How To Run A Participative Street Art Workshop
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Street Art Together is a project developed by IOM and Street Art Sans Frontières. In our post “What is Street Art Together?” you learned that accessibility, participation, and social cohesion are at the heart of every step of the activity. This blog will teach you how to prepare and organize your own workshop. Sit tight and learn how to implement these 10 steps. Soon you’ll be a skilled facilitator yourself.

Training of facilitators in Nouadhibou, Mauritania – picture by SASF

Now that you are familiar with the key values, let’s move on to the next steps of our process: team building, choice of location, and planning the workshop.

The preparation phase

Before the actual painting can begin, you need to do a little preparation. Start by identifying a location, think about who will work with you, and do some actual planning.

1. Build a team

Your first step is to create a dynamic and motivated team. The best team is the one in which personalities and skills are balanced (technical knowledge of Street Art, good interpersonal skills, patience…). In a group with multiple personalities, some will be more concerned with the general design, others with the integration of new participants, and others with logistics. Each role is important, and it is useful to switch places now and then to learn which combination works best for you and your team.

For example, if you have a team of 3 facilitators, try dividing the different roles as follows:

  • one facilitator focuses on the painting: showing the participants how to create and mix the colours, explaining the design, teaching the participants to use the different tools if necessary, and guide them along the creative process
  • a second facilitator takes care of the practical side: managing the pots, the brushes, the traffic, the security, making sure people have something to drink and protection from the sun …
  • finally, the third facilitator manages the relational aspects: addressing interested bystanders, motivating people to jump in, explaining the project, guide community leaders to make sure they feel involved, create meaningful conversations …

2. Find the perfect location

Once you have your team in place, you should think about the ideal place to set up your workshop. You should give priority to lively neighborhoods: the town center, high-traffic areas, squares. The location is an independent actor in this project: it must help to achieve the goal of enhancing social cohesion.

IOM and its partners often choose neighbourhoods where migrant communities live, or those which are outside structures such as transit centres, meeting places, central squares, markets, interchanges on main roads… The place where you organise the workshop must also guarantee security for all those participating.

3. Plan ahead

Next, start planning: create an agenda, book places, and times for the different interventions. Consider the days and times when there might be more people coming in. Estimate the time a painting session can take to avoid hot weather or night, and always come to the place already prepared (cf. all the material purchased, the authorizations obtained, the neighborhood informed, …).

Your planning should be flexible and will always be subject to change, but it is more than useful to present yourself with clear ideas when requesting authorization (keep reading to find out how).

The technical stuff

Let’s move to action! Now that you master the key values and planning steps, you can start learning techniques. Where this blog gives you a brief description of every skill, we’ll soon make available detailed tutorials that will help you become a pro!

4. Choose the right type of wall

To facilitate the mural painting, you should look out for smooth walls (it’s hard to paint on plastered/rough/porous walls). Paint is expensive, so you must be careful to avoid unnecessary waste, by avoiding walls that are absorbent. The larger and freer (no windows) the surface area, the more space you’ll have for participants to work on. It’s important to avoid crowding on the walls, which makes participants feel uncomfortable (and is not recommended in times of Coronavirus).

By the time you have found the walls, inform the neighbors of your project. On the day of the workshop, in order to attract more people, you can start to draw a sketch with chalk before you paint. People are not necessarily used to this kind of activity, and this could ignite their curiosity. A member of the team will need to go to the potential participants, explain what you’re doing, and invite them to take part.

5. Get the authorisation

Be it a private or public wall, you should always request written authorisation to paint it. The approval process can take from a few days to a few weeks (depending on whether you must apply to the local council or to a private individual). You should consider this when you make your planning and think about applying beforehand, using pictures to help people visualize and explain the neutral nature of your designs.

Note: When permission is granted, start informing the workshop participants. You will need to communicate a little in advance to increase your visibility on the day.

6. Mix your colours

To start, you only need paint in the 3 primary colours (red, yellow, blue), white and black.

From the primary colours you can create the secondary colours you need: orange (red + yellow), green (yellow + blue), and purple (blue + red). Take a moment to learn how to get all types of different shades and become a mix master.

