An empty wall is like a blank canvas – there are limitless possibilities for how to fill it. A wall mural is one such possibility that has a number of unique advantages.
Today we’re going to discuss everything there is to know about customized wall murals and decals. We’ll explain how they’re made, what kinds you can get, and why they are a viable option for any kind of decorating you want to do. Wall murals are much simpler to design and install than you might think, can save a ton of space, and are cost effective to boot. Plus, they can truly transform your space for the better.
If you want to make your space really pop, here are the ins and outs of custom wall murals.
Wall Murals & Decals 101
What is a wall mural?
When most people think of a mural, they imagine something like an intricate piece of wall art painted by hand. While this is true of many different murals, from the Sistine Chapel to street art and graffiti, many murals are printed. A printed mural is basically an image printed on adhesive vinyl in the dimensions of the wall space it is meant to cover. This is good news, because it means you don’t need to be a talented artist to install a wall mural in your space.
What is a wall decal?
A wall decal is similar to a wall mural in that it is an image printed on adhesive vinyl and applied to a wall. The difference is that a wall decal does not typically cover the entire surface area of the wall, where as a wall mural does. Typography, for example, tends to be best printed as a wall decal. A good comparison may be to think of wall murals like wallpaper, and wall decals like stickers. The processes for printing and applying are the same for both wall decals and wall murals!
How are wall murals and decals printed?
Custom wall murals are printed on adhesive vinyl using special large-format printers. The necessary equipment is bulky, expensive, and requires special software and expertise for operation and maintenance. In short, this isn’t the kind of printer people typically have in their homes. Custom wall mural printing is a task that should be handled by printing and graphics professionals.
What are the advantages of wall murals?
Wall murals are a super economical design option in both price and function. Here are some reasons you should consider installing a wall mural in your home, office, or business:
Space Saver: Wall murals add a ton of visual interest without taking up any space. They don’t block the flow of traffic, obstruct electrical outlets, or take up room where people or furniture could go.
Infinite Design Options: You can print any image, in any color, cut to any shape. The sky is the limit.
Lease friendly decoration: No drilling holes in the wall. No nails or screws. No trace left behind. You won’t have to worry about losing your deposit.
Installs in minutes: Super easy installation can be done in a matter of minutes, even without professional help.
Low maintenance: Your work is done after application. You won’t even have to dust it, like you would with furniture, shelving, or hanging art.
As you can see, wall murals and decals are far better and more reliable than other forms of decoration, so if you want to change the appearance of your interior space, you should consider looking at this versatile and affordable option.
How long do wall murals last?
Since you are not using permanent materials such as paint, nails, or other kinds of fixtures, you may be wondering how long your wall decal or mural can realistically last. The lifespan of a wall mural or wall decal depends on a variety of factors, but the average printed wall mural lasts about five years before the image or adhesive start to show any signs of aging. Lower quality vinyl or temporary wall murals typically start to degrade around the three year mark.
As far as coloration and wearing out, vinyl is a rather robust material that can hold up to most environments with ease. Your typical home or office environment is perfect for a wall mural. Environments in which a wall mural may degrade more quickly are those in which the vinyl is continually exposed to elements like extreme heat or cold, moisture, smoke, oils, and direct sunlight. Murals installed in spaces like the outdoors, commercial kitchens, or crowded dance clubs may need to be replaced more frequently.
Vinyl Wall Mural Installation & Removal
Where can I install a wall mural or decal?
Wall mural installation works on plenty of surfaces. The wall mural adhesive is especially suited for flat, smooth surfaces, including walls, windows, and doors. Though the backing can adhere to rougher surfaces, like exposed brick, this isn’t ideal and can detract from the longevity of the mural. We recommend plastering over rougher surfaces before applying a wall mural or decal.
Are wall murals removable?
Printed wall murals are generally easy to remove. High quality vinyl typically has a low-adhesive backing that won’t leave any sticky residue behind on the surface – we use 3M vinyl for this reason. Some cheaper vinyl materials, though removable in theory, don’t make it easy. Furthermore, the cheap adhesives can damage the surface beneath the mural upon removal. If preserving the surface underneath is a priority for you, make sure you do your research about the vinyl.
Can a wall mural be applied more than once?
It is possible to reapply the same mural after removal, but it’s not ideal. For the most part, you can only place the mural or decal once or twice before the adhesive wears down, so it’s imperative that you figure out the proper placement before you set it up.
