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Mural Techniques

How to prepare a wall before painting a mural


Before you begin painting, you need to check the wall and prepare your workspace.
Clean the wall
First, make sure that the wall is clean and not suffering from any moisture damage or structural problems,
such as cracks. If you notice cracks, spackle them, but be aware that there may be an underlying structural
issue that could eventually cause cracks across your mural. Examine the wall closely for signs of mold,
dirt, wax, oil or grease. If you find any, clean it off thoroughly, and be aware that mold or mildew may
return unless the underlying cause has been rectified. Even if the wall looks clean, it's a good idea to wash
it anyway with a mild soapy solution, such as T.S.P. Cleaner (trisodium phosphate), to ensure that you
are starting with as clean a slate as possible.
Next Step: Priming the Wall

Priming the wall is an important step in creating a mural, because the primer will help the paint stick to
the wall more easily.
In some cases you can apply the primer directly over the pre-existing paint on the wall, and the mural will
be fine. It depends on how much elbow work you want to put into it and also on how long you want the
mural to last. If you are really concerned about the longevity of the mural, then you should take some
additional preparatory measures before you start painting.
To get the most permanence and best adherence of acrylic paints onto the wall, strip the existing paint off
the wall by sanding it with a sanding block. To reduce the amount of dust caused by dry sanding, prepare
a mild soapy solution by mixing TSP or dishwashing liquid with in a bucket of water. Dip the sanding
block in the bucket of cleaning solution, squeeze out the excess water and sand the wall thoroughly.
Allow the wall to dry.
After the wall has thoroughly dried, apply a coat of acrylic primer over the entire wall. You don't want to
buy regular acrylic primer (such as gesso) that you would use for a painting because it's expensive when
used in large quantities. Instead, buy something like Ronan Prime-All or get acrylic primer from a home
improvement / DIY store in a gallon can, which will get you better bang for your buck.
Now, you have three choices:

You can start painting directly onto the wall. This is what most people will want to do at this
point. If you're ready to paint, skip ahead to the next section.

You can add texture to the wall (for example, by applying plaster). This can create an interesting
surface, but be aware of how it will affect the final painting. Will it add to the look or would it be
an unnecessary distraction?

If you prefer to paint on canvas, you can adhere a large piece of pre-primed unstretched canvas to
the wall, similar to the way you would hang wallpaper, using an adhesive like Jade glue,

Unibond, or wallpaper paste. However, don't attempt to glue up a finished painting on unstretched
canvas, because it will be really difficult to get it to adhere correctly.
Okay now...Ready to paint?
Mural Techniques
To get started, you'll need to transfer your image onto the wall. By now you should have a sketch of what
your mural will look like, so you'll need to enlarge the image into the wall using either one of these mural
techniques: the grid method or an art projector. Use a pencil to trace the image onto your wall.
Now that you have your pencil outline, you can start the underpainting. The underpainting consists of
large blocks of color, over which you will paint more detail later. Depending on the colors in your image,
you can use interior household paint for large areas of color (blue skies, green fields, etc), or you can mix
your artist-quality acrylic paints with a Liquitex Ultra Matte Gel or Matte Gel Medium by using a 1:1
ratio.
From here on out, most mural techniques are similar to the painting techniques that you would use when
painting with acrylics on canvas. Here are some of the many different mural techniques at your disposal:
Sponging
Sponging is a good way to create the sense of texture in a mural, such as clouds in the sky or leaves on a
tree. You can also sponge a color on top of another color to create more of a sense of depth and interest,
rather than leaving an area as a flat, single block of color.
Sponging is also one of the handy mural techniques for quickly filling in large areas with color.
To sponge, first wet your sponge and squeeze out the excess water. Dip your damp sponge lightly into
your paint, then lightly blot the sponge on some paper towels. You dont want your sponge to be too
loaded with paint, or it will ruin the effect.
Stippling
Stippling is one of the popular mural techniques for creating detail without worrying about smooth
blending. For instance, if you're painting a green field, you can bring it to life by stippling other colors
into the green. Here's how to do it:
Apply a green underpainting, then after it is dry, paint a thin coat of a different color over top of it (for
example, a yellow-green or a darker green).
While the paint is still wet, dab the wet paint with a dry stippling brush and dab the new color around
until the new layer is all stippled. If done correctly, the new color will no longer looked "brushed on" and
some of the underpainting will show through. You can repeat this mural technique as many times as you
need (with as many colors as you want) until your desired area is covered.
This is a nice mural technique for creating the illusion of a field alive with shades of green, dappled in
yellow sunlight.
Stenciling
Stenciling is a popular mural technique because it is fairly simple and anyone can do it you don't need
any special art skills. You can buy stencils in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from alphabet letters to
farm animals to wildlife, trees, planets, you name it!

To stencil, use a painter's tape to adhere the stencil to the wall. With one hand, hold the stencil in place
and with your other hand, paint in the color. You need to be cautious around the edges, because you don't
want too much paint build-up on the edges when you lift the stencil away. Use a sweeping, circular
motion when applying paint near the edges to avoid build up.
You can also use a stencil as an outline, and paint in details later. For example, you can follow the mural
technique described above to stencil the image of an alligator in a solid shade of green. Then remove the
stencil and paint in details, such as eyes, teeth, and bumpy skin.
Antiquing
Do you want to make your mural look old, emanating a sense of history into the room? You can achieve
this by antiquing, which is one of the easiest mural techniques. To antique a wall, mix your desired color
(usually siena or umber to create an aged look) with an acrylic glazing medium, using the ratio of 4 to 5
parts glaze to 1 part paint. Brush the mixture onto your wall and quickly - while the paint is still wet - run
a clean rag or cheesecloth over the paint to spread it around. For an added effect, you can use this
technique to add even darker color to the corners and edges of the wall.
Glazing
To create acrylic glazes on a wall, mix the acrylic paint with an acrylic medium Golden Glazing Liquid.
This will thin and "stretch" the paint, making it more translucent. When you paint a glaze on the wall, the
color underneath will show through. This is a handy mural technique for adding dimension and shading to
your mural.
How to finish and seal a painted wall mural
Congratulations! You've gotten this far your mural is finished. Now you need to protect it to ensure that
it stays vibrant and beautiful for a long time to come.
The final step to finishing your painted wall mural is to seal it. This means applying a varnish. Use a
clear, non-yellowing archival varnish in a matte or satin sheen. (Glossy varnish would be too reflective
for a wall mural, and probably look weird under interior lighting conditions.) Choose a varnish that is
removable, in case you need to get underneath the varnish for conservation purposes. (Who knows, they
might take out your wall and put it in a museum someday!)
To apply the varnish, refer to the back of the bottle for the correct ratio of varnish to water. Start in a
corner, using a wide paintbrush to brush on the varnish, going in a cross-hatching manner (little x's)
across the wall. This varnish mural technique will help the varnish look more even. Voila! Your fabulous
wall mural is complete!

