Turn Your Favorite Picture Into a Mural Using a Grid - Anyone Can Do It!




About: I've always had a tendency to make things rather than buy. When your design aesthetic never seems to work with your budget you end up developing pretty good maker skills. I hope my little projects can inspir...

I've always wanted to paint something but never knew where to start. I love that with a little bit of paint you can completely change a room. When my daughter asked for a butterfly on her wall I figured it was time to try it out.

My only problem is that I have zero experience in this department. I can't even draw very well and doing things to scale is usually a nightmare. With that being said I somehow managed to pull this off with a little basic math, common sense(I mean Google), and over-ambition. So trust me when I say if I can do it, you definitely can. This grid method breaks it down so any level of skill can do it.

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Step 1: Choosing an Photo

You can do this with any photo of your choice. Obviously some will be much more difficult than others so choose according to your skill level.

I let my daughter pick what she wanted for the wall. She ended up choosing this beautiful photo taken by Keith Schengili-Roberts. You can check out his blog to see more amazing photos. He gave me permission to use his photo for my daughters mural and this instructable.

Step 2: Materials

Gather all of your materials. You will need the following:

Large ruler (preferably one with a grid)
Mechanical pencil
Paint brushes
Paint colors to match your photo
Photo of your choice

*if you don't want to ruin the photo you can make a photocopy of it and put your grid on that.

Step 3: The Grid Method

The grid method is the easiest way to enlarge an image perfectly to scale. It also breaks down the details in small sections which will help to sketch more accurately.

You will be drawing a grid on your image and and replicating that grid in a larger version on your painting surface. The important part is to always have a ratio of 1:1 for each grid.

Let's say your image is 4x6, first you draw 1" grid lines on the entire photo. To enlarge it you will multiply each side by the same number. For example- 4x10= 40" and 6x10= 60". So your enlarged grid for the paint surface will be 40"x60" and each square within it will be 10"x10"

You can do this with any size photo and go as big as you'd like.

My image is 5x7. I made my grid 30"x42" so each square is 6"x6"

Step 4: Drawing Your Grids

To start you will draw a 1" grid onto you photo with a fine tip pen. If your drawing on a photo copy then a pencil will be fine. Make sure that each square is perfectly 1".

To draw the grid on the wall the first thing I did was make a line parallel to the ceiling where I wanted the top of the mural to start. Make sure to use a level, no one wants a lopsided mural.

I drew a perpendicular line on the first horizontal line. From there I drew 6" notches down the vertical line. Then using the first line draw parallel lines using the the level line as a guide. On each line I drew notches every 6" to make sure each line was perfectly 6 inches away before I drew them. This reduces errors from pencil tips and ruler edges.

Step 5: Sketching Your Image

Now that the grid is done you will sketch your image onto the wall with a pencil.

Use your image as reference and draw one square at a time.

Since this sketch is the outline for painting It doesn't have to be perfect, but the more detail the easier it will be to paint. At least it was for me.

Step 6: Painting Your Image

After you've sketched your image you can erase all of the grid lines. Be careful to maintain the detail areas. Re draw things if you need to.

Now you are ready to paint. I painted the black outline of the butterfly first. Then the white spots. After that I worked on the flower. The last part was the other accent areas in the butterfly.

I'm so new at this so there are a lot of things I could have done better. I think it turned out great for my very first painting. Ever. I could probably tweak it for the rest of my life but I forced myself to step away. One thing is for sure, there is no way I could have done this successfully without a grid. I don't own a projector so that wasn't an option.

The best part was my daughter did her own little version while I was working on this. Another great idea is to do a simpler picture and do a paint by numbers with your child. You can sketch it out and add the color/numbers and they can do that painting.

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    10 Discussions


    3 years ago

    ive been wondering if its possible to make a semi transparent window mural. Say from a photo, similar to your butterfly. My dog recently passed away and I miss seeing her in the passenger seat. Do you think your grid mural idea would work?


    3 years ago

    thanks a lot to Rachael K, it' really looks amazing!!!

    u has done so beautiful work!!!

    As for us, when my family thought about walls (at our flat) We were using a large picture print. I was printing a large image of our family and gluing it.

    It was printing on our simply a4 printer, thx to poster maker software we ve done it ! :)

    Now, it looks really good too.

    But without any doubt u'r work Rachael K is MAGIC!!!


    4 years ago on Step 6

    You did a wonderful job, Rachael. I have a neighbor who uses this method to do oil paintings from her own photos and she has won quite a view art prizes. Good one!

    1 reply

    4 years ago

    I used to do fabric painting, and back then used the grid system for my outline. I also used that system for my three diminsional needlepoint buildings ( usually with a scale of 3-6 stitches per inch). Sometimes I went to a company that would make Xerox enlargements for complicated buildings, but that usually cost $ 5-10 which was beyond my ability to pay. Now I often start with cross stitch design software, and then adjust for the fact that I cannot often find photos that are taken full flat on views. Often it's impossible to get far enough from the building to get perfect elevation, but the software does help.
    Even with the best, I find myself making adjustments, which means that I have to go back to the computer generated charts before making my kits.