As creatives, we often look to the great outdoors to inspire our artwork. But sometimes, looking indoors can be just as inspiring! Magdalena Żołnierowicz’s demo on interior sketching shows how simple yet effective it can be, so if you’re ready, let’s paint along!

Step 1: Quick Sketch

For this demo, you’ll need a pencil, an eraser (optional), an A4 hot press watercolour sketchbook, a pink fineliner or marker, watercolour paints, a size 8 round brush, a palette, a container for water, and paper towels. There’s also a reference photo if you need it.

Tip: Magdalena uses hot press paper for the demo as it dries faster than cold press, plus she doesn’t need the extra texture. But if you prefer cold press, you’re welcome to use it instead!

The first step is to do a pencil sketch. This should be very fast – no more than 5-10 minutes, especially if you’re not using an eraser. Keep your lines light and loose, and don’t worry about making your lines perfect, as you won’t see them at the end anyway.

The main thing is to get the proportions, placement, and perspective roughly correct, so it resembles a room! The best way to do this is to start in the middle, with the couch, then gradually work your way around the room.

Also, ignore the details and just focus on getting the larger shapes in the room.

You can also leave out certain items in the room, such as the light fixture hanging from the ceiling, as it will detract from the focal point (i.e. the couch). Magdalena also leaves out the small table and chair to the left and the pink bed to the right, though it’s up to you whether you want to include them or not.

When you’re done, you can use an eraser to get rid of any lines that shouldn’t be visible, but otherwise, you shouldn’t need to use it at all. 

Step 2: First Watercolour Wash

It’s time to paint! There will only be 2-3 layers of paint in this painting, as Magdalena likes to keep her art clean and simple.

For this first part, paint the couch with a diluted phthalo blue while avoiding the cushions on it. Then, while the paint is still wet, drop in a more saturated phthalo blue in the shadow areas, allowing the different tones of paint to blend in smoothly.

Next, paint the ottoman in front using a lighter blue like cerulean, then darken it with phthalo blue for the shadowed side. Then, switch to burnt umber, and paint the wooden floor.

Tip: Paint loosely and quickly, and make sure to leave a few white gaps for highlights, extra texture, and/or to distinguish between 2 objects that are similar in colour. 

For the cushions, paint the square ones with a warm blue like indanthrene blue, and the smaller cushions a lilac or light violet colour. Make sure to leave white lines for some texture and to indicate some folds in the cushions’ fabric. Also, if the paint for the sofa is still wet, try to avoid it to prevent too much bleeding.

Step 3: Painting Paintings

Continue painting your first layer by using the same lilac colour for the paintings on the right (behind the plants). Then, switch back to the phthalo blue to paint some vague details of the large painting to the left. 

For the tapestry in the middle, use diluted burnt umber mixed with a touch of phthalo blue to neutralise it a little. Your brushstrokes should go in the general direction of the tapestry, and again, leave some white gaps to indicate the direction of the woven threads.

Paint the other paintings, again with simplified blobs in the middle. The topmost painting should be a stroke of sap green, paired with a stroke of sap green mixed with phthalo blue.

Step 4: Carpet and Plants 

Next, paint the plants by using the same sap green and phthalo blue mixture for the bottom one. Quickly dab in some leaves, and add 3-4 strokes for stems. You want to capture the general feeling of the plant, not make a photorealistic render!

As for the plant hanging from the ceiling, mix a warm yellow with sap green, and paint a few strokes dangling over the edge of a pot with leaves sticking out. It’s okay to overlap with the lilac paintings here, as long as you paint quickly.

To paint the carpet, mix a neutral grey using burnt umber and phthalo blue, dilute it and paint a few large areas. Next, do a large but quick stroke of magenta across the bottom, allowing the paint to mingle with the one underneath.

Finally, do a stroke in the same lighter green as the hanging plant and another in the same darker green as the other plant. Both of these greens should be a little more diluted, as you don’t want them to detract from the sofa.

When you’re done, you can leave your first layer to dry.

Step 5: Second Layer Shadows

You’ll be looking to incorporate some shadows for the next layer, which also double up as details, as they add a lot of depth and contrast to your painting.

Like before, start with the couch first, using a very saturated phthalo blue to paint the areas under the cushions, the couch’s frame, and some line details. Then, use the same paint to enhance the shadow on the ottoman’s side, though gradually lighten it as you get to the left area.

For the textures on top, use a saturated cerulean blue to dot in some wrinkles in the fabric.

Add shadows to the floor using a more saturated burnt umber or by mixing in a little phthalo blue. Paint the lines for the panelling on the floor as well.

Next, use a diluted Payne’s grey to paint the wall while avoiding the paintings, lamp, and plants. While you paint, you can also add darker shadows with a more saturated Payne’s grey. These should go under and to the right side of the furniture and to the bottom and right edges of the paintings and the floor lamp. You can also paint the legs holding up the potted plant to the right.

Step 6: Third Layer and Final Paint Details

To finish off the painting session, you’ll need to add some last details to your painting! So to begin, add some darker green shadows for the potted plant, then enhance the shadows on the sofa to give it even more depth.

Add shadows to the cushions in their respective colours and enhance the shadows under the furniture. 

Bonus tip: You can also paint in any extra things you may have added, such as the table and chair to the left. They don’t have to have as much contrast though, as you don’t want them to detract from your focal point.

Dot in some texture for the carpet in magenta and phthalo blue, and add any detail you might have missed. Once you’re done, wait for your painting to dry completely before heading to the very last step! 

Step 7: Inking in Style

For the finale, it’s time to break out the pink ink! So grab your pen or marker and start adding the outlines and details you may have missed in the painting process.

Tip: Magdalena prefers using coloured inks to black ink for her lines, as she finds that the extra colour makes her paintings much more fun and lively. Of course, you can use whatever colour you wish – even black if you want! 

Like with your sketch, keep your lines loose, and don’t feel like you have to follow the pencil lines from before. You can also add in some details outside of your brushstrokes, such as leaves for the plants. Add back details as well, such as the frames around the paintings, the lines in the carpet, and the wooden texture of the floor.

Bonus tip: You can actually draw it in if you didn’t paint the small table and the painting on the left! They might look a little “ghostly”, but that’s fine for this style of painting. 

Draw in extra textures, lines, and wherever you feel needs more line definition. You’ll know you’re done when you feel like adding a line won’t aid the painting anymore! And for a final flourish, you can sign your name for a job well done.

This has been a quick yet hopefully fun painting session! And the great thing about painting indoors is that you can always save it for a rainy day.

For the full experience, you can watch Magdalena’s FREE demo, complete with a Q&A session. And if you’ve followed along, please share it with us! We love to see what you’ve been up to and how our guest artists have helped you grow. 

Ready to take it to the next level? Check out Magdalena's 90-minute art class!

Want more ideas or lessons to kindle your creativity? Then feel free to subscribe to our email newsletter! Whether you’re following along with our blog, workshops, or live demos, we’ll notify you on all the latest happenings with Etchr.

Nicola Tsoi is a practicing graphic designer and illustrator based in Hong Kong. During her downtime, she likes to watch birds do funny things, search for stories, and bake up a storm. She keeps a pet sourdough starter named Doughy. 


  • Cyntia Spadafore said:

    Just read this 7 step piece and learned so much. You broke it down so me as a 68 yr old beginner painter could understand. Thank you so much!
    Etchr Studio replied:
    We’re thrilled to hear this blog has been helpful, Cynthia! Have fun making
    more art! :)

    April 02, 2022

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