Materials to Make a Wall Mural


by Paige Turner, Demand Media

Preparation
Preparing the wall for a mural is an important part of the process; otherwise your hard work may not stick
to the wall properly, resulting in a waste of time and supplies. The tools need for this are a duster or rags
to remove dirt and cobwebs, as well as painter's tape to cover baseboards and the corner of the ceiling
along the top edge of the wall. A drop cloth or sheets of newspaper cover the floor beneath the project
area.
Priming and Background Color
A quality all-in-one primer and paint in the shade of the dominant background color saves both time and
paint when creating your mural. For instance, if painting an underwater scene or a farm scene, light blue
is a viable choice for the primer/paint color, as you won't have to paint over it on much of the wall scene.
A paint roller with an extension handle comes in handy for the priming process, taking far less time than
painting the entire wall with a paintbrush.
Plotting the Imagery
An opaque projector makes simple work of even a detailed image to recreate as a mural. To create via the
projection method, aim the projector at the wall once you've placed the image you're copying on or in the
projector, depending on the model. Graph paper that has a larger grid pattern, such as 1-inch squares,
offers another way to re-create a complex scene; you'll have to decide the scale based on the available
wall space and the size of your drawing. Plot out squares on the wall using chalk lines, then re-create
what's in each square on the paper with chalk on the wall. Finally, chalk may be all you'll need as a
guideline if creating the mural freehand. Just draw your imagery on the wall in chalk, erasing mistakes
with a rag when necessary. The chalk lines serve as a guide for the paint and will be invisible once the
paint dries.
Painting the Mural
A variety of paintbrushes, from several inches wide down to fine artist's brushes, allow you to create the
level of detail necessary for each part of your image. Start with a brush one or two inches wide to fill in
the basic outline of areas painted largely the same color, such as a skyline, silhouette or rolling hills.
Painter's tape applied in straight lines comes in handy for large, straight areas that would be difficult to
keep straight painting freehand. Contact paper serves as a removable wall decal or stencil material,
allowing you to create complex designs such as tree limbs or animals in stencil form first. Apply the
contact paper to the wall and paint within the cut-out areas to create the detailed shapes. Once the entire
mural is painted and dry, a clear coat of polyurethane may be used to protect it, if desired.

How to Make a Wall Mural on a Small


Budget
by Paige Turner, Demand Media

A wall mural, either painted or on a roll similar to wallpaper, can be an expensive undertaking,
especially if hiring a professional artist or remodeler to do the work. Creating the mural yourself
keeps a lot of that cash in your pocket, but you'll still need supplies to make it happen. Salvage shops
and mistinted paints are two ways you can save money on that mural while achieving the look you
desire.
Primer and Paint Background
An all-in-one primer/paint is designed to cut down on the need for separate primer and paint. If your
mural idea involves a mass quantity of one paint color, such as an underwater or sky scene, purchase
a tinted primer/paint in the color you need the most of, such as aqua or sky blue. This priming step
also creates the background for your mural scene, thereby eliminating the cost of your largest
amount of paint.
Secondary Paint Colors
For the secondary or lesser paint colors, such as for fish, beach balls, clouds or sand, ask the paint
store representative if the store sells mistinted paints, which are custom paint shades that didn't turn
out quite right for someone else. They may be perfect for your needs, especially if you adjust them on
your own with bits of other colors in small quantities. Small bottles of inexpensive acrylic craft paint
can be used for details when you don't need much of certain shades.
Clings
Removable wall clings can create a mural-like effect on a wall. Inexpensive contact paper or stickybacked shelf paper are the decal material; just draw your designs on the backing paper, then cut the
objects out, peel off the backing paper and stick the decals on the wall. Create a scene such as a tree
branch with a bird's nest on it; a dog barking at a cat in the tree; or a series of animals on a farm.

How to Price a Wall Mural Developing a


Price Sheet and Proposal
In this article Im going to do something that some of my friends warn me not to because they are so darn
practical:
Im going to tell all. Oh My God, Im sharing with the entire world our pricing structure for wall murals.
(Subject to increase by 10% every year)
Why would I do something so daring and crazy, you ask? Because thats what this blog is all about
uniting artists and sharing information so that we all can be successful and live the dream life.
In a second follow-up article, Im going to give you our secrets for making mural clients so happy that
they scream from their rooftops Use this artist for your next project. Shes/Hes the BEST!

But first, Ill go over the money part because for me, money is important. I love to eat good food and
travel. And for some strange reason, it costs money to do that.

WHY ITS IMPORTANT TO DEVELOP A STRUCTURED PRICE SHEET


You should have a detailed mural pricing structure in writing. And if you dont have one already, you can
use mine as a guide.
Determining what to charge for a wall mural can be tricky. But once you get a structure in place, pricing
murals will be a smooth process.
This month we have two large murals that Drew has been commissioned to paint. One of the murals is
for a new store called Yogurt Wave. We flew mural expert, Katie Staib, down from Spokane Washington
to help make it look great.
The owners, Kerry and Tommy, contacted Drew because his fun style attracts young people that are into
action sports, which is their target market.
Their first question was what will it cost to have Drew paint a 46 foot mural? In just a few short
minutes, I was able to give them a quote thanks to my nicely organized price sheet.
One of the most common challenges for artists is determining what to charge for a project. Developing a
structure & system will make it so much easier for you.
Our current system is working well for us and our clients understand it. But there may be alternative
ways to do it, so if you know of a better system, please share in the comments! Im constantly improving
upon how I do things.
HOW TO DEVELOP YOUR PRICE SHEET

Your price sheet should be structured in a way that makes sense and that enables you to easily
determine what you will charge based on size of the mural.
We charge approx. $35.00 per square foot with a minimum of 160 square feet. Knowing this makes it
easy to establish pricing based on various sizes.
Below is a copy of the price sheet that we give to people prior to a written proposal, to let them know how
we price it and what they can expect as well as what we expect from them.
Giving a potential client a price sheet helps to do two things:

1.

