Chinese Murals: the good, the beautiful and the trouble


About 5 or 6 times a year I get the chance to install beautiful pieces of artwork. This month, I had the opportunity to install a beautiful Chinese mural in a private home in Maryland. When everything falls into place, the outcome is a gorgeous piece of artwork to adorn a wall.

But things don’t always work seamlessly, especially with hand-painted materials. Here’s what I’ve learned about working with Chinese murals…

Along with the good and the beautiful, comes the bad. Working with custom hand-painted materials from China has taught me to check for imperfections. Hand-painted materials are works of art. They frequently have peculiarities that are not encountered in machine made materials. For example, some materials will only show shading after installation and full drying. A client sees the mural, pre-installed, and thinks this is some major defect. Here’s where it can get ugly.

So… what can you do to best manage your own or your client’s expectations when installing a Chinese mural?

Materials Check

Expect the unexpected. There will probably be a difference between what you saw in sample books and the final installed product (because it is handmade). Have the manufacturer email you photos of the final, completed mural before they ship it to you.

Open the boxes and verify you’ve received all the panels. Make sure they fit with the elevation that you ordered.

Unroll each panel and do a visual inspection to check for shading and pattern match.

If you discover any defects or potential issues, you have basically these choices:

1. Return the material and cancel the project.
2. Replace the material.
3. Install the material “as received” and acknowledge any defects or possible installation issues prior to the installation.

Move forward “as received”

Most people do find imperfections. But they almost always opt for choice #3 because we can work around most issues. It’s a matter of managing expectations and explaining what “hand-painted” means to the client.

My installation tip for Chinese Murals

Murals are usually made of leaves, flowers, butterflies, etc. Ask the Chinese artist to paint a few extra leaves, flowers, butterflies on a piece of the same ground color, you can cut them out and decoupage most flaws or mismatches.