Storing the mural in between applications may also pose a problem. As you will no doubt have noticed, if you want to reposition your mural or put it somewhere else, you don’t have the luxury of a backing to keep it from folding in on itself or bubbling. Wax paper can be used as a temporary backing while you work on reapplying the mural.
If you want something more reusable, there are decals made of specialized fabric with a unique adhesive on the back. These murals and decals can be repositioned and taken down multiple times without losing their stick, but they tend to be pricier than single-application murals.
Can you install a vinyl wall mural outdoors?
Yes, outdoor wall mural installation is possible. If you do plan on putting a decal or mural on a surface outdoors, you will need to purchase a version that is built to withstand the elements. Some options will have a better adhesive that won’t melt or fade in direct sunlight, as well as colors that won’t wear down as easily. Lamination is another option. But it is important to keep in mind that, although there are lots of steps you can take to extend the life of an outdoor mural, nothing will make it last forever.
How to install a wall mural
Whether it’s a small sticker to put in a corner or a massive, wall-to-wall mural that will make your room look more dynamic, it’s imperative that you follow proper procedure when placing your decal. Even if it is reusable fabric and adhesive, the less you have to mess with it, the better. If possible, try to get it right on the first try. To ensure that that happens, follow these instructions for how to install a wall mural.
Step One: Plan Ahead
Before you order your custom wall mural or decal, get out your tape measure. Make sure you have all of the dimensions right so that the image fills exactly the space that you want it to!
One thing about decorating your interior is that it can be difficult to imagine what something will look like until you actually put it into place. This is another advantage that vinyl decals have since you can affix the design with some tape beforehand to see how it will affect the feel and appearance of the room before you stick it in place.
Overall, try a few different placements to see what works best, particularly if you are going to be putting more than one decal at a time. This will help make sure that you don’t have to rearrange everything after the fact. It’s far easier to shift things around before they are applied.
Step Two: Clean the Surface
Even if you don’t see any dirt or grime on the surface, you should still wipe it down. A damp cloth is all it takes to ensure that the surface is free from any dust or particles that could affect the longevity of the adhesive. You want the adhesive to stick to the wall and not to a layer of dirt or dust in between. But do be sure that the wall is completely dry before you apply the mural!
Paint and Its Effect – One thing to keep in mind is that wall decals stick best when applied to a matte paint rather than a gloss. So, if you do have a glossy coat on your surface, you may want to add a matte layer on top so that your decal will stay up longer. This step is not always necessary, but if you want to make sure that your mural won’t peel anytime soon, it could be a viable option.
Textured Walls – In some cases, the surface may be bumpy and rough, which means that you have to be extra careful when placing your decal or mural. It will still apply and look fantastic, but you have to make sure that you get into the cracks and bumps of the surface when applying so that it won’t start to peel right away.
Step Three: Start from the Top
When you get your decal or mural, it will have a plastic backing that you will need to remove to get to the adhesive. When placing your design, it’s much better to take off this backing as you go, rather than pulling it off first and trying to apply the whole thing at once. Doing it this way will ensure that you don’t have any problems such as air bubbles or pinching of the material.
Use a Level – If you are worried about the decal coming out crooked, then mark the top and bottom with a pencil and a level so that you can be sure that you’re on point. Use a soft tip pencil or something else that can easily rub off after the fact.
Step Four: Slowly Peel and Press
Once you have the top of your decal or mural in place, you will want to work in a calm and deliberate manner. There are no extra points for putting it up quickly, so take your time and do it right. Peel the backing down a little bit and then press the vinyl against the wall as you go. For best results, take a step back every so often to make sure that you’re not crooked or uneven. Also, watch out for air bubble or pinching and try to correct these issues as they arise. Bubbles will be practically impossible to remove after the fact, so take care of them as soon as possible. If necessary, pull the vinyl up and then start again on the same area so you can ensure proper adhesion.
Use Something Flat for Smoothing – While you could do it all with your hands, it’s usually better if you have something that can do the job for you. A ruler, a book, or some other flat surface will do the trick and ensure that you get a perfect seal on the first try.
Step Five: Finish Removing the Backing
Once you’ve finally reached the bottom of your decal, take the rest of the backing off and smooth the edges. If you did it correctly, then your design should be free of any pinches or bubbles, and the corners will be flush with the wall. Afterward, wipe off any marks you made and then wipe down the decal with a warm, damp cloth. This will help seal the bond and keep it up longer.
How to remove a wall mural
Eventually, there may come a time when you want to take your mural or decal down. Perhaps it’s faded or peeling, or maybe you want to replace it with something else. When taking a vinyl decal off the wall, it’s best to start in the top corner and slowly peel it towards the opposite side. If you get a good angle for leverage, the mural should peel off in a single sheet.
