How to Create a Mural for Your Community

Murals are a popular form of public art for communities across the country, due in part to their versatility and high visibility. Below are a few things you will want to consider when planning a mural for your town. (This article will help get you started, but for a more detailed look into creating a mural, we highly recommend this webinar from the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs:

 Picking a location

  • Visibility
    • Is the mural in a location where it will be easily seen and enjoyed by many?
  • Surface suitability
    • Make sure the surface of the wall is stable – not crumbling or decaying.
    • Identify areas you will need to work around, such as windows or other features.
  • Historic considerations
    • If working on a historic building, you’ll likely need to avoid the façade, but a side wall may be suitable.
  • Property owner support
    • Not only permission, but enthusiasm is best.
  • “Off-the-wall” murals
    • Murals can also be painted on the ground on sidewalks, plazas or stairs.


Getting permission and community support

  • Check with the City to see if there are any city codes or governing bodies that provide direction on mural locations, size, or other factors. You may need to seek permission from the art commission (if one exists) or get a permit.
  • Most towns have ordinances that would prohibit a mural that would be construed as a commercial sign or “advertising.”
  • Reach out to community members and nearby property owners to get their input and support of the location and design.


Choosing an artist

  • Local artists
    • Opportunity to “buy local” and celebrate the talent in your own community
  • High school art students (under guidance of a teacher)
    • Lower cost (or free), but more variability in quality
  • Hiring well-known/national artists
    • Higher cost, but greater notoriety
  • Collaborative: Created by members of community under direction of an artist
    • Great community-building activity, but less control over quality


Mural Content

What theme will your mural portray and what style of art will it be? Will it be an abstract piece? A symbol of community togetherness? A historic scene or a tribute to the past? A representation of the town’s brand or identity? Consider your goals for creating the mural and what impression you want to give to residents and visitors in your town. There’s no wrong answer – but the mural content will likely influence your choice of location, artist and technique.



While many murals are painted directly on the wall, there are a number of other techniques that offer differences in cost, longevity and technical difficulty. For example, some murals are done on panels with paint or photo-transfer, and then attached to the wall. Your selected artist should be able to advise on technique.


How much paint?

One of the most common questions about murals is: how many gallons of paint will I need? It is hard to give an exact answer, since it depends on the size of the mural, the surface (will it need multiple coats? primer? sealant?), and the number of colors used. A small mural could be painted for as little as 5-6 gallons of paint, while a larger mural might take 30 gallons or more. Work with your artist to determine the details and make an accurate estimate.



How much does it cost?

Costs can be as little as the cost of a few gallons of paint, up to $40,000 or more, depending on who is painting it and how big it is. Generally “you get what you pay for” in terms of artists. However, keep in mind that while a free mural done by students will not be as polished as a professionally done mural by an established artist, both can be just as endearing to the community.

Here are some examples of costs of murals in Hometown Pride communities

Hamburg IA:

  • 2 murals at $17/sq foot. 14’x32’ mural for $7,600. 12’x15’ mural for $3,000
    • Painted on concrete stucco on the side of brick walls.
    • Committee primed surface.
    • Artist hand-painted mural.

Tabor IA:

  • $1,925 for 10’x40’ mural
    • Photo-transfer onto mounted metal panels.
    • Artist donated his labor.
    • Expect to last 15 years.

Pocahontas County IA:

  • 5 murals painted by art students or community artists at no cost.
  • Received paint from Paint Iowa Beautiful grant.

Clinton IA:

  • 2 murals done for $5-$7,000 each

Norwalk IA

  • Mural done for free by high school art students and their teacher, with paint from the Paint Iowa Beautiful grant.

Where do I get funding?

  • Grants from private foundations or State agencies
  • Local fundraising – go to individuals and businesses in your community who support the arts. Talk to businesses that are nearby the proposed mural.
  • City budget – some communities have an annual budget for public art. That is typically managed by a public art commission.
  • In-kind donations of paint and labor

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