So far I have spent a lot of the holiday season painting the prettiest homes for people for Christmas presents so I wanted to share my top tips for you to paint your own!
The first step is to sketch out your home. I like to do this on cheap paper and then use a lightboard to transfer it to my watercolor paper. You could pull it up on a tablet or computer and trace from the digital picture. The important things to remember in either scenario are to make your vertical lines all straight up and down, I even tend to do them all at once so I can make sure they are straight. When the far sides of the house are getting further away from the center of the painting the height of them will decrease just slightly (this is easier to see if you hold a ruler up to the different sections of the original picture). When you are doing horizontal lines that should be straight across try squaring up you paper instead of holding it at an angle.
Once you have sketched your painting out onto your watercolor paper I highly suggest taking the time to tape the edges because it leaves a really nice border that instantly makes your painting look more professional.
I like to do the background first, using the wet in wet watercolor method, so that any trees behind the house appear blurrier like they would be in real life since they are farther away. It also helps because after doing the sky you can see the roofline of the house much better.
Next I usually paint the Yard/Landscaping because it gives me a good base for where my house stops. Also, it's convenient since I'm already using green paint for the trees. The important thing about bushes is to paint one side in shadow to help give them a round effect. I usually paint the right sides with darker spots (with the "sun" coming from the left) because it is easier since I'm right handed.
I find that the windows are probably the most important aspect of the house to me, they really anchor the whole thing so making sure that they are all even across a row, have the same widths, and have nice defined corners really goes a long way. It helps to have a picture of your home pulled up at this point when you start the windows. I like to use a dark navy blue or gray color for them and I do this with the small brush I have (a "000" or "3/0", it means the same thing). Make sure to leave any white trim that the real windows have, either around the side of the window or in the middle of two window panes. I frequently refer to the picture to make sure I'm leaving the appropriate spaces white. If you do accidentally paint on the white space and you are quick enough I can usually wipe off the paint with the tip of my finger. If you can't seem to wipe away the mistake you can add white back in later with a white gel pen. Window details will come later when the windows are dry.
I usually do the driveway or sidewalk next to give the windows time to dry. When I do a big space like this it can be hard to avoid drying lines (known also as hard lines) so I try to start in one corner and work my way out always returning to each different edge every ten seconds or so. Driveway details will come later when the paint is dry. Mostly at this point I need to let the whole thing dry a bit because I don't want to smear the wet paint with the side of my hand.
Same idea with with roof, start in a corner and continuously repaint over the edges where you stopped so that it doesn't form a hard line. I do like the hard lines to show though on the different roof sections so I tend to paint each section separately and let it dry before starting an adjacent section. I use my smallest brush on the roof a lot too because I find it gives me the best edges for the roofline and sharpest corners. We will leave the roof detailing until it dries.
Next is the big part, the house. I try to break this down into as many small sections as a I can to avoid hard lines where I don't want them. I do however really like the hard lines to show the different sections of the front of the house (for example, the house below as an entryway that is on a different plane than the right side of the house). This is main time where the original photo is very necessary for reference. I try to be extra careful to leave white trim on the house and around the windows untouched.
9. Driveway Details
Driveways are usually made of a rougher material (concrete, asphalt ect) so I like to go back and add little variants to the color with my small brush (in the same color that I used before for the driveway, just adding a new layer). I usually add some horizontal dots/slashes in a section and then fade them out with a damp brush and then do it to another section. You don't want to many of these sections though or they wouldn't stand out as different so I try to space them randomly about.
10. Roof Details
Same plan as driveway details, just trying to add some of that roof shingle texture.
11. Roof Shading
If your house photo has a definite point of light then you can use that to put in your shading. When it doesn't I like to have the light coming from the left side which I find easier for being right handed. Using the same color I already painted the roof and a small brush I added a line of shadow to the right side of the different roof lines to give it depth.
12. House Shading
Using the same color as I already painted the house I use a small brush to add another layer off paint in a small line to the right side of trim, windows, edges of the house ect. I also do the same under the roof lines and underneath windows. If a portion of the house is set back farther from another section I add additional shadowing to really help push back that section of the house (this can be common for doorways that are often set back under a covering).
12. Landscape Shading
Using the same colors I used to paint any bushes in the front I add dots of color to the right side and bottom edge of bushes to help give them shape. Additionally I like to add shading the driveway edges that meet grass as that will cast a tiny shadow on the driveway.
13. House Detail
Depending on your house you may need to add in brick or siding details to show what the home is made out of. For brick I like to use the same house color and a tiny flat brush to add little sections of brick (one hear, three there, maybe two at the top) and I like to go over a few of the bricks a second time so they are different colors as well. For siding I use my small brush in the same color as the house and add straight horizontal lines from the right to the left that fade out as I go to the left (since that is the same direction as our shadows). If you add the lines all the way across it would likely look too perfect.
14. Window Details
I like to add some light shading lines to the top left corner of the windows as it really helps the viewer know that they are windows.
After you have completed all the steps and you still feel like your house is flat and doesn't have enough dimension try using a light gray to go over your shadow areas again in very thin lines. This is also a good time to straighten up any less than straight lines with your shadows!