Can I install a new wall mural immediately after removing an old one?
After removing an old wall mural, you can install a new one pretty much immediately. If you used a high quality vinyl mural, there shouldn’t be adhesive backing left behind. However, to make sure that your wall is clean and ready for the next one you can wipe it down with a warm, wet towel. This should remove any leftover adhesive and provide you with a clean, fresh slate for the next wall mural installation.
Designing a Custom Wall Mural
Now that you’ve seen how easy it is to get and apply a wall mural or decal, you probably have a few ideas in mind that you want to try. However, it’s important that you take your time to figure out a plan of action beforehand so that you can be sure that your new decal or mural will complement your space, as well as everything else in it. Let’s go over some basic design guidelines to help you get started.
Wall Murals for Homes
Wall murals can be a fabulous and unique addition to the interior design of any home, transforming your space from ordinary to one-of-a-kind. We recommend the following design tips as you begin brainstorming ideas for a custom wall mural.
Form Follows Function
When thinking about decorating any kind of space, first think about what happens there, and the kind of energy you’d like to cultivate for that activity. For example, you probably want your bedroom to be relaxing to promote good sleep, while your kitchen may be more energetic to promote great meals and conversation. When choosing an image for a custom wall decal, browse photos and art that incites the kind of energy in you that you’d like to have in your space.
Elegance in Simplicity
While it may be tempting to get decals that cover most of your surface area, the fact is that negative space plays just as much of a role as positive. This means that you may want there to be some blank areas of the wall that direct attention to the decal or the design itself. Too much going on in one design can be overwhelming, even tacky.
What we suggest is starting with one piece and then slowly building from there. See how it fits on the wall by itself, and then add something else if it seems like you’re missing something. This will not only ensure that you avoid clutter, but it will be cheaper to implement as well.
Themes and Similar Patterns
One thing that you want to avoid is clashing. Clashing happens when two incongruous designs are placed side-by-side, such as stripes next to polka dots. Fortunately, you can alternate between plans based on different rooms, but avoid placing two distinct aesthetics next to each other.
One common design element that you’ll find in many homes is the implementation of writing inspirational quotes. While this may seem like an elegant addition to your wall, you want to proceed with caution. If you are going to go this route, we highly suggest that you avoid clicheed options, such as “live, laugh, love,” or any variation on that.
If you want a quote, then we recommend that you find one that speaks to you personally. It can be from a movie, a role model, or somewhere else, but if it relates to your particular interests, then it will have much more of an impact. A generic saying will make the space seem “store bought” and won’t have the same level of personality as it would if you hand select your quote.
Also, we highly suggest utilizing words with images whenever possible. Quotes can work well in minimalist spaces, but if you can punctuate it with a graphic, then it can add a bit of flair that would otherwise be lacking. For example, if you have a quote about family, then a portrait of your own family placed above it will accentuate the meaning and drive it home further.
Wall Mural Design Ideas for the Home
Having trouble picturing what a wall mural might look like in you home? Here are some great examples to help you visualize.
Living Room Wall Mural Ideas
Dining Room Wall Mural Ideas
Kid’s Room Wall Mural Ideas
Wall Murals for Offices
Designing an office wall mural is about striking a balance of branding and ergonomics. The good news is that wall murals are an awesome storytelling medium, super functional, and can also add some serious spark to your office environment. Here’s how to start planning:
Compartmentalize Open Spaces
These days, it seems that open air offices are all the rage. Instead of a line of cubicles, now workers are encouraged to share their workspace with others to fuel creativity and productivity. As such, you may have a wide open floor plan with few distinctions between areas.
Seeing as many companies make their homes in expansive warehouses, the question of how to break up the space is an important one when designing an office layout. Open floor plans are widely embraced for the sense of community and approachability they foster, but some division of the space is necessary for meetings, breaks, or when productivity could benefit from a change of atmosphere. This is where wall decor can come into play. You can utilize various designs to make each section unique so that even though there aren’t physical divisions between them, they still feel separate from each other. The reason this is so powerful is that it can provide a sense of enclosure and privacy, even when there aren’t any walls present.
Installing murals in strategic places in an office can create a sense of delineated space while still maintaining an open air feeling. There is no need for a mural to be as high as the ceiling, or to be enclosed by other walls. They provide distinction without needing to build out a whole room.
