When it came to remaking our guest bedroom into the baby’s nursery, I decided pretty early on that 1) I did not want to repaint the whole room and just left it the sky blue colour it always was and 2) I really wanted a statement mural.
When I saw the amazing Dina Bandman’s 2018 “Lemondrop Lullaby” design, that was it. I was sold! I landed on a lemon tree ’cause first of all, I love lemons, but also, I love yellow for kids’ stuff and I thought a tree with yellow accents would go really well with the sky blue of the room.
Truth be told, I was a little worried that it wouldn’t turn out well, as I’ve never tried painting a full-wall mural before. Not to mention, I can’t remember the last time I used acrylic paints. And we were really running out of time before it’s baby go-time…. But I think it turned out amazingly, even better than I expected!
And this was a really great bonding experience for Kyler and I. Usually, my DIYs are more of a solo project, or he helps out if there’s sawing or heavy lifting or other little technical tasks (especially recently, with my limited mobility), but this was a total collaboration, which I think makes it that much more special for the baby. Not to mention, I think two brains/artists/sets of eyes are much more likely to end up with an aesthetically pleasing product in most cases.
Here’s how we did it!
1. (Optional) Make a sketch/blueprint
I started with making a rough sketch of what I was envisioning for the look of the tree. You may notice that I left the leaves and lemons off the tree, because I was mainly concerned with getting the tree shape right. It’s a lot harder to draw a true-to-life yet aesthetically-pleasing tree than you think! Notice the awkward branching near the trunk…That is not how a tree naturally grows!
Then, my husband insisted on making a digital drawing of the wall with the tree mural on it before we start. I thought that step was really unnecessary at first, but I see now how useful it can be to ensure a better end product. It made the process much more collaborative, as well. There were many iterations of the tree and discussions about how it just wasn’t right and in what way it could be improved.
In the end, we followed the digital drawing pretty closely, but after seeing how it looked on the wall, I improvised a lot as we went. Branches were added, the leaves were made smaller, the lemon placement and how they hang changed etc.
Overall, I think the end product is much improved over both drawings. But the sketches were always meant to serve as merely a guide, and of course, you don’t have to plan the look of the tree ahead of time if you don’t want to.
2. (Optional) Create a grid on the wall
Once we got to a close enough version of the tree I wanted, we created a grid over the drawing and drew the corresponding grid onto the wall where the mural would go. I recommend using chalk for all your wall drawing, because it’s easy to clean off later. Especially for us, considering our wall paint is completely matte.
If you are very good a freehand painting and aren’t concerned about it not being proportional or getting wonky, you can probably skip this step. And if you have access to a projector, I highly recommend you use that instead of how we did it. You can skip the entire grid/rough draft step, as it would be so much more precise and way easier to trace the drawing directly onto the wall.
3. (Optional) Transfer the drawing onto the grid
Again, if you’re a great muralist, you definitely don’t have to do this step. But I really wanted to minimize the chance of making permanent mistakes with paint/hard to erase stuff, so I found this extremely helpful.
We decided to leave out the leaves and lemons on the rough draft, because again, the hardest and most important part was just getting the tree shape and proportion correct.
4. Paint mural
Once the wall sketch is done, it’s time to start painting! If you’re a particularly messy painter, you might want to lay down some painting tarp or plastic or tape off the baseboards before starting. We used high-viscosity acrylic paint mixed with a matte medium.
In terms of the painting style, I was going for a happy marriage between vintage storybook and Chinoiserie wallpaper. I really liked the style of slightly more muted colours, not so much a cartoony and bright statement.
We started with the tree trunk and branches, and checked it often to make sure it looked okay from a distance, and also, that our painting styles matched, more or less. I also took this opportunity to improvise some extra branches where I felt the original drawing seemed a bit bare, now that I could see it on the wall.
For the leaves, I think that making them at least two similar, but different tones, added so much more dimension to the painting as a whole. It’s hard to tell from far away that the leaves are slightly different shades of green, but up close, it’s more obvious. And I didn’t want to make them too big, either. I wanted the whole feel of the tree to be somewhat delicate and elegant.
I decided we should do one quick “pass” of leaves without adding too many at once, and then do the lemons, which are the real focal point. The goal of the leaves is to act as accents or compliments to the lemons. I didn’t want to accidentally add too many or take up prime lemon real estate. Once the lemons were on, I went back and added some more leaves to fill out the tree.
And that was basically it! I was quite nervous to take the plunge into this product. It’s one thing to paint on a canvas you can just throw away, but painting a wall is slightly more permanent. You can always paint over it, but I was just concerned that it would not look as good as I had envisioned.
But I just love how sunny and whimsical it turned out! I think it looks great.
What do you think of our lemon tree mural?