Classical Thai painting was confined to temple and palace interiors and book illustrations. Mural painting was developed to a high degree in the belief that walls should enhance the beauty of the religious and royal objects they surrounded.

Traditional Thai painting was typically Asian in that conventional perspective was ignored and figures were large or small depending on their importance.The earliest surviving murals are characterized by earth colours made from natural pigments. They depicted excerpts from the Jataka stories, episodes from the Buddha's life, scenes of Buddhist heaven and hells, rows of gods, and scenes of contemporary Thai life. The murals in Bangkok's Wat Suthat and Thon Buri's Wat Suwannaram are particularly fine examples.

The traditional painting technique continued into the Bangkok period, when colours became richer thanks to pigments imported from China. Around the middle of the 19th century, artists began using chemical pigments and Western perspective. Spatial values were eschewed for atmospheric effects, and opulent gold leaf and bold primary colours radically altered the delicate harmony of the old subdued earth colours.