Opening Up Spaces
Just as the right mural can add some compartmentalization to an open floor plan, it can also create a feeling of depth and expanse to an enclosed area. Meeting rooms and offices can feel tight and cramped, but a mural of a New York cityscape or a famous landmark can make it feel much more open and comfortable. Bright, cheery colors can also go a long way if your office space doesn’t have much.
Contrast, Class, and Character
Just because the office is a place of business doesn’t mean that it has to feel drab or unimpressive. The common thing to do is choose a minimalist color palette and similar design choices so that you avoid too much contrast. Sleek lines and and a subdued color palette may make for an ultra-classy and professional look, but a workplace without any flavor or unique additions can start to feel sterile. Where simplicity, elegance, and functionality are top design priorities, the addition of murals can introduce just the right amount of character to an office space.
The important thing here is to make an impact without going overboard. When crafted using a company’s own themes and imagery, a mural serves as a beautiful way to reinforce a brand. San Francisco-based analytics company Quid often uses maps of connected dots to help their clients visualize data. They took this theme beyond the computer and into their lobby space, and the effect is simple yet stunning:
Lighting the Way
Murals need not serve only as backdrops. With the right materials, a decorative mural can double as a functional source of lighting. Streaming radio service Pandora features portraits of music icons in their Chicago office, backlit to illuminate the work surfaces below them.
The right lighting on wall decor can also give it the appearance of a huge window with an impressive view. Beats by Dre’s HQ in Culver City uses sprawling cityscapes as the images for their murals. By strategically lighting the horizon of the photos, the murals have the life-like feel of looking out from a skyscraper.
14 Wall Mural Myths Debunked
A good wall mural is a classic decorative choice for good reason: the right mural can add a whole lot of color to any room or outdoor surface, and can completely change the look and feel of a previously boring and empty wall. But unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions out there about modern wall murals. Here are 14 common myths about wall murals, debunked.
Myth #1: Wall murals are only painted on.
Not so! The old-school definition of “wall mural” is often totally intertwined with paint, but newer mural design methods mean that nowadays, paint isn’t even necessary for some murals to be installed. Printed murals use UV-resistant ink instead of paint to convey imagery, resulting in a more crisp and bold display. Plus, printed imagery won’t chip or flake like paint will, and can remain pristine and bright for a lot longer under the right conditions.
Myth #2: Wall murals are difficult to clean.
Murals painted directly onto walls can be hard to clean, since doing so can damage paint and degrade a mural’s integrity. But again, today’s discussion of murals is all about the variety that are printed and installed, and not painted directly onto a wall. This new style of wall mural is easier to clean, since printed imagery won’t flake or come apart like painted imagery will. Plus, most companies that offer vinyl and other easily installed wall murals print murals in gloss finishes and other methods that are specifically designed to be easy to clean.
Myth #3: Wall murals are not environmentally friendly.
Painted wall murals can flake and chip easily, and the resulting paint can be hazardous to surrounding environment. But most printed wall murals are a lot less of an environmental hazard, just based on the fact that they are less likely to chip or flake off paint. In addition, many companies that offer wall mural installation are committed to eco-friendly policies, and make a point of printing on materials that are not environmentally dangerous. When they are printed on the right materials and with the right inks, wall murals can be a very eco-friendly approach to decorating. HP PVC-free wallpaper murals are the most popular and environmentally friendly option. These are custom printed and professionally installed.
Myth #4: It’s difficult to get custom wall murals.
Before mural printing, getting a custom wall mural meant finding an artist that you like, making sure they were available, negotiating a reasonable fee for a custom design, and then hoping that the design you chose gets translated onto the wall well. All of which is difficult and can make custom designs prohibitively time consuming. But with printed wall murals, getting a custom print is as easy as placing an order for an image you like.
Myth #5: My space is too big for a wall mural.
Printed wall murals can fill up HUGE spaces, so for almost all users the idea that a space is too big for a mural is simply false. Most printers can handle surprisingly large areas, like the 20 foot by 20 foot mural options we print. Plus, high quality print techniques mean that most murals which are bigger than the largest sizes offered can be printed in multiple images and seamlessly stitched together upon installation. By printing multiple prints and installing them correctly, almost no space is too big for a wall mural.
Myth #6: My space is too small for a wall mural.
While a commissioned artist may turn away small spaces as not suitable for murals, when you are in charge of printing your own, any space is big enough. Typically, most printing companies will print vinyl and other materials by a square foot charge, so you may have to take that restriction into account. However, if you get in contact with your local printing shop or a shop that ships prints, most custom orders can be smaller than that, and can be designed to fit even the coziest nooks and crannies. Another option is custom wall decals, which are smaller and don’t take up the whole wall. These can be cut to any shape you need.