It weeds out the people who cant afford you (so you dont waste your time or theirs);
and

2.

It demonstrates your professionalism. People tend to feel better about handing you a
big check when they think you know what youre doing.
Keep in mind, our pricing may be considered high by some standards and very low by others. We know
of many artists that charge a lot more than we do. And then there are some that are charging half of what
we do.
What you charge is relative to your experience, where you are located (some places are cheaper to live
than others) and supply and demand of your art.
I hope that by sharing our methods I will save you time and confusion. You are welcome to copy and
paste the form below and adjust it accordingly for your own use.
DREW BROPHY MURAL PRICING SHEET (Revised March 2010)
Minimum Price: Murals sized 0 to 160 Square Feet: Price is $5,600
Pricing starts at $35 per square foot and decreases with increased size of mural; at 290 sf price drops to
$32/sf at 500 sf drops to $30/sf at 900 sf price drops to $28/sf.
(Square Foot is determined by multiplying the height x width of the painting surface)
*Price per square foot may increase if design requested is complex. This will be indicated in price quote
and determined at the time that the final sketch is approved.
SAMPLE PRICING, per square foot:

Prices per Unit Size (sample sizes)

DIMENSIONS

AREA

PRICE

Up to 10ft. x 16ft.

160ft.

$5,600.00

11ft. x 16ft.

176ft.

$6,160.00

12ft. x 20ft.

240ft.

$8,400.00

13ft. x 20ft.

260ft.

$9,100.00

14ft. x 21ft.

294ft.

$9,410.00

15ft. x 23ft.

345ft.

$11,040.00

17ft. x 26ft.

442ft.

$14,144.00

18ft. x 28ft.

504ft.

$15,120.00

19ft. x 30ft.

570ft.

$17,100.00

20ft. x 31ft.

620ft.

$18,600.00

25ft. x 39ft.

975ft.

$27,300.00

28ft. x 44ft.

1232ft.

$34,500.00

Non-Refundable Design/Sketch Fee: $1500.00 Includes up to 2 sets of changes by client (Additional


sketches charged at $100/sketch)
Pricing includes: Travel within South Orange County, all materials, rental equipment, assistant fees and
work to completion.
Pricing does not include: Travel outside of South Orange County, liability insurance or Wall Preparation.
*Additional work due to adverse conditions on surface that requires extraneous labor will be charged
extra, by the hour, at a rate of $150.00 / hour, and sometimes cannot be determined until after the job has
begun.
PAYMENT TERMS: Design fee of $1,500 due prior to sketch process. A 50% non-refundable deposit is
due two weeks prior to start date of painting (this allows ordering of supplies and scheduling.) Full
balance is due on the final day of completion.
PRICE SHEET EXPLANATION
Every detail and *caveat on the price sheet is necessary and came from us learning the hard way. I want
to explain each point:

Pricing Structure: Ive talked to mural artists who charge $40 $50 a square foot. For us, a starting price
of $35 per square foot works, because Drew is extremely efficient and gets a project completed rather
quickly.

You might charge less if youre new at it or if you live in a low cost-ofliving area, or

You might charge more if you are very experienced or in high


demand, or live in a high cost-of-living area (like New York or LA).
Minimum Price: We charge a minimum for small murals under 160 square feet because its a lot of work
and time to set up at a location. Its not worth it for us to have Drew go out to paint a small mural and
only be paid a couple thousand dollars. You may want to adjust this number up or down, depending upon
where you are in your career.
Realistically, for murals smaller than 160 sf, an artist is better off painting an original painting in their
studio. Its easier and doesnt require travel or set up someplace else.
Often we will suggest an original painting on canvas, instead, to clients who ask for a small mural. The
upside for the client is a piece of art that they can remove from the wall if they move, or that they can
resell if they want to later.
Non-Refundable Design (Sketch) Fee: Every mural we do is designed on paper first. We offer the client
the ability to pay just for the sketches first, because sometimes a client isnt sure if you can do what it is
that they want.
If they dont like your design or decide not to use your services after all, they only lose $1,500.00 and you
are at least paid for your time to sketch it for them. We dont sketch out anything without the design
fee because its a lot of work. Just meeting with the person to discuss what they want can take a couple
hours. You want to make sure that you are paid for that time.
Why You Should Limit the Number of Sketches: We have a limit of up to 3 sketches (2 sets of changes)
and then charge for each additional sketch beyond that. When you do this, your client will be motivated
to be very specific about what they want. If you dont limit the number of sketches, they will just go on
and on with changes. Trust me on this!
Wall Preparation: So far, weve never had to charge additional fees for wall prep. Weve only had brand
new walls to paint. But if Drew arrived at a location and the walls were in bad shape, we have this caveat
in the price quote so that we can charge extra for getting the wall paint-ready.
Payment Terms: This is very Important! We require 50% of the total amount 2 weeks prior to the
scheduled start date. This allows us to block out 5 or more days on the calendar (thus not accepting other
projects for those days) and to purchase the necessary materials prior to the painting.

