos, I didn't do this!  Now, find a good image of what it is you want to turn the room into.  Personally I used a SNES emulator on my PC and took screenshots of the features that I wanted in the room. 

Now in photoshop or gimp or something similar, open both images.  Using your room image as the base, remove the features that you want to add to your room from the other image and paste them into the room.  Photoshop layers are wonderful for this.  I created a layer for each item (Mario, Yoshi, coins, mushrooms....) and placed them around the room in a layout that flowed nicely.  You can easily duplicate layers and move things around as you work in Photoshop.  You may need to do some scale adjustments, be careful with this as you don't want to warp the dimensions of the item and make it look out of place.  Take your time here and get what you want while you can change it easy.  Be careful though, the more you get caried away, the more work you will have later on.

Once you are done here you should have a nice image of your room that you can print.  Print this out the best you can.  The larger the better.  Also, be sure that your colors look right, this is your cheatsheet for the rest the project.  Be sure to save this image for the next step as well.

Step 3: Step 3: Painting Prep

This step was the key to my whole project.  I'm really not that artistic and my freehand painting is only to be laughed at.  If you are an art genious, I suppose you can skip it.  Find yourself a projector or borrow one from someone or work or where ever you can get one.  Then load the template image you created earlier to a laptop.  Now as best you can, line up the projector to the wall you are painting and scale the image to the size you want.  You may have to move the projector around to layout your whole design.  Alternate moving the projector and moving the image on the laptop to get your whole area covered.  Painting over the image is probably not feasible unless you own the projector.  So using a pencil lightly trace the outline of everything to your wall.  You don't have to be perfect here but the closer you are the more time you will save later on.  I had a good bit of clean up to do in my images while painting as you can probably see in some of the pictures.  If your careful, the paint should cover most of your pencil marks.

Step 4: Step 4: Begin the Painting

This is where the real time consuming part of your project is.  Maybe there is a quicker way, but I hand painted everything without any tape.  Before you start this step you will obviously need to purchase your paint and some brushes.  I found that the sample paints from Home Depot were perfect for this.  Unless you go crazy with your design, you really don't need alot of paint to add these small details.  Most colors I only used half or less of the paint I got.  You can save some money here by mixing your own colors.  If you need a green and a dark green for a shaded area, try to mix it in a seperate container with some black.  While this worked for me, be sure to paint everything that will be that color at once and be sure its perfect when your done.  Once that mixed color is gone unless you measured it out you likely won't be able to duplicate it for some small touch up later on.  Try to keep your edges nice and clean and only paint one color at a time.  When its dry then you can paint the next, you don't want them mixing on the wall.  A very handy tool for me in this stage was a laser level.  Line it up across straight sections that should cross trim or corners to ensure you have nice lines.  And it doesn't leave any marks for you to clean up later on.  Plus, you don't want to have the whole thing sloping down or running uphill if your projector wasn't level.  If you are careful you shouldn't need to tape anything.  While more time consuming, this did save with the cost of the tape.  For brushes I found that the cheap foam wedge brushes worked well.  After a couple uses I just threw them out. I also got a small pack of "artist" paint brushes from Hobby Lobby, these helped in the small detail areas.  If you are doing a large color section, a small foam trim roller may also be useful.

While you are painting, keep a printed copy of your final layout handy as a reference.  You can see mine in several of these images. This will help you decifer your previous chicken scratch on the wall and keep you on track.  This is your map from now on.  Work from it for everything from selecting paint colors to brushing in the fine details.  Its like paint by numbers without the numbers.

Step 5: Step 5: Clean Up

Depending on how much time you spent earlier on, this may not be needed.  However I was a bit sloppy in my initial template so I had some cleanup to do.  Try using a soft towel with a little soap and warm water to rub out all the pencil marks that you didn't paint over.  If you have extra paint marks, you may need to get the original wall color out and go over this. I was very careful not to get paint where I didn't want it and luckily this wasn't an issue for me.  Be gentle as you don't want to ruin your masterpiece or mark up the walls any.  If you used normal interior paint you really shouldn't have any future issues with it. 

Step 6: Step 6: Celebrate, Your Done!!

Now your done! Enjoy and get ready to start your other kids room!!