Myth #7: Wall murals will fade quickly.
Part of the appeal of wall murals is their bright, popping, defined look, so nothing is worse than a mural fading and losing its brilliance. Luckily, most printed wall murals keep their luster and continue to look crisp and beautiful long after they are printed. Print quality will eventually degrade of course, just like any imagery does, but that usually takes quite a bit of time. Depending on whether your mural is installed inside or outside, and depending on what kinds of elements your mural has to contend with, it may take up to several years for you to notice your prints fading. Paint does have a tendency to lose its glow fast, but the UV-resistant specialized ink used for custom printed murals remains bright for a long time.
Myth #8: Wall murals are only for outdoor displays.
Don’t tell an interior decorator that! Recently, wall murals have become an incredibly trendy design option for modern home owner looking to spice up empty or dreary walls inside their home. And since wall murals can be printed on low residue, easily removed materials, apartment renters can enjoy the beauty of interior wall murals too. Wall murals will actually last even longer indoors, meaning that for a low investment you can change the look and feel of your home for a long time to come. Wall murals do all the same things indoors that they do outdoors, adding color and fun to a blank wall, and are just as suitable for decorating a home’s interior as exterior.
Myth #9: Wall murals are only long term decorations.
Getting a wall mural painted on is certainly an investment that usually is meant for long term displays, but printed murals are well suited to short and medium term installation. Most shops that handle custom murals can print on special low adhesive, short term decorating material, meaning your mural can be intentionally designed for easy short-term use. This makes wall murals a perfect addition to corporate events, parties, and all other themed gatherings that could benefit from a little extra unique decoration.
Myth #10: Taking down a wall mural is difficult and messy.
It can be difficult to take down a wall mural, it just all depends on what that mural is made of. Painted on murals usually are easiest to paint over, and taking them down all together can require a lot of work. And early printed designs could be messy, with lots of glue and residue to deal with. But modern custom printed designs are intentionally crafted in most cases to be easy up, easy down decorating solutions. In fact, as we noted above, lots of companies even make low adhesive options available, so you can take murals down quickly and easily if you don’t like them. Taking down a modern, printed mural requires very little hassle and makes very little mess. The options we sell can actually be removed just with water and a sponge.
Myth #11: You can’t install your own wall murals.
Painting your own wall mural would certainly require a whole lot of skill, but modern printed wall murals can be easily self-installed with a little guidance. If you really think you can’t install your own wall mural, call your local print shop and ask if they can help with an in person consultation and installation follow-up after you’ve ordered a print. Or, see if you can figure out how to get a print installed on your own, and call your print shop to troubleshoot. Overall, installing a custom printed wall mural is actually incredibly easy, and just about anybody can do it on their own.
Myth #12: Wall murals can only be installed on a smooth surface.
Ideally, the surface where you install your wall mural should be free of bumps and should be relatively clean and smooth, but this doesn’t always need to be the case. Newer printed models may have enough adhesive to stick to some bumps, just ask your local print shop what they have available. Also, there are a lot of workarounds to make it easier to install a printed mural if you have a wall that isn’t ideal. Solutions can be as cheap as a thin strip of wallpaper applied under the area where you’d like a mural to hang.
Myth #13: Any image can be used for a wall mural.
Unfortunately, this is one myth that we wish was true but just isn’t. While technically almost any image COULD be blown up for a wall, most shops only work with higher definition source imagery that is over a certain size. Otherwise, your wall mural won’t look great, and might be pixelated or otherwise have some issues of clarity. If you want your wall mural to look good, make sure you ask your local print shop what their imagery requirements are, and stick to those guidelines. I used to make the mistake in the past of thinking that any old photo could be blown up, but actually it has to be high quality to not get pixelated.
Myth #14: Wall murals are too expensive for most people to afford.
Printed murals are actually fairly inexpensive, and are a very cheap design option for the value and beauty they can add to a room or wall. Look into what’s really available, and you’ll find wall murals are probably cheaper than you think. One word of advice when looking for cheap wall murals and decals is to ask about the quality of the material used, as this makes a difference in the life of the product.
Have more questions?
At Coastal Creative, we’ve printed and installed thousands of custom wall murals and decals. If there is anything else you’d like to know about how to transform your space with the wall mural of your dreams, leave a comment! We’re happy to answer any questions you may have.