For many of us, home is a special place — but my mom especially loves her house. It was built by her grandparents in the 1940’s, who ordered the design and all of its components from the Sears Catalog. After my great-grandmother died in 2015, the house became my mother’s. For her, it’s a peaceful haven and a place that represents happy childhood memories. With that in mind, I decided to make her a watercolor house portrait this year for her birthday.
If you like this project, you can learn how to create it in the tutorial below. Feel free to modify the steps to suit your supplies and timeframe!
Before You Get Started …
Today’s project isn’t quite a beginner-level endeavor. It requires quite a bit of blending! If you’re new to watercolors, consider enrolling in The Ultimate Beginner’s Watercolor Online Course. Complete that course, and you’ll be able to paint practically any subject.
1. Make a Procreate Draft (Optional)
(If you don’t have an iPad or the Procreate app, you can jump to step 2.) I love using Procreate — an iPad illustration app — to draft out illustrations like this one. It allows me to make an accurate sketch and experiment with layouts and lettering styles. Here’s a timelapse video of how I used Procreate to make a draft:
And here’s the finished draft:
2. Draw a Pencil Draft
Now, cut out a square piece of watercolor paper. (I am using a 7″ x 7″ piece of Stonehenge paper, which I’ve been loving lately.) Print out your Procreate draft or, if you don’t have Procreate, a photo of the house. Then, lay the watercolor paper on top of the draft or photo, and put both papers on top of a light box (or against a bright window). Use a pencil to trace over what you see.
Of course, you don’t have to use a light box to do this step. If you prefer to free-hand draw the house portrait, go right ahead! In the end, you’ll want to end up with a pencil draft that looks similar to the one below:
I like the concept of adding the house’s address with the help of a banner and Sans Serif lettering. In this case, Sans Serif goes with the midcentury style of the house. (I would probably use this hand-lettering style for any watercolor house portrait, though. Since it’s nice and simple, it doesn’t detract from the house illustration.)
Once you’ve got your pencil draft, use a straight pen fitted with a Nikko G nib and Ziller ink to trace over your pencil lines. It’s super important to use waterproof ink (like Ziller) because the house portrait will be exposed to a lot of moisture here in a bit!
Keep “inking” until you’ve traced over everything except for the outer circle.
Once all the ink has dried, erase any pencil draft lines except the outer circle.
4. Add Watercolor
Now, get out your favorite watercolor palette and moisten the colors that you’ll need in order to paint the house. For my mom’s house, those colors included:
Four different tones of green (for trees, grass, and vines) – “Green Earth” is especially great for this
Three tones of orange or red (for the bricks)
Gray (“Slate” from Greenleaf & Blueberry – for concrete)
It’s easiest to show you exactly how I went about adding watercolor in a timelapse video:
Here are some notes that you may find helpful:
For the brick, I began with an orangeish-red base layer. After that paint dried, I painted on tiny rectangles of color to give it that brick-like look. I used the same technique for the roof.
Most shadows were painted using Violet Hematite, a deep purple. It’s dark, but not as harsh as black, which is why it’s awesome for shadows.
The sky was painted with Winsor & Newton “Cobalt Blue”.
5. Add More Ink to Finish the Watercolor House Portrait
If you’ve taken the Watercolor Illustrated Maps 101 eCourse, you know that it’s a good idea to use ink to add finishing touches to your piece. That’s exactly what I did to complete this artwork, and I suspect that your watercolor house portrait will benefit from this step, too. Basically, you just go through and use ink to make some shadows a bit more dramatic and reinforce outlines that need it.
I used black ink to reinforce the roof and the sides of the house to help them stand out from the foliage. Then, I drew a few black shadows in the bushes and trees to give them dimension. Finally, I added black shadows to the banner to help it look more realistic.
Of course, houses come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors, so this tutorial isn’t one-size-fits-all. I do hope, however, that you feel inspired to modify its steps in order to paint your own watercolor house portrait! If you take on the challenge, I’d love to see what you come up with. You can share on Instagram (tag @thepostmansknock) or email me at [email protected]. Happy creating!