Paying a deposit is also a psychological thing with your client you want to train them to view you as a
professional who expects prompt payment, and they are fully committed when they pay half up front.
If you are just building your portfolio, you may want to only require 30% up front until youve become
established and you have a good reputation for following through and doing top quality work.
THE BALANCE is due on the last day of the painting. This is because I personally hate chasing
money. I want to be paid and done with a job when its finished. Also, I have to pay our assistant on that
last day as well. And if you know anything about me by reading my posts, you know that I got out of
the Art Banking business years ago!
PROPOSAL PROCESS
When we get a call from someone interested in a mural painting, our process is:
1.) E-mail them the pricing sheet above. This is so that from the very beginning, your client knows
your general pricing and they can determine if its in their price range.
2.) Gather details about the mural, such as: Height and Width of the proposed mural, physical
location, the shape that the wall is in, and what design they want. (I ask the client for this we rarely go
out to see the mural space until after we know its a go.)
3.) Based on the information provided above, then Ill write up and e-mail a written proposal. (My
Sample proposal template available HERE)
Throughout the process I will verbally clarify, up front, how we work (meaning our payment policies).
Ill usually say: We will begin the sketch process once you pay your $1,500 fee. The fee includes up to
3 sketches, so please be as specific as you can about what you want. A 50% deposit is due 2 weeks before
the painting begins. The mural will take approximately 5 days (or however many). We plan to work from
9-5 daily. Your final payment is due on the day its finished.
Being clear and direct helps to prevent misunderstandings later. I dont like surprises, especially
when it comes to money. Thats why Im so specific in both my written agreements and my verbal
discussions with clients. Everything goes better that way, and clients appreciate knowing what to expect.
GIVING A DEAL/PRICE BREAK
Your client may ask for a deal on price. Sometimes its reasonable to give a small discount or freebie to a
returning client.
For new clients: If it seems like itll be a less complicated design, sometimes Ill offer to deduct their
$1,500 sketch fee from the total of the mural price. Basically Im waiving the sketch fee, but I still
require a payment of $1,500 prior to the sketch process. (Read How to Never Get Ripped off Again to see
why I require this).

You could also offer to lower the per-square-foot fee if the mural is going to be very simple and easy, say,
like a basic design. On the other hand, if the design they want is extremely detailed, you should consider
increasing the per square foot fee.
ONCE THE SKETCH PROCESS IS COMPLETE
After we get the sketch drawn out, and the client is ready to move forward, we ask for 50% down and we
schedule the dates that the painting will take place.
Typically Drew can get a mural completed in 5-7 days. Using a system of gridlines and efficiency, along
with the help of an assistant, most murals, even very large ones, can be completed in that time frame.
In the end, the most important thing is to make sure that your client is extremely happy with your
work.

Art Business Answers Should You Send a


Sketch to a Client Before Payment
Should I email a client a sketch for their mural, before Im paid anything? I worry they will take it to
another artist and use it. Should I send it with a contract?
This is a great question, and there are two answers, depending on your situation.
But first, my thoughts on the concern that your client will take your sketch to another artist. Yes, this can
happen. But not if you do things the right way.
If you follow my suggestions, below, for every single art commission, for the rest of your life, you will
never have to worry about someone stealing your sketches.
This is because you will have a written understanding with your client and they will pay a deposit up
front. The type of client that follows these business practices are not the type that will steal your art.
Below are my two answers to the question:
CURRENT SITUATION: You did the sketch work without money up front, and without a contract.
You shouldnt have. A professional artist will begin the sketch work after coming to an agreement with
their client, and have received a deposit (See the IDEAL SCENARIO below).
But now that youre in this situation, lets make it right. Heres how:
1 SEND THE CLIENT A PROPOSAL by email that can serve as an agreement (it can be a simple onepage document). It should list the price of the mural or commissioned piece, what is included in that
price, and a statement that all rights to the sketch and artwork will remain in the name of the artist for
example, it could read like this:

Copyright: All copyrights to the art, sketches, concepts and final artwork shall forever remain in the
ownership of Artist.
2 ASK the client to print out and sign the agreement, and send it back to you.
3 ON YOUR SKETCH: Write your copyright notice. It can read like this:
Artwork (c) Drew Brophy, All Rights Reserved. This avoids any doubt that you own the copyrights to
your sketch.
4 SEND THE SKETCH to your client, After receiving their signed agreement and deposit.
*In the future, make sure you always get a written agreement and a deposit before you put a lot of work
into sketches. This demonstrates commitment from the client.
(*An exception to the rule of getting a deposit paid up front: If you are brand new at this work and dont
have a portfolio, website or references that the client can check to see the work youve done in the past.
In this case, you may have to do sketches first, to prove what you are capable of.)
IDEAL SITUATION:
The ideal scenario is to do all the right things FIRST, when working with any mural or art commission.
Below are the steps you should follow with a client, from the beginning:
1 CONVERSATION find out what they want, what size, desired deadline, etc. Gather all the details.
2 WRITTEN QUOTE and AGREEMENT Based on the details gathered, give them a written price
quote, with a signature line at the bottom for them to sign, showing they agree with your quote. If they
agree to the price quote, then they can pay the deposit and you can start the work.
If they have reservations about the price or scope of the work, then have another conversation and see
how you can work it out.
3 DEPOSIT Get a deposit before starting the work. In most cases, we get 50% up front before we start
the sketch process. Some artists ask for 30%.
4 SKETCH PROCESS Work up your sketches, send them for approval and feedback.
5 PAINTING After the sketch is approved, you can begin the actual painting!
6 FINAL PAYMENT Require final payment at completion. In the case of a commissioned painting, the
client (often far away), will get a low res jpg image of the completed painting, by email. We ask for final
payment, and upon receipt we ship the art or when they pick it up.
With murals, our contract states that final payment is due the day the mural is finished. I remind the
client of this when its getting close to being finished, so they can get their payment ready on time.

MORE ON DEPOSITS: In the case of murals, where the price of the commission is very high, and the
client is nervous about sending a $6,000 deposit without seeing the sketch first, we make it more
comfortable for them. We ask for a smaller, non-refundable deposit to do the sketch. This amount is later
deducted from the total cost of the mural.
After they approve the final sketch and want to schedule the mural painting, we get 50% of the remaining
amount up front before we order the paint and put it on our calendar.
HOW MUCH SHOULD THE SKETCH DEPOSIT BE FOR A MURAL? We typically charge $1,500 for
mural sketches, but sometimes more, or less, depending on the amount of work that will be involved.
The dollar amount of the deposit, however, is not as important as getting a deposit. What I mean is,
even if you only get a $200 deposit, the client that pays it is a client thats committed to the project.
Money equals commitment in our society.
I have run into time-wasters out there that dont value our time and would have Drew and me work for
nothing, if we let them. This type of person is not willing to sign an agreement or pay a deposit. And
thats good, because I dont want to work with that type of person! So, requiring these things will make
those bad clients go away, and thats what you want!
A good client, one who wont take your sketch and hire another artist to paint it, is one who is
happy to sign your agreement and pay a deposit.
This is why the deposit is your most important business tool as an artist. Watch my interview with I AM
A HERO RADIO for more on this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wk96N3U7Zq4

Trust me, there are plenty of good clients out there. When you start implementing powerful business
practices in your art business, you will only attract and work with good clients. The bad ones slowly
disappear.
Implement the proposal process and the deposit requirement in your business, and watch how everything runs
smoothly! You will see a huge, positive shift in the ease of running your business.

