Making a miniature advertising mural

I painted a mural on my barn last weekend, without leaving my house. And if you’re wondering how I managed to do that, maybe I should explain my barn is only 15 inches tall.

miniature wooden barn with a vintage advertising mural for McKinstry-Yauman Co. painted on it

I was trying to make it look bigger in the photo above by setting it on the base of what had once been my son’s Civil War battlefield diorama.

wooden toy barn setting atop a green and brown painted piece of plywood on a table outdoors

Ha. After a decade or so in storage, I finally found a use for it again. 😂

Anyhoo, the story of the barn, like most of my stories, starts in a thrift store. That’s where I found it in about 2015. I didn’t strictly need a miniature barn back then, but I thought it would look cute setting out on my back porch surrounded by flowers or up on top of a cabinet.

Here’s what the barn looked like when I brought it home:

wooden model barn with red walls, an aqua roof and beige window frames

Re-painting the barn

The tomato red exterior and aqua roof weren’t my style, so I eventually repainted the barn, using a darker red and a celery green.

chalk painted toy barn

I really wasn’t planning to do anything else to the barn at that point. Or at any point. But then last month, inspiration struck.

Inspiration from a real barn

One of my friends and former co-workers at The Beaver Dam Daily Citizen had written a story about a (real) barn with a vintage advertising mural on it. The mural had apparently been on the barn since at least the 1950s, but it had been covered up by siding for a long time. When the siding was torn down recently, the mural was revealed.

I love vintage advertising murals. This mural in particular struck my fancy because it was in such good shape and it was on a barn that I drive past all the time. Plus, it advertised a local business that is still operating today.

The newspaper story said the owners planned to re-side the barn, so the mural was going to be covered up again. Personally, I was glad that it was going to be protected from the elements and preserved, but I was also bummed that it was going to be hidden from view once more.

Then it occurred to me that I could paint a miniature advertising mural onto my own little barn and see it everyday.

Thinking small

I messaged my friend who wrote the story, telling her what I wanted to do and asking if she had taken any photos of the mural from straight on. A minute later, she sent me this picture:

closeup of full-size McKinstry-Yauman Co. sign on a real barn

The angle was much better on this shot (for my purposes) but the mural was still a little distorted. To straighten it out, I opened the photo in Photoshop, created a new layer over top of the background, and typed the letters in a similar font.

I couldn’t find a font that matched the “McKinstry-Yauman Co.” letters, so I traced them with the pen tool. Then I moved the anchor points around, stretching and squeezing each letter until they were all about the same size.

screenshot of Photoshop document of McKinstry-Yauman Co. lettering overlaying a photo of the mural on a barn

Once I had the letters all copied, I turned off the background layer …

screenshot of Photoshop document showing McKinstry-Yauman Co. advertising sign

… sized the page to fit my barn, and printed it.

vintage toy barn with a printout of a miniature advertising mural atop it

Prepping and painting

To remove the barn’s windows, I wedged a screwdriver underneath each piece of the frame and pried.

the end of a red toy barn with white window frames partially removed

Next, I sanded the part of the barn where the mural was going to go.

a woman's hand holding a Mouse sander over the end of a wooden toy barn

Then I base coated that section of the barn in grey chalk paint.

end of the barn basecoated in grey chalk paint before painting miniature advertising mural on it

After the paint dried, I placed a piece of carbon paper behind my printout and traced over the letters.

a woman's hand holding a pencil and tracing over the letters in McKinstry Yauman Co.

When I removed the carbon paper, I saw the letters had transferred.

toy barn with outlines for miniature advertising mural on it and a piece of carbon paper above

To fill in the outlines, I was tempted to run over to Walmart to buy a paint marker, but (sigh) I didn’t think that counted as an “essential trip,” so I made do with the craft paint and brushes I had on hand.

I let the paint dry overnight. The next morning, I gave my miniature advertising mural a coat of clear wax to protect it. I also added a little dark wax around the edges and in the cracks, to make it look old and weathered.

person's hand applying clear wax to mural painted on side of wooden toy barn

Here’s the barn on my back porch:

wooden barn with miniature advertising mural on it setting on a chippy table

I generally face the open side toward the wall and use it for storage.

back side of handmade toy barn with an opening cut into the wall and a display of plants, pots, and flower flogs sitting in one corner

Isn’t it cute?? I love it with the new miniature advertising mural. 😊

toy barn with miniature advertising mural painted on the end and an opening on the side

Links, etc.

If you haven’t already, check out the Daily Citizen story about the full-sized barn mural. It’s a fun read.

If you’re fascinated by old signs like I am, follow my Vintage Advertising Murals Pinterest board.

And if you want to read more about my extremely low-tech sign-making process, check out this post about a home address sign I made.

That’s all for now, folks. I hope you’re all staying home and staying safe!


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