With Mike & Mickie Cooper

 Editor's Note: Mike & Mickie Cooper own Murals & More LLC in Franklin, Tenn., 20 minutes south of Nashville. Mike has been painting murals professionally for more than 25 years, with hundreds of exterior and interior murals under his belt. Both Mike and his wife, Mickie, have been teaching mural classes all over the country as well as in their studio in Franklin. They make a unique team in that they are right- and left-brained. (We will let you figure out which one is which.) In this column for Focus on Faux, they are providing lively commentary and also hope to dispel any myths about the illustrious world of mural painting. Mike and Mickie invite you to send questions about the industry and try your best to stump them! Send your questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and put "Fresh Perspective" in the subject line.




What Kind of Paint Do You Use on a Mural?

When you look at the title of this column, you might think, “Wow, that's a stupid question.” And I usually say there are no stupid questions, but honestly that's the first thing that comes to mind.

Realistically, it's a serious question, because there are so many variables when it comes to painting murals. Most of all, what surface are you painting on? And is it outside or inside? And how long do you really want this magnificent work of art to last?

Well, here are some options. Let's start with the most versatile: acrylics. There are all types of acrylic paint, from the type you can get at Home Depot to artist's acrylics, like Golden or Liquitex.

For interior projects, I like to use artists' acrylics or house paint, like Benjamin Moore or Porter. For large exterior projects, I like to stay with 100 percent acrylics from PPG or Sherwin Williams. Top-of-the-line only, like their AcriShield or Emerald. Great for maintenance and lightfastness. In all honesty, you can't beat artists' acrylics like Golden or Liquitex, especially for their color palettes. But they do tend to cost more, and getting them in large quantities can be tricky.

The good news is that all of these paints will adhere to almost any surface, especially if you use a good primer. And make sure that the surface is clean and sound, even if you have to pressure-wash it first or clean it with some TSP. Even if it's top-of-the-line, it wouldn't hurt to topcoat it with a crystal-clear sealer, such as one from Modern Masters. It has a built-in UV filter.

And I would stay away from commercial oil-based paints, or even artists' oils. I mean, why use them, when you have a plethora of water-based products from which to choose? In fact, in a lot of states, large quantities of oil-based paints are illegal to even use! So play it safe.

Now, here is something that a lot of you aren't familiar with: silicate paint. Silicate paint is made specifically to go on inorganic surfaces, like unpainted concrete, stucco and brick. Prime it with one coat, paint your mural as the second coat and walk away. Silicate paints won't fade, and they won't peel. Ever. Cool stuff. Been around for over 100 years. Take a look at major murals around the globe. Most are painted with silicate. Not cheap, mind you. Costs between $100 and $300 a gallon. But again, the client doesn't ever have to paint the wall again. Ever. Like I said, cool stuff. Look it up. Here in the U.S., I would check out Keim Mineral Systems. Cleans up with water, is non-toxic and environmentally friendly and can be used for interior projects as well, especially on unpainted drywall surfaces.

Bottom line: Only use top-quality material when painting a mural. It's usually a minuscule  part of your costs, so splurge and get the good stuff. You—and especially your client—will be glad you did.

Remember, if you are ever in doubt, ask questions. Also keep in mind that sometimes you might not get an answer that sounds quite right, so ask someone else. Don't stop questioning the people from wherever it is that you get your paint or products, as it keeps them on their toes and lets them know that you take your work very seriously. The last thing you want is to use a paint that will make all your hard work disappear. Do it right, do it once.