Mixing colours before the workshop – picture by SASF

Explain participants how to mix colours to create new ones with the help of a colour chart. It’s important to master this technical aspect. If time allows it, mix the colours with the direct help of participants to add another learning dimension.

To mix the colours, use recycled items such as packaging, sticks you find on the ground, old buckets, big water bottles, … don’t buy expensive materials as you may not be able to use them a second time.
Note: Each type of paint has a different pigment concentration, so it is necessary to do test before the first application, preferably on a small, less visible corner of the wall

7. Create a design

Before starting to paint the walls, you should prepare a design sketch of your artwork on paper, indicating already which colours to use. Soon available the tools section, you’ll find some basic models and designs to choose or get inspiration from.

What your designs should not use:

  • Words or phrases
  • Figurative forms (which are recognisable)
  • Logos or symbols of organisations
  • Religious or other symbolism

They should focus on:

  • Vivid colours and contrasts
  • Landscapes (not necessarily in realistic colours) and other large, neutral compositions
  • Reliefs, playful compositions of colours and shape and optical illusions

The designs used must respect complete neutrality to allow everyone to participate. This will also facilitate permissions and empower those who participate without imposing any messages. If you want to get messages across through the activity, this can be done through the facilitators’ dialogue efforts.

8. Find the right shapes

When designing your mural, you should always consider the accessibility of the project. You will have to choose shapes that are simple and easy to draw or paint. Each shape will have a different colour, without gradation or shades (which are techniques that new participants may not master).

9. Buy your materials

Always choose quality. Reuse your materials and don’t have to throw it away after the workshop.

The essentials for your workshop are:

  • Brushes of different sizes
  • Brooms and brushes to clean the walls (remove dust and dirt) before painting
  • Strings that can be used as a compass, to trace circles, for example
  • Good quality paint (see next point)
  • Clean water to dilute the paint (doesn’t have to be drinkable)
  • Paint (paper) tape to trace the lines of your shapes and avoid overflowing
  • Chalk to create a sketch on the walls before painting
  • Ladder to paint the higher areas of the wall
  • A few empty buckets to mix primary colours (think about recycling old ones)

Remember that you can use any tool to create your shapes (cf. the cover of a paint pot…).

Using simple shapes in different shades of one color – picture by SASF (Niger)

10. Find the right paint

When purchasing paint, you’ll only need the three primary colours*, white and black.
Buy water-based paint, it will be more practical to dilute and easier to clean.


We strongly discourage using paints that require solvents to be cleaned or that are not suitable for children.


The quantity of pots you need depends on the size and quality of the walls you chose (a sandy wall requires more paint than a smooth surface). Often on the paint pots’ labels indicate how many m2 they cover, or you can just ask the vendor in the shop for advice.


*According to the Pantone colour chart, which is an international reference for colours, here are the codes for each colour:

  • For yellow: Pantone Yellow 108
  • For red: Red 032
  • For blue: Pantone 2935

Tips & tricks

You’ve learned the 7 key steps to organising your workshop. Keep the following tips & ticks in mind at all times. They’ll remind you of your key values and lead you to success.

These passages will allow you to be ready for the big day! (Tip: prepare a list of the equipment to bring so that you) will be sure not to forget anything.

  1. Prepare a list of the equipment to bring, so you won’t forget anything and don’t have to interrupt the workshop
  2. Recall the voluntary aspect of the workshop: when people show interest in your activity, you’ll need to explain that the workshop is voluntary and there will be no remuneration. Avoid mentioning gifts and goodies if you have any; give them to the participants only at the end.
  3. Visibility is a key element for your action to have an impact. Make sure to be in a spot where people can see you and your work.
  4. Publish your work on social networks with the hashtag #StreetArtTogether so we can identify your action and to form a regional community of urban artists committed to social cohesion.
  5. Careful with handing out goodies. It’s essential that participants are driven by non-material motivations and not by the promise of money, gifts, food, or any other form of reward. Those who choose to participate will most likely do so out of curiosity, because they want to bring something nice to their living area, to spend some time learning, or to creatively express themselves.

Thank you Sara Bellasio for helping us publish this blog. If you liked it as much as we did, please share this blog on your social media channels! Keep coming back to YENNA to find more learning materials and become a street art pro.

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