Murals of sorts date to Upper Paleolithic times such as the paintings in the Chauvet Cave in Ardeche department of southern France (around 30.000 BC).
Many olden murals have survived in Egyptian tombs (around 3150 BC), the Minoan palaces.
In modern times the term became more well-known with the Mexican "muralist" art movement. There are many different styles and techniques. The best-known is almost certainly fresco, which uses water-soluble paints with a damp lime wash, a rapid use of the resulting mixture over a large surface, and often in parts.
The colors lighten as they dry. The camouflage method has also been used for millennia.
Murals today are painted in a mixture of ways, using oil or water-based media. The styles can vary from abstract to trompe-l'œil (a French term for "fool" or "trick the eye"). Initiated by the works of mural artists like Graham Rust or Rainer Maria Latkes in the 1980s, trompe-l'oeil painting has experienced a new beginning in private and public buildings in Europe.
Today, the beauty of a wall mural has become much more widely available with a method whereby a painting or photographic image is transferred to poster paper or canvas which is then pasted to a wall surface to give the effect of either a hand-painted mural or realistic scene.
The development of digital wide set-up printers offered new time and cost effective production methods for printed murals and became an important alternative to actual, hand-painted murals in the last decade. Already existing murals can be photographed and then be reproduced in near-to-original quality.
The disadvantages of pre-fabricated murals are that they are often mass produced and lack the attraction and exclusivity of an original artwork. They are often not fitted to the individual wall sizes of the client and their personal ideas or wishes cannot be added to the mural as it progresses. The Frescography method, a digital manufacturing method (CAM) invented by Rainer Maria Latzke addresses some of the personalization and size restrictions.
Digital techniques are also used in advertisement. A "walls cape" is a large advertisement on or attached to the outside wall of a building. Walls capes can be painted directly on the wall as a mural, or printed on vinyl and securely attached to the wall in the manner of a billboard. Although not strictly classed as murals, large scale printed media are often referred to as such.
Advertising murals were traditionally painted onto buildings and shops by sign-writers, later as large scale poster billboards.