Posted by: Mike McDowell | July 12, 2009

Dr. Seuss Nursery Mural

July 8, 2009

I’m really really proud of the Dr. Seuss mural that we painted for the nursery. My brother (Matt) and I worked together on the concept and the painting and the outlining of the Dr. Seuss characters for what seemed like countless hours, days, weeks, etc. I really want to thank him for all of his help – his work on the mural will truly be a major gift to London that will be around for a while. Everyone who sees it just loves it!

I emphasize, again, that this was no easy task. As you’ll be able to tell, we had to take this process step by step. First, of course, was just the base/background color of blue. Then we did a chalk outline of all of the characters on the blue paint. 

The third step is to start filling in the colored sections, one color at a time. This was an uneasy step, because you could kind of see the character start to form, but they were still just an undefined blob of color for the most part. 

And the fourth step was the most time intensive, but the most gratifying. We added all of the black outline that you see in the photos. Some of the characters, like the Cat in the Hat, have a lot of black to them. But once that black outline goes down, the character suddenly became alive! We used a black ink, rather than a black paint or a black Sharpie marker. It’s a little high-gloss at times, as you may spot in a couple of the photos (in fact, you’ll notice most photos are taken from a slight side angle, or else there was a glare on the black ink), but it looked so great. You’ll notice that we have the following characters: The Cat in the Hat, Thing 1 and Thing 2 (from the Cat in the Hat), Horton (Horton Hears a Who), Sam (Green Eggs and Ham), Balloon boy (Oh, The Places You’ll Go!), The Sneetches, and “One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish.”

I’ve included photos from each of our stages of creating this mural (when I remembered to grab the camera), so you can really see the transformation. The experience of creating this mural with my brother is one that I’ll remember and cherish for years to come. It turned out SO good. It feels like you’re standing in a children’s storybook. I hope you all get an opportunity to come see it in person some time.

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  1. It looks awesome!!! That must have taken forever, but your little guy will be able to enjoy for years to come. Great job!

  2. Is this a good time to point out that the word “Nerd” was coined by Dr. Suess in the book “If I Ran the Zoo?”

    Looks rad dude!


    • You know, I tweeted that once! See, you’re learning from my tweets after all! Ha : )

      Glad you like it. We’re really proud of how it turned out.

  3. AWESOME! really well done! Pretty sure your brother did all the work though, but I will give you credit for the projector idea… I bet that was you.


  4. Frickin’ Phenomenal. I wish I could have done something like this for Ainsleigh. My wife ended up painting our nursery because I was chained to grad school homework at the time. The end of my first year of grad school.

    Good work and you should be a professional mural painter on the side.

  5. Are you guys using the Dr. Suess bedding from PBKids? When I saw that I always figured Will would want to do a little boys room like this. You did a fantastic job, I am very impressed. And yes I painted our daughter’s room (while 7 months pregnant), its pink & green.
    If we have a boy next time around, Will is in charge of the room.

    • We hadn’t planned on using any of the Pottery Barn stuff. My step-mom is making a bunch of the bedding! We did see some of the Pottery Barn stuff and it looks super cool, too.

  6. I just have to say that of ALL the Seuss rooms I’ve seen this is the most impressive… Right on guys! I’m sure your kiddos will love it…. Good luck!

    • Thanks! We put a lot of work into it and are really proud : )

  7. Im currently working on a Dr. Seuess theme myself, where did you find the mural stencils?


    • Sandra – we didn’t use stencils. We used the images form the book, then we drew the outlines on the wall with chalk, then started painting in the colors, then we outlined everything with ink. : )

      • Hello!! My son has a Dr. Seuss themed room and I am ready to go on my painting. I bought a black paint pen but I noticed you said you didn’t use paint for the outline, instead you used ink. I think I’d like to do that as well, I love the final look as opposed to a painted outline. Is there a certain ink or brand you felt works better than others? Thanks, and great job!!

      • We used Pilot ink. It’s actually refill ink for markers. It applies really smoothly and dries very quickly. We ordered ours online, but you can sometimes find it at art supply stores.

  8. It looks fantastic! how did you apply the ink? by brush or just use a permanent marker? Thanks

    • We used Pilot ink. It’s actually refill ink for markers. It applies really smoothly and dries very quickly. We ordered ours online, but you can sometimes find it at art supply stores. We just applied it with a thin paint brush.

  9. This room is awesome! Nice work. What types (flat, Satin, Semigloss) of paint did you use for the sky (blue) and ground (green/red)? What type of paint did you use for the characters and trees? From the art store? Or from a Home improvement store?

    thanks and tremendous work!

    • Thank you! I honestly don’t remember what type of paint we used. I’d have to dig up the cans and check. It’s the same type of paint for every color, though. I remember that we didn’t want it to be too glossy, but didn’t want to lose some of the vibrancy of the colors by going too flat. We just bought the paint at Home Depot or Lowes.

  10. I have been planning to do my sons whole room just like this with even a few more characters. I just found this site today and am thrilled to learn some tips on how to go about it. The chalk – awesome! I was concerned because pencil is way difficult to work with on the walls (as my son has taught me!) And the ink was also a very important tip! I didn’t want to use paint and i know marker wouldn’t last very long. Just want to say its looks awesome and thank you for the tips. Would love more if you have them (as i am 5 months pregnant with a 2 year old so any advice to speed up the process, other than do during naps and nights, would be great!!!)

    • I’m glad you like the room. We’re very proud of it.

      I don’t know if I have any additional tips on top of the ones you noted, other than to do it in layers (since most of these need two coats – the red needed like 4 coats). You can see from some of the photos how we did the color layers. And then we’d work on an opposite wall while one wall was drying. We did sketch out the whole room beforehand so that we could get the spacing of the characters and the scale of each one. One tip is to take photos of the room (the walls) and then print them out (not using glossy photo paper, but something matted), and then sketch directly on the photos of the walls to help plan out the layout.

      As for finding time with a two-year-old in tow, I don’t have any great ideas. This is our first child, so we didn’t have to be opportunistic with naps. Our son is about a year and a half now, so I understand that painting with somebody who gets into everything would be a major challenge. Good luck. I hope the room turns out great!

  11. I love the room. I have 2 kids (3 and 1) and we are in the process of doing a Seuss toyroom. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

  12. I love your room…totally fantastic. Can I ask you for the name of the colors you used?

    • Hi Susi – thank you for the compliment. I’m afraid that I don’t know the names of the colors we used. Sadly, we moved out of that house and we left the paint cans behind for the new owners in case they wanted to do any touch-ups. I didn’t keep record of the colors. I believe we bought all of the paint at Lowe’s, though (if that helps at all).

  13. Thanks for getting back to me…Too bad you moved. I hope my room comes out half as good as yours did :) Lowe’s here I come…

  14. I’m trying to find copyright laws on Dr. Seuss pictures. Did you ever run into any trouble with this? I’ve seen soooo many people do murals of this theme in both public and private buildings. I want to paint this theme for a Non-Profit YMCA, but I don’t want to run into any problems. Do you have any advice?

    • Hi Laura – I haven’t run into any issues at all, but then this was in a private residence. If it’s in a public or private business, you may want to seek counsel. I know that whatever you create is protected by copyright law, but if you’re using copyrighted characters, that may create a gray area : )

      Good luck on your endeavor. I hope the mural turns out beautifully.

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