I hope this helps you create more powerful business practices for yourself!

Three Reasons Artists Would Need to use A


Contract
Contracts are not fun to deal with. They are extra work, and for an artist, just painting is timeconsuming. After all, cant we all just trust each other?
The big misconception about contracts is that they are only necessary for big dollar deals, or for strangers.

The reality is that contracts help to avoid misunderstandings by clarifying each persons
responsibility.
And this is necessary to keep a good relationship with your clients and the friends that you do business
with. (Yes, I said friends. Use contracts with them, too.)
Here are three good reasons to put your agreement in writing:
1.) To make sure that both parties are agreeing to the same thing. Verbal agreement is where
misunderstandings and assumptions happen. Written words provide clarity.
During the process of drawing up the agreement, you will hash out details with your client that you
otherwise may not consider.
An example: A gallery wants to carry your artwork. The consignment agreement spells out who is going
to pay for the shipping to and from; when the gallery has to pay the artist when a piece sells; who is
financially responsible should the artwork become damaged; and so on. These are the little details that
can become big later. The contract spells it out before you ship $50,000 worth of your art to a gallery.
2.) To hold each party accountable for what theyve agreed to. Over time, youll forget exactly what
youve agreed to. The contract will refresh your memory.
3.) To cover your butt. This comes in handy if ever accused of not holding up your end refer to the
contract and point out that you are. (Or read it and go, oh yeah, I agreed to that!)
When we did our deal with Seven Films to create the DVD Paint Pen Techniques with Drew Brophy, I
asked one of our new partners if he wanted to draw up the contract on his end.
He said Oh, we dont need a contract. Were good friends. To which I replied Yes, and if we want to
remain friends, well need a contract!
Its a good thing I insisted, because we later discovered some inconsistencies in our thinking!
I drew up the contract myself, thanks to a very good template that I found online. I outlined the various
points that we had all agreed to in our meetings.
When I presented the contract to our new partners for review, they shook their heads no. What? I
asked, confused. They pointed out a few items that they hadnt agreed to. I had misunderstood certain
details. We discussed it then and there, came to an understanding, and I revised the contract accordingly.
Had we not had a contract, and that issue came up later, we would have been on opposite ends, arguing
about it, and it could have been a problem.
For artists, its especially important to have a contract for the following situations:

Gallery Agreement and any type of Consignment

Licensing

Events where the artist is hired to attend/perform at

Any form of partnership where there is a royalty or shared profit

Painting a Wall Mural: Ten Ways to Please


Your Client
We arent happy unless our client is. Our personal goal: Make the painting so awesome and the
process so smooth for the client that they are compelled to tell everyone they know. (Thats how we
get more business, without having to track it down. It comes to us.)
In the last month, Drew has been commissioned to paint two large murals, and weve quoted on a third
one. Our first client, Yogurt Wave, was so happy with the end results that each partner took the time to
call us and thank us profusely! They were excited and overjoyed at how great the mural made their new
store look!
Our second client, Fisherman Tom, is so appreciative of Drews work ethic that he keeps giving us freshly
caught albacore tuna. Were cooking some up tonight
Now, I dont want to make it sound like the mural projects went off without any problems. With every
project, you run into things you didnt expect. These things can make your job as an artist very difficult.
As was the case with Yogurt Wave when Drew went to seal it, he had some serious problems which
almost ruined the mural. It took him 2 extra days to complete the mural due to this problem. But in the
end, the problem was solved and our guys were very happy.
Making your client is happy doesnt just have to do with the artwork itself. Sure, it has to look
good. But there are many other factors beside the artwork that are crucial to pleasing your client.
Ten Ways to Please Your Mural Client:

1.

Behave a like a professional: Provide a written price quote. Detail your


payment requirements, what their price includes, what it doesnt include. That way,
there are no surprises. (People dont like surprises when it comes to their
money.) Your client will take comfort in knowing that they are dealing with someone
who knows what they are doing. (Read HOW TO PRICE A WALL MURAL for details on
how to do this.)

2.

Be extremely organized: Map out what you will accomplish each day of
the mural painting. Have all your supplies on hand before day 1. Know before you
even drive to the site exactly what you will get completed that day. You should be
able to plan exactly how many days the mural will take to complete. (It may not be
exact, but close.)

3.

Be an excellent communicator: Each morning, give your client a rundown


of what they can expect from you. Today well be sketching the design on the wall
and getting some of the background paint on. We expect to be finished by 5:00. If
your client is not on-site, take photos and at the end of each day, e-mail a
progression photo.

4.

Show up on time everyday: Believe it or not, this one little thing makes a
huge difference in the confidence your client will have in your abilities. Be reliable
and considerate of your clients time and youll be appreciated. If you say youll be
there at 9:00 a.m., be there at 9:00 a.m. Dont be a flake.

5.

Stay on Track and be Efficient: Every day that you are in the space
painting, you are holding up your client. So many artists will drag out a project.
They paint real slow, take cigarette breaks, talk on the phone, show up late, take a
long lunch, etc. These are all time wasters. Stay on track with your plan and if you
are running behind, get there earlier and stay later.

6.

Whistle while you work: Be happy and embrace each working day. Be a
joy to have around. Your clients will be happier with your painting if they enjoy your
company.

7.

Keep your problems to yourself: Dont complain to your client about bad
traffic, about something thats going wrong with your equipment, or anything
else. If theres a problem, solve it yourself and dont mention it to the client. Their
experience with you should be worry free. You want them to feel confident that they
are dealing with a professional.

8.

Choose the right assistant: Do not hire a flake to help you. It will hurt
your reputation. Be sure to have a helper that is reliable and has a good work

ethic.This person will be a reflection on you. For the Yogurt Wave mural, we knew it
would be a tricky one so we flew artist Katie Staib down from Spokane, Washington
to help. Shes painted many challenging murals and we knew that we would benefit
from her expertise and work ethic. (Drew says No assistant is better than a bad
assistant.)
9.

