How do you determine the ideal mural for your environment—Paint or Vinyl?  What do you consider in making that decision?  Let’s highlight things you should think about, and then we’ll dig in …

  • Surface & Location
  • Purpose & Durability
  • Size & Cost

Surface & Location

Will your mural be indoor or outdoor?  On a smooth or rough surface?  In an area with substantial or subdued lighting?  It makes a difference . . . a substantial difference!

A vinyl mural is a printed image with adhesive backing, manufactured to desired size by printing organizations, and adhered to a firm, smooth surface like drywall or metal in a process similar to wallpaper installation.  While vinyl murals can be installed on rough, porous surfaces, they are more susceptible to peeling and cracking.  In contrast, a muralist re-creates your chosen image by hand with paint, where location or texture are largely insignificant.

Exterior images are susceptible to the natural impact of weather such as sunlight, wind, rain, humidity and snow, including catastrophic events.  Vinyl murals on exterior applications has a shorter lifespan due to direct weather exposure.  Quality paint, on the other hand, is designed for outdoor durability, the very conditions that Mother Nature bestows.  Hand-painted murals are far more durable in outdoor conditions where they can survive for extended periods of time.

The ideal surface for a vinyl mural is one that is smooth, firm and non-porous.  Interior drywall may be the perfect location.  The opposite texture, such as porous or uneven surfaces like brick or ribbed metal are not optimum for vinyl’s adherence, diminishing both effectiveness and longevity.  When it comes to paint, the surface is largely irrelevant as paint can be applied just about anywhere in the creation of murals.

Lighting is commonly overlooked in determining mural location.  The vinyl product is highly reflective of light and, depending upon the angle from which viewed, can take on an undesired appearance.  A muralist can diffuse light reflection with the correct paint finish.  A satin sheen, for example, offers enough luster to help your image “pop” while minimizing reflection.  If your lighting is substantial, whether natural or artificial, paint is ideal.

Vinyl Near Windows
Satin Sheen Paint Near Windows







Purpose & Durability

What is the purpose of your mural? To inspire students, spectators or visitors to your center? Is it behind an obstacle such as a counter and not accessible to the public, or is it within easy reach? Is the visual intent for short or long-term viewing?

Vinyl with public access always seems to attract fingernails, particularly those that extend from young digits! Vinyl edges and corners are far too tempting for many to resist. “I’m curious so I’ll just lift a small corner.” Why not? It seems harmless but, before long, repeated exploration causes the image backing to lose its tackiness, curtailing lifespan. In contrast, paint renders wandering fingers impotent as paint cannot peel. Considering solely the peel factor and barring other considerations, paint has the edge over vinyl in areas with high traffic.

Medieval Mural – Spain

A painted mural will outlive vinyl.  It is astonishing that hand-painted Medieval murals still stand in Europe today.

Although a painted mural will naturally outlive vinyl, consider how long you intend for the image to be visible.  If the length of time short-term, vinyl could be your preference.  If the image is otherwise for long-term appeal, paint should be your target.


Size & Cost

Size matters only in that it logically correlates with cost.  Whether paint or vinyl, larger images necessitate more time, more material and, correspondingly, greater cost.

Your budget should play a role in your mural consideration.  Paint will undoubtedly cost more than vinyl.  Contractors have traditionally bid your work on a time & material basis—they estimate how much time it will take, and how much material they will use, to assemble your estimate.  With the advent of claim simplification and insurance pricing, the contractor’s work has been relegated to pricing units.  For example, a surface is priced on a square foot basis, whereby linear structures (gutters) are priced on a linear foot basis.  Unit pricing reflect time & material in a uniform and simple method.

Print organizations who build vinyl murals often price on a square foot basis.  There appears to be a direct correlation between the size of your mural and cost.  Mural size will dictate the type of machinery used in the manufacturing process, as well as the resources and number of people needed before and during assembly.  Vinyl assembly, incidentally, is far faster than paint.

Enter painted mural pricing, infinitely more difficult, because it doesn’t readily lend itself to pricing based on surface size.  There are intangible factors to consider, such as project complexity, mural process, the environment, logistics, and the muralist’s skillset.  A “Sistine Chapel” painting on a 100 SF wall is far more complex than a 100 SF Charlie Brown, more so if it is outdoors.  An esteemed muralist practically assures quality and brings greater value.

Although some muralists do price on a square foot basis, that’s not a method that works for us at Simply Artistic.  Our Simply Artistic mural projects, both indoor or outdoor, vary greatly in complexity.  It is not uncommon for our murals to be above 30 feet in height and extend 100 feet long.  Gymnasiums are examples.  Surface area pricing does not factor complexity or intangibles.  Paul himself factors complexity and intangibles as he personally assesses each project that we bid.  Our Simply Artistic pricing process is a combination of time, material, and intangible characteristics.

Decision Time

Now that you’re “in the know”, you can see that your paint vs. vinyl mural decision largely depends on you—on your plan, on your environment, and on your specific need.  So now let me ask you . . . To be or not to be?