DIY Mural Idea
Paint a simple Trompe l'oeil mural for your child's room

Trompe l'oeil means 'trick of the eye' and while many experienced mural artists can produce the most amazing murals that really can fool the eye, you too can produce an effective trompe l'oeil to delight your child (and impress your friends) using this simple technique.

You don't need to be an artist to achieve this simple effect. As long as you can hold a paint brush you can do this.

The effect is achieved by creating fake shadows behind simple shapes. The shapes then appear to be floating above the wall surface.

Follow my directions and apply the technique to any shapes you like.
BUT most importantly if you are not a good artist, KEEP IT SIMPLE!! Don't try to be too clever with your shapes.
The simple design will always work best.

OK lets look at how to do this.
You will need

  • A design or shape of your choice
  • Acrylic wall paint (Use tester pots available a DIY shops, or artists acrylic paints).
  • Tracing paper
  • Paint brushes (Various sizes).
  • Access to a photocopier (optional)
  • Coloured crayons or chalk
  • Low tack masking tape.

Choose your image- I will use a star shape to illustrate the idea.
Draw/trace/photocopy a star onto a piece of paper to the size you require.
Take your tracing paper and trace the outlines of the star,
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 star.

Create as many different star sizes as you wish. Keep the position of your shadows consistent on each image. If you have a definate light source like a window, look at which direction the real shadows are cast and copy that position.

To transfer the designs to the wall use either transfer paper or rub the back of the paper with a soft graphite pencil or coloured chalk. When you draw over the lines (a ball point pen is good for this), the design will be transferred to the wall.

Tape your tracings to the wall and transfer the design as above.

You are now ready to paint.

If you have some of your original background wall colour so much the better. If not, try and mix a similar colour.
Take some of this colour and add a drop of black acrylic paint, drop by drop.
You want to create a darker tone of your background colour.
Test it on an unseen area of wall.
Look at the real shadows in the room for a rough guide on how dark to make it.
Don't worry if your colour is not exactly the same as the real shadows. As long as you have a darker tone to your background the effect will work. Even just a grey colour will work as long as it is darker in tone to your background.

With this colour you can now paint in your shadows that you have drawn.

Now paint your stars in your chosen colours.

You're done!
Stand back and admire.
Impressive isn't it?


Need some shape/theme inspiration?
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 or might buy. The designs are often simple and charming, ideal for this technique.

Ready made stencils are an endless source of good simple designs. They can also save you some work of tracing and copying a design.

Click here for a list of mural themes that might help you decide


Click here for more great stencil books.

Good luck, and if you use this technique, please send me photos of it so I can include them in the website.
Click here to


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 coloured pencil in a colour similar to the final paint colour.

Use tester pots of acrylic wall paint available form DIY and paint stores. They come in small quantities and are inexpensive. Mix them with white to create a subtle pastel version of the colour for softer effects.

Keep your design simple. Look at the butterfly on the right. It's not complicated will look great dotted around a room and fluttering above a bed head.


The trompe'loeil affect applied to a rocket theme

I painted this rocket space mural for a little boy's room. A simple rocket shape, numbers and stars all with shadows look great and give a simple design an impressive look

To create the simple star trompe l'oeil

  1. Trace the outlines of the star,
  2. Move the picture down and to one side. Trace again to create the oulines for a shadow thrown by the star
  3. Paint the shadow a pale grey and then paint in the colours of the star.


Trompe l'oeil butterfly design

To create the simple butterfly trompe l'oeil

  1. Trace the outlines of the butterfly,
  2. Move the picture down and to one side. Trace again to create the oulines for a shadow thrown by the butterfly
  3. Paint the shadow a pale grey and then paint in the colours of the butterfly.

Look out for butterfly pictures in childrens' books, on greeting cards or posters, and use these as inspiration for your butterfly design.