Do your best work but dont take forever: Theres a fine line between
doing quality work and not spending too much time on the painting. Time is money,
not just for you but for your client. You want to be as efficient as possible.

10.

Remember to thank your client: Show appreciation for the business.


Assuming they are pleased as punch with your work, ask for a reference that you
can use in marketing materials or on your website. Send a thank you card after the
work is done its a nice touch that they wont forget.

11.

DONT LEAVE A TRACE that youve been there: (Ive added #11 as an
update to this post.) Clean up after yourself, every day. Dont leave trash or drop
clothes or anything else laying around in a sloppy fashion. On your last day, youre
not finished until after youve tidied up the entire area, including sweeping the floor.
Trust me, this is one little detail that will thrill your client.

Train People to Treat you Professionally


You train people to think of you in a certain way.
If you are professional and expect to conduct business that way, the people in your life will treat you as a
professional.
A local surfer gal came into our studio and bought her first Drew Brophy original titled Pirate Beach.
She just got her Real Estate license and she was excited to hang the painting in her new office.
I was happily surprised when she said Your blog posts have really helped me with my new business.
Really? I asked, curious how my art blog could help someone in real estate.
She explained that the post I wrote about charging people for your time encouraged her to maintain
professionalism in her own business.

She told me about a friend who asked her to find renters for his $3,800 a week beach house. He said Ill
pay you $50.00 if you find me a renter.
The standard charge for an agent to secure a renter is 30%, which covers advertising, footwork and
website listing.
She said I told him I normally charge 30%, but since hes a friend, Id lower it to 20%.
I said that she was off to a great start in her career. Shes setting a precedent that this friend and others
after him will come to expect to pay her for her time, and they will respect her as a professional.
My philosopher-artist husband, Drew, always says you train people how to treat you.
People come to expect what you will expect, and they will fulfill that expectation. This can work in
your favor, or not, depending on how you choose to make your expectations known.
Ive seen this truth unfold many times. One example is the relationship we have with the company Liquid
Force. Drew designed wakeboards for them years ago. After about six years of not working with them,
they called asking to commission Drew once again for new designs. We agreed on pricing, and our
contact there, Jimmy, said, I know Drew wont start until he gets a deposit, so Ill have accounting cut a
check right away. Hes worked with Drew in the past, and he remembers that Drew expects partial
payment before he begins the work.
Weve trained people to treat us in this way by:

Being verbally clear of our expectations in the very beginning

Being consistent in our policies (pricing policies, meeting deadlines,


expecting payment on time)
Valuing our time enough to not allow people to waste it (I charge consulting

fees for people wanting to spend hours picking Drews brain on the best design
ideas)
Word gets around and over time, all of the people in your life will get used to your expectations of how
you want to be treated.

How to Never get Ripped Off AGAIN For


Freelancers
Being ripped off. I really dont like the negative sound of those words. But Im compelled to write
about it because its a topic that comes up again and again.

Yesterday an artist was in my office and she said that shes been stiffed on payment too many times to
mention. Its worn her down and she feels unappreciated.
Getting stiffed on payment is sadly one of the most common and frustrating things that can happen to
freelancers. It happens to artists, photographers, filmmakers, web designers and just about every small
business owner at one time or another.
But it doesnt have to ever happen to you (again). Its very simple to avoid. You just have to do two
things:
1.)

Require a deposit up front

2.)

Require the full balance at completion

The INSTANT you institute these two policies for your small business, you will NEVER have to
make a collection call EVER again.
If its this simple, why do so many people continue to get stiffed on payment?
Because they dont ask for the deposit up front and they hand over the goods before being paid. Its too
bad that art school doesnt teach you the importance of running your art venture like a business.
Here are some of the most common excuses I hear from people who keep getting ripped off:

I dont have a business mind

Im new at this

I need an agent to do this for me.

I needed the work really bad I was desperate.


Handling your business wisely is a decision you make, not a gene that youre born with!
Please trust me when I say that YOU DO NOT HAVE TO HAVE BEEN BORN WITH A BUSINESS
MIND TO AVOID BEING RIPPED OFF!
You just have to institute your own payment policies.
I learned this the hard way when, many moons ago, Drew was hired by the large clothing company
American Eagle. They asked him to create a detailed artistic map of one of the Hawaiian Islands. The art
was going to be used for t-shirts and other accessories.
They were on a tight deadline and needed it yesterday. There was no time to get a deposit. Drew put in
many hours drawing this up, and the art director at American Eagle kept making changes.

Their final change is what led to the non-payment: They decided not to use a map after all. We sent them
a bill for the work done, and they never paid us. Dealing with a company that large is nearly
impossible to get payment from AFTER THE FACT. Thats why we should have gotten money up
front.
We were, by some standards, ripped off, taken advantage of and screwed over.
But Im a firm believer that no-one can take advantage of you without your consent.
It was our own fault for not getting money up front before Drew put in many hours of work.
That was the LAST TIME we ever got stiffed on a commissioned job. We learned from our mistake, and
since then have required 50% up front and the balance when finished (before we hand the art over).
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF REQUIRING A DEPOSIT
Two important things happen when you say to your client: Ill need 50% up front to start the work and
the balance is due when the work is completed.
1
You are viewed as professional: Your client now sees you as a person who has payment policies
in place. They respect you, and they are clear on what you expect and how its going to go.
2

A commitment is formed: Your client is fully committed when they pay a deposit.

