Sketching storefronts have been quite a trend for a while now, so why not take it up a notch and do one in gouache? In this blog, artist Julia Henze demonstrates her cheerful and bright art style in gouache while adding textures in coloured pencil. 

Step 1: Quick Sketch 

Though hailing from the Netherlands, Julia picks an old bookshop from Edinburgh, Scotland to be today’s painting subject. There’s something about quaint shops that inspire her palette!

As for the tools, you’ll need a copy of the reference photo (digital or printed), a B5 or A4 watercolour sketchbook (cold press), gouache paint, a palette, 2 containers of water, a large and small flat brush, a size 1 round brush, paper towels, artist’s (or painter’s) tape, a pencil, a kneaded eraser, and coloured pencils. 

Tip: With gouache paint, you’ll want to use synthetic paintbrushes, as natural hair brushes are a little too soft to work with gouache.

The paint colours you’ll need are: white, black, a warm yellow, primary red, cobalt or ultramarine blue, and burnt sienna.

To start, tape down the edges of your paper with artist’s tape before quickly sketching out the general shapes and outlines you see in the reference photo. Julia recommends starting with the largest shapes first, such as the store and the ground, before dividing them up into smaller shapes like the windows and signs.

Tip: Your lines don’t have to be to scale, or even ruler-perfect straight. Actually, it’s better to have your lines a little slanted! This gives it an “older” feeling and adds some of those perfect imperfections.

Once your general lines are down, dab your eraser over your sketch to lighten your lines so that they’re faint but still visible. In all, this process shouldn’t take longer than 5-10mins.

Step 2: Slap Some Paint On

It’s already time to paint! Grab your large flat brush, and mix a lighter green using yellow and blue gouache paint. The consistency should be relatively thick, so don’t dilute the paint too much. Use this green to paint the storefront, though leave the signs and the windows blank for now.

To get a little texture in your painting, your brush should be a little dry, and paint quickly so that some white dots and/or streaks are left behind. You also don’t have to paint every nook and cranny, but this is up to your personal preference.

Include a little depth into your green by adding more yellow for the lighter areas nearer the light source, and adding more blue for the shadowed area (which is the door).

Step 3: Contrast and Filling Out

Next, mix a rusty red using yellow, red, and burnt sienna. Use this to paint the shop’s sign, then dilute this mixture to paint the surrounding walls. Paint the sign that’s just below the shop’s sign as well.

For the ground and the door’s window, mix a very dark colour using blue and a touch of black. Paint the window first, allowing some of the white of the paper to show through. Then, paint the area in front of the door before adding some white to paint the rest of the ground. Dilute this lighter blue as you near the bottom of your paper.

Keep diluting your blue paint for a very pale blue before painting half of the store’s window, then mix your dark blue with a little of your red mixture for an earthy purple to paint the other half of the window.

Tip: Keep your brushstrokes quick and loose, and don’t be afraid to dab some marks here and there for more texture.

Step 4: Books and Details 

Of course, a bookstore isn’t complete without its books! To paint them, switch to a smaller flat brush, then use the same dark earth purple as before to paint a sort of grid, or dividing lines between the books. The spacing of your lines can vary a little; just use the edge of your brush for a thinner line.

For the books themselves, pick some random colours on your palette, and paint in some rectangles between your lines. Julia also breaks out a very vibrant pink here just to spice things up a bit!

Step 5: Adding White and Coloured Pencils

Since gouache is an opaque paint, you’ll be able to paint over previous layers, which is a boon if you find it necessary to fix mistakes! This also means white paint is visible even over dark paint, unlike watercolour. 

With that in mind, use your size 1 round brush and thick white paint to add in some of those fine details, such as the white outlines around the store, the windows, and signage. For the notices posted in the door’s window, switch to your small flat brush and block some random rectangles in.

Wait for your painting to dry completely before breaking out your coloured pencils, then make a start by adding some indigo shadows along the edges of the windows and the white frames near the bottom of the door and store.

Step 6: Texturing with Coloured Pencils and Finalising Details

Keep adding the final details to your painting, whether it’s to add more signage in white paint or more lines and shading in coloured pencil.

For coloured pencil colours, Julia mainly uses a mid-blue and indigo but also goes on to use white, peach, and brownish-red pencils. 

Bonus tip: Julia uses wax-based coloured pencils here, but in general, as long as your coloured pencil lines are showing up on your painting, then you’re good.

Shade in the darker areas of the green storefront with a bit of indigo, and add details such as lines of text using the mid-blue. You can also add the panelling of the tiled ground using indigo, and shade in some areas of peach, white, mid-blue, and indigo. 

For the red walls, use your brownish-red to add shadows instead, and add the details of the eave above the shop’s sign.

You can also draw in some books using white, and add texture wherever you think needs it! Again, these aren’t set in stone, so feel free to just let loose and do what you think is best for your painting

If you’re not sure what your painting needs, take a step back and analyse your painting’s overall impression, before going back in to adjust anything. And when you’re satisfied, you can sign your painting!  

This was definitely a different yet no less fun way to paint a storefront, so I hope you enjoyed yourself! I know I did. For the full experience, you can check out the live demo recording with Julia, and follow along at your own pace. Take your art to the next level and sign-up for her 90-minute art class too!

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Nicola Tsoi is a practising 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. 

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