For more than 25 years, Tony Vialpando has created scene and set designs. Since then, he’s expanded his repertoire into murals, and now operates Tony V Studios (Roseburg, OR). He said murals now comprise 75% of his business.
Vialpando paints most of his murals with airbrushes, automotive paint guns and high-volume, low-pressure (HVLP) coating-delivery systems. He uses Glidden latex paints; he prefers their dynamic color palettes. For airbrushing, he prefers Createx airbrush acrylics or Nova Color acrylics. Because he travels for most jobs and has to turn projects around quickly, basecoat application and other prepwork are usually contracted to a local vendor before he begins. Because most jobs adorn gypsum-covered walls, which have slight texture, sanding isn’t usually required.
“The chemical formulations that paint manufacturers have developed, which allow coatings to bond to almost any surface while delivering better color retention, have been remarkable,” Vialpando said. “The advances in paint-gun efficiency have also been tremendous.”
Typically, the client or a third-party designer furnishes the graphics. He’s cultivated long-term relation-
ships with themed-environment designers, such as Worlds of Wow, which specializes in developing colorful, kid-friendly interiors for churches. To date, Vialpando has created more than 200 murals for Worlds of Wow customers.
He said, “Churches are probably my most common type of customer, but I also decorate nightclubs, museums, private homes and almost any environment imaginable.”
To create patterns for his murals, Vialpando projects the imagery onto the walls with a 1980s-vintage Bell and Howell projector that he bought at a school rummage sale.Advertisement
He said, “It’s heavy, but it projects full color-images without fail every time. They don’t make projectors like this anymore.”
To craft his murals, Vialpando blocks in large areas with Purdy paintbrushes and rollers, and paint guns and airbrushes for detailed areas. When using a pressurized gun, he begins with HVLP guns for the largest areas, then uses spray guns and, for the finest details, Iwata dual-action airbrushes.
For Vialpando’s most difficult job, a La Jolla, CA client wanted its indoor pool area to replicate an underwater scene. Because the air was extremely humid, and water frequently splashed onto the walls, paint adhesion proved difficult. So, he convinced the owner to allow him to paint the mural on aluminum panels in his studio, and hang them on the wall once completed. Vialpando framed the panels with square, aluminum tubing and, to tolerate the environment, applied eight coats of automotive clearcoat (which he uses in place of a water-based clearcoat for heavy-duty jobs) to provide a glossy finish.
“When I was done, it looked like you were staring at the sea through giant windows,” he said.
He’s recently begun creating designs for digitally printed murals, particularly for high-traffic or smaller confines where a painted mural isn’t viable. He designs the entire program using Adobe Illustrator, and then contracts one of two shops – Norton Shores, MI-based Source One Digital or Great Big Color (Denver) – to fabricate the job.
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