When someone pays a deposit towards something, they are making a commitment to the project.
Its a psychological thing. Without a deposit, there is no real commitment from your client. Its like
buying plane tickets. My trip to New Zealand last year was just talk until I plunked down the $1,800 for
plane tickets. Once that money was paid, it was a reality. We were fully committed.
HOW MUCH OF A DEPOSIT SHOULD YOU ASK FOR?
Many artists require 50% up front. The average, according to the Graphic Artists Guide to Ethical
Pricing, is 30%. I prefer the 50% and so does my bank account.
HOW DO YOU ASK FOR A DEPOSIT?
In every conversation I have with a new client, I mention, up front (even with friends and acquaintances
and my mothers uncles niece) that we need a deposit to get started. (Hate to say it, but sometimes its
the people closest to you that will stiff you).
You may feel strange asking for this. Get over it, do it, and youll get used to it and eventually it wont
feel strange anymore. Learning how to walk was strange also. But you got used to it.
When giving a price quote, include your deposit requirement in writing by e-mail or proposal. Heres
how ours looks in a price quote (I grabbed this from an actual proposal for a wakeboard design we did
earlier this year):

PRICING: Fee is $3,800.00. A 50% deposit is required to start the work, and full balance upon
completion. OPTIONAL: Original artwork may be purchased within 30 days of completion at a greatly
discounted price of $3,500. (Payments shall be made to Son of the Sea, Inc. PO Box 836, San Clemente,
CA 92674.)
And heres what we put in e-mails sent to clients with big projects, like murals:
We must have your signed proposal and deposit for the mural painting NO LATER THAN 2 weeks prior
to the start date. This allows us to get the materials we need at the pricing we configured for your quote.
Over time, your returning customers will know what you expect and they will be prepared to write you a
check for the deposit. All of our longtime customers are used to the way we work. They also know that
the work will get done to their satisfaction, because theyve worked with us before.
RESISTANCE TO PAYING A DEPOSIT COMES FROM CLIENTS AND ARTISTS:
Its not always the client feeling weird about a deposit. Sometimes its the artist. Here are some of the
scenarios:
THE ARTIST DOESNT REQUIRE IT BECAUSE THEY ARE DESPERATE FOR THE WORK: If you
are desperate for work, than you surely cannot afford to spend time on something that youll never get
paid for. A deposit weeds out the payers from the non-payers. The people who most likely will never pay
you are the ones who wont give a deposit. The people willing to give a deposit are the ones that are
serious. See how this works?!
THE CLIENT REFUSES TO PAY A DEPOSIT: If a client wont pay a deposit, they just arent ready to
commit. If thats the case, than you shouldnt commit your time to their project.
Dont get mad. Just let them know that you are happy to start the work after they pay. Tell them to call
you when they are ready. Be friendly and professional.
THEY DONT HAVE THE MONEY: Ive run into this many times: When I tell someone that they have
to pay a deposit, and then they say Oh, I dont have the money right now. This tells me that they may
never have it. So I say When you do, let me know. We are looking forward to working with you.
YOU FEEL YOU HAVE TO PROVE YOURSELF BEFORE YOU CAN DEMAND A DEPOSIT: If
youve been at it for less than 2 years you may still have to prove yourself before you can require a 30%
50% deposit. Maybe the client isnt sure of your abilities and they are nervous to trust you. In this case,
lower the amount you ask for to 20% instead.
YOUR CLIENT IS A HUGE 5 BILLION DOLLAR COMPANY AND THEY TAKE 3 WEEKS TO CUT
CHECKS BUT NEED YOU TO FINISH IN 2 WEEKS: Ive been faced with this scenario a few times.
Heres what I do: I ask the client to write me a personal check and they can bill their company for it
later. Some people laugh at that, but the serious ones send me their personal check.

THEY FLAT OUT REFUSE: If they just refuse to pay a deposit, than most likely youll never get paid,
no matter what you do, because of a lack of commitment on their part. So walk away. Youll save
yourself a lot of wasted time and frustration.
IF YOUVE BEEN A PROFESSIONAL AT YOUR TRADE FOR OVER FIVE YEARS: You can STOP
proving yourself. No one should question you at this point. You have good references that the client can
call if they doubt your abilities.
EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULES: Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. We made an exception
when we did a deal with Converse - Drew started the work before we got our deposit. They took 6 weeks
to cut us a check. But we have a good relationship with our people there, and I knew they would take
care of us. I very rarely make the exception, because of being burned in the past.
LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES
If youve been ripped off more than a couple times, than you need to look in the mirror and ask yourself
what youre doing to cause this. Analyze whats happening are you keeping your end of the bargain?
Do you meet your deadlines? Are you a joy to work with? Do you behave like a professional? Its
important to learn from our mistakes and then change the way we do things if something isnt working.
I read somewhere once that the definition of crazy person is: Someone who keeps doing the same
thing over and over again but expecting a different result!
SIMPLE RULES FOR PRICING:
If you follow these simple guidelines, youll never have a problem getting paid:
Put your price quote in writing (e-mail is fine) this way there are no surprises on either end. Give
your quote leeway to add to it in the event that the scope of the work changes. (We do this by adding this
sentence: In the event of unforeseen additional work due to conditions on surface or changes to the
design by the client that may require extra labor or detail, this price could change.)
Have a payment policy and include that in your price quote (i.e. 50% down and balance due at
completion)
Put a 30 day limit on your price quote your situation could change or your materials costs can go up.
On my proposals Ill put: Proposal Date May 27, 2010. Proposal valid for 30 days
Dont begin the work without a commitment from your client in the form of a deposit
Send your client frequent updates of the progress of the work, along with photos of the progression.
This will give your client satisfaction knowing that you are working on it and that its getting done.
When its finished, send them a photo of the completed work and arrange to get final payment at
the same time you hand over the goods.

