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Coffee Shop -watercolor illustration tutorial

I thought, my first watercolor illustration tutorial will be about painting face. I even recorded all process, but then I saw wonderful videos of Mateusz Urbanowicz (Polish illustrator based in Japan). It was a pure inspiration. I am totally in love with his old Tokyo buildings series. That is why urban theme, not very typical for my illustrations, is the first of my tutorials and not least, hopefully!

You can watch video or read the description of the process below. So here we go!


270g watercolor paper with subtle texture, A4 size
2b pencil and eraser for the
Kuretake watercolors (36)
watercolor pencils
400 Kolinsky Red Sable brush 4
900 Kolinsky Red Sable brush 0

kuretake 36 colors watercolor palette


I am beginning with the pencil sketch. It is quite bold, but I wanted to make it visible after I apply watercolor. A pencil will loose this black color after painting, but because of visible line art all will have storybook/ comic style.

pencil sketch for watercolor

Now you can try color this illustration yourself, line art is available on my Etsy shop. Go ahead!


Watercolor painting process

When you are working with watercolors general rule is:

always start from the lightest colors

It is because of watercolor transparency.
When you will put a lighter color on darker – it won’t be visible. It is always good to have this in mind before you start coloring.
Of course, you can add light colors on darker areas with gouache or acrylics, but they will be opaque and all picture will lose something from watercolor delicacy.
If you do not feel secure yet, try to do color scheme trial on a small sheet.

I wanted my picture in colorful and subtle color scheme, to keep it in an optimistic tone. So even if this girl on the picture sitting in front of the coffee shop seems to be a bit lonely, you can have hope that the one, who she is waiting for will finally come.

First I covered selected area with water and then I added paint on it with a bit of pigment. Paint is spreading only on the wet area so it is quite easy to keep it in shape.
You should watch to not add too much water when you apply paint – it can spill out of the wet area, where it is unwanted.
I barely use the palette for mixing color. I’m adding paint directly on wet paper and letting colors mix with each other.
In this work I am mixing only similar shades on the one area. In case of the roof it is orange and a bit of red.

The coffee shop window is the exception. I paint it with vivid yellow first, to simulate a switched on a light inside, and then I am adding darker shades of blue and violet to paint silhouettes of people inside.

It doesn’t matter if light and dark paint will mix together a little bit. Thanks to that the view behind the glass in undefined and doesn’t distract from the main character. Dark shapes of people inside will be a great contrast and make her stand up a little more. They will make letters on the window more visible.
I could use masking fluid for masking name of the coffee shop, but I thought, it will be much faster if I just try to leave it unpainted.

I always work with watercolor in layers system to get an interesting texture. When I want the next layer to be sharp, like in the shadow parts, the paper should be dry.
But I don’t make any breaks to wait for the paper to dry. I don’t use a hairdryer. Just when I finish working on one area I go to another and paint is drying in the meanwhile.

When it comes to details I use much thinner and smaller brush (nr 0) It is important to have the thin brush with a long ending to achieve very thin lines. You shouldn’t also add too much water when you go with details – the lines will be too thick and the pigment too diluted.
I often use also well-sharpened watercolor pencils to draw such a things like thin chairs’ legs or lanterns.

coffee shop watercolor illustration

This is how finished illustration looks like. It makes me thinking of the warm cup of coffee!

I hope you like it – if so, let me know! There is no better motivation to make more tutorials!
If you have any questions, please leave it in comments – I will be happy to answer.

Happy painting!




  • the word for a coffee shop in Polish is “kawiarnia” (“kawa” means coffee), but when I was finishing sketching it I realized it won’t fit in this area. Instead erasing it and doing it again, I left it as KAWIARKA (it is kind of coffee maker, or a servant in Polish manors in XIX century whose the main task was making cofce in a proper way). And you now what? I like it better ? Moreover – if I ever open the coffee shop, I have name already!
  • I planned to make a watercolor tutorial for a long time.
    I even recorded several painting processes and… I just stuck.
    Now I know that I was simply blocked because of scare: how my voice will be sounding, especially with poor English pronunciation.
    Eventually, I followed by simply rule: don’t think about it, just do it.
    And I did. It isn’t perfect, but it is DONE!