Painting a Simple Wall Mural

Trompe l'oeil means "trick of the eye." You can produce an effective trompe l'oeil to delight your child (and impress your friends) using simple techniques. You don't need to be a great artist to achieve this simple effect. As long as you can hold a paintbrush, you can do this.

The effect is achieved by creating false shadows behind simple shapes. The shapes then appear to be floating above the wall surface. Follow the directions and apply the technique to any shapes you like, but if you are not a great artist, keep it simple. Don't try to be too clever with your shapes. The simple design will always work the best.

You will need:

  • A design or shape of your choice
  • Acrylic wall paint
  • Tracing paper
  • Paint brushes (various sizes)
  • Access to a photocopier (optional)
  • Colored crayons or chalk
  • Low-tack masking tape


  1. Create your design. As an example, we'll use a butterfly shape. Draw, trace or photocopy a butterfly onto a piece of paper to the size you require.
  2. Take your tracing paper and trace the outlines of the butterfly,
  3. To create the drop shadow, move the picture down and to one side. Trace again to create the outlines for a shadow thrown by the butterfly.
  4. Create as many different sizes as you wish. Keep the position of your shadows consistent on each image. If you have a definite light source like a window, look at which direction the real shadows are cast and copy that position.
  5. To transfer the designs to the wall, use transfer paper or rub the back of the paper with a soft graphite pencil or colored chalk. When you draw over the lines with a ball point pen, the design will be transferred to the wall.
  6. Tape your tracings to the wall and transfer the design as above.
  7. If you have some of your background wall color so much the better. Take some of this color and add black acrylic paint, drop by drop, to create a darker shadow color. If you don't have any of your background color, just create a grey color by mixing the black into some white acrylic paint. You need to create a darker tone of your background color. Look at the real shadows in the room for a rough guide on how dark to make it. As long as you have a darker tone than your background, the effect will work.
  8. Paint in the shadows that you have drawn, then paint your butterflies in your chosen colors.


  • If you use a graphite pencil to draw the design on the wall, do it very lightly as it can show through the paint and be impossible to remove. It is better to use a water-soluble crayon or a colored pencil in a color similar to the final paint color.
  • Use tester pots of acrylic wall paint available from DIY and paint stores. They come in small quantities and are inexpensive. Mix them with white to create a subtle pastel version of the color for softer effects.
  • Keep your design simple.
  • You can find great kid's mural ideas inspired by a picture, bedding, rug or curtain fabric that you have in your child's room. Copy the design from a duvet or rug you have. The designs are often simple and charming, ideal for this technique.
  • Ready-made stencils are a great source of good simple designs. They can also save you some of the work of tracing and copying the design.
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