I sincerely hope this article convinces all of you out there to institute your own policies. Even if you are a
part-time freelance artist or photographer, you are in business. Your time is valuable. You should be paid
for your work.
Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art. Andy Warhol
Inevitably, as a creative type, you run into the uncomfortable situation where you are forced to enter into
a negotiation on your pricing.
Its common for artists to be approached by someone who loves their work, only to be asked for it for
cheap, or for trade (sometimes, for FREE).
This is a tough position to be in, because you are flattered that someone loves your work. But, on the
other hand, you are a professional, and you need to pay your bills. And I dont know about you, but my
studios landlord doesnt accept anything but Legal Tender.
In the surf industry, we have an ugly system called The Bro Deal. Its where if you work in the surf
industry, you feel that you should be hooked-up with a special deal, mostly meaning, free. And in turn,
you are expected to hook-up other surf industry people up as well.
Its so ingrained in the industry that surf industry people just expect it. When I go to buy a new surfboard,
the surfboard maker, trained after years of not making money at his trade, automatically says Oh, I can
give you a good deal. Ill give it to you at cost. And I say, No, I want you to make money. Charge me
the fair amount.
And when surf industry folks come to us for artwork, theres an expectation of hooking them up with
cheap artwork. (Thats why we focus most of our work outside the industry)
It seems crazy, this notion that anyone would expect to not have to pay for something they want. But its
prevalent, not just in the surf world, but in the art world as well.
There are a couple tools you can use to counteract the problem of a client expecting cheap pricing:
1.) Use a price sheet. A price sheet will list all the possible options and their pricing. It can be difficult
to create at first, because artwork depends on so many different factors size, complexity, medium, etc.
It may take time to create a price sheet, but its worth it.
Photographers always use price sheets, which detail the usage fees for their photos. I think artists need to
get in the habit of doing the same.
We use five (5) different price sheets; one for high-end surfboard paintings (which range from $3,500 to
$20,000, depending on size, complexity.); One for small surfboard tattoos (prices range from $60 to
$500); One for large murals; one for paintings (this was the hardest and its still not perfect!); and one for
usage fees and one-time licensing (I used the photographers sheet as a template and plugged our own
numbers in there.)

2.) Use a Deal Memo or Proposal, which you present to them after youve had time to calculate what
the cost will be. (You can find samples of both of these online or in artist books.)
We use Deal Memos and Proposals for everything else that doesnt seem to fit on a price sheet; those oneoff deals that are unusual.
When you hand a price sheet, proposal or deal memo to someone, it tells them two things:
A.) You are a professional who knows your worth; and
B.) This is what everyone pays (like when you go to the grocery store one price for everyone.)
You may still get someone trying to talk you down in price. You could counteract that by:

Padding your prices by 10% to leave wiggle room in there for a 10% discount;

Offer discounts only for multiple projects

Offer discounts only for returning clients

Offer discounts only for people who pay by cash or check.


There are many creative ways to charge the right price and at the same time make your client happy.
That way, you can pay your landlord the rent with green stuff!

Fear Giving a Price Quote? The art of the


Deal Memo
(This is a follow up to a post titled The Artists Pain: Quoting and Negotiating Prices (A.K.A. the BRO
Deal)
Its a funny phenomenon that many visual artists share; the fear of giving a price quote.
They worry that if their price is too high, it will scare the client away. If its too low, then theyll
lose money.
And when put on the spot to pull a price out of thin air, they can screw it up.
It goes like this: a potential client asks you to create something youve never done before. And because
you havent had experience with this particular item, you arent sure of the cost of materials, the time it
will take, and the possible challenges that go with it. But youre glad for the opportunity. And right on
the spot the client eagerly asks what is it going to cost me?

You havent had time to consider price, but in your excitement, you blurt one out anyway. Oh, itll only
cost you about $2,000.00.
That was a big mistake, because now that youve put a number in their head, theyll hold you to it. And
once you start crunching the numbers on what your actual costs will be, you realize that you underpriced
it by about 50%. Ouch!
Im speaking from experience here. Ive underpriced a few more jobs than I care to admit. And it
hurts when I do that. Under-pricing your work creates a litany of problems:
1.)

The most obvious is that you dont make money off the deal

2.) Youve set a standard now for work priced lower than it should be
3.) You dont give yourself the ability to provide the highest possible service youll have to cut
corners to get the job done (which doesnt reflect well on you or make your client wildly happy)
Heres a solution that helps keep you in line with giving a proper price quote:
FIRST: Tell the client asking for the price quote Ill have to crunch some numbers and e-mail you a
quote. Lets follow up tomorrow. Never give a price on the spot unless youve done this before and you
already know how to quote it.
SECOND: Take your time properly assessing the time, materials, and other costs involved with the
project. Come up with a price fair to the client, and one that will produce a profit for you.
THIRD: Put together a Deal Memo or Proposal.
I use deal memos or proposals for everything, including mural paintings, one-time use fees,
commissioned paintings and speaking engagements. I sleep better at night knowing that everything is
in writing, thus avoiding misunderstandings later.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A DEAL MEMO AND A PROPOSAL:
A proposal is a glorified deal memo it gives great detail on the project and can be multiple pages long.
A deal memo is more of an outline of the deal you are offering or quoting. Its great to use before you put
a lot of time into writing up a multiple page proposal it will help to quickly determine if you and your
client are on the same page with regards to pricing and the deal.
MORE ON THE DEAL MEMO: I started using deal memos years ago when we got into licensing. In
the licensing industry, deal memos are used in the beginning stages of every business relationship.
A deal memo is a simple, one-page sheet that describes the deal you are offering. This sheet is meant to
e-mail or hand to a client. Use of a proper deal memo assures your client that you are a professional and
they come to understand that your price is your price.

The most important points outlined on a deal memo are:

The name of the client

A date that the offer expires (I use 30 days)

A brief description of the project, event or painting

Price and price options they can choose from

Payment terms (I require 50% down & balance at completion)

The deadline

Copyright notice (we always state that the artist retains copyright)
A deal memo is not a contract or a legal agreement. It is simply a tool that you can use to provide a price
quote while outlining the particular points that you want to agree on. Your client can look it over and
accept or ask to make changes to the deal.
Sometimes, a deal memo will be the document used prior to the formation of a formal contract. But, it
doesnt have to be. The main idea here is to make sure that your client agrees to your pricing, terms
and conditions.
Below is a sample Deal Memo that weve used in the past. I hope this is helpful to you, and please,
forward onto your friends that may find this useful, too.
DREW BROPHY DEAL MEMO
For Salong Restaurant, Fort McCoy, Florida (Client)
DATE: May 6, 2009

Offer Expires 30 days from date of Deal Memo

Project: Drew Brophy will paint a 36 x 15 wall mural depicting ocean scene. Artwork will begin and
finish in a 10 day window.
Materials: Client is responsible to pay for materials
Cost: $16,000 plus travel expenses for Artist
Payment: 50% deposit required to schedule the painting. Balance is due on the day of completion.
Rights Granted: Client may use image for all marketing and advertising materials for ten (10) years.

Copyright: Is retained by Artist. The Copyright Notice: Artwork Drew Brophy must be printed
legibly on all print material.
Agreed to by:
For the Artist:

________________ For the Client: _______________