How to Paint Street Murals: Tips from DC

Maker News
How to Paint Street Murals: Tips from DC

Much admired and quickly imitated in dozens of cities across the nation, the Black Lives Matter street mural in downtown Washington, D.C. was painted on June 5 in just hours, by team of D.C. city workers, eight artists who remain anonymous, and volunteer passers-by. If you’d like to paint a street in your town, here are tips from the team at MuralsDC who made it happen.

1. First and foremost, get yourself a team of artists who have experience doing large-scale exterior murals. The aim should be to have as perfect an aerial shot as possible. This requires people who know how to do the calculation and curation. You can have volunteers do the fill-in work after all of this and the outline are done.

2. Meet with your artists and develop a list of all of the things they will need to work, i.e. art supplies, access to electricity, etc.

3. Good street sweeping ahead of time is a must. Make sure the ground is dry before starting; keep an eye on the forecast.

4. The pavement sucks up paint. Prepare 2–3 times the amount of paint you think you’ll need. DC’s project required a little over 100 gallons for 580 feet (each letter was approximately 25 x 40 feet). Use rollers if you plan to have a lot of people helping out.

5. We used waterborne traffic paint and added some water to it. It works great and dries fast.

6. Remember to have a videographer and photographer there to capture the process.

7. Obviously start during hours when there is the least amount of traffic: 2am–4am. We also had vehicles barricade the area that would be painted.

8. Check to see if you’ll need any type of permits.

9. The mural will fade quickly and may also attract other unwanted graffiti. Protect the mural with a graffiti prevention coating that would be suitable for a pavement expecting vehicular traffic.

You can support MuralsDC at

Black Lives Matter Mural in Capitol Hill, Seattle, Washington, created by many local artists supporting the George Floyd protests. Photo by Kyle Kotajarvi; Wikimedia Commons.
Black Lives Matter street mural in progress, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The one that started it all: street mural in Black Lives Matter Plaza, Washington, DC. Yes that’s the White House at the end of the street. Photo by Ted Eytan; Wikimedia Commons.
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