In keeping with my profession, I’ve been painting an alphabet on my office window every few months since 2018. In this post I describe how I go about it and answer the questions I’m often asked about the »Window Alphabets«.
- drawing and tracing paper
- a chalk line for guide lines
- a c rayon for drawing on glass for preliminary drawing
- adhesive tape
- brushes, for example flat brushes, round brushes, sponge brushes
- white or light colored acrylic paint
- a palette, for example a paper plate
- a container with water
- a pipette to measure out the water for thinning the paint
- painter’s fleece or tarpaulin to cover the floor
- if necessary, a chair or ladder
- work clothes and shoes, an apron
Painting Shop Windows—A Step by Step Guide
1. Develop the Idea
I develop my lettering alphabets by constantly drawing in my sketchbook. Every once in a while, I come up with ideas that I’d like to see in large or that would make a great showcase alphabet.
2. Work Out the Design
When I have found an idea, I draw a draft in the proportions of my window. I draw the design about the size of my hand and work it out in several steps on tracing paper.
3. Prepare the Sketch
I draw a grid over the sketch, and on the window to transfer the drawing more easily.
4. Clean the Window from the Outside
I wet the previous alphabet with warm water, wash it off with a sponge and remove paint residues with a scraper. Then I clean the window with window cleaner, because once it is painted, cleaning it would damage the paint.
5. Drawing the Guide Lines
Using the grid on my sketch, I calculate the space between the guide lines. I measure them out on the window pane and make marks with a crayon that writes on glass. Then I use a chalk line to draw the guide lines on the the glass.
6. Sketch the Alphabet on the Inside
I make the preliminary drawing on the inside with a colored pencil that draws on glass. I draw freehand with the help of the grid.
7. Paint the Alphabet on the Outside
I paint freehand on the outside of the window with white acrylic paint. For most alphabets I use a flat brush. I use a scraper with razor blade to make corrections. I paint in white because it is best seen on the dark background of the room.
8. Cleaning the Window from the Inside
At the end, I remove the preliminary drawing and clean the window on the inside.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which paint do you use?
I paint my alphabets with simple acrylic paint. It’s inexpensive and easy to remove, either with a razor blade or with water and a sponge. If I wet the paint, it comes off and washes off very easily. I scrape off any residue with a razor blade scraper.
In most cases, it makes sense to use white or another light color, because window panes look dark from a distance, light colors are best to see.
What out: On my shop window acrylic paint lasts for months, because the house over the window juts out a meter. This means the window is protected from direct rain. I once painted a storefront window that was exposed to rain, there the moisture made the acrylic paint brittle and partially washed off within a few days.
I have no tips on what paint is suitable for windows that are not protected from the rain. My recommendation would be to paint mirrored on the inside.
Which font is that?
My window alphabets—like all my work—are not based on specific fonts, but I design the fonts myself. That’s the thing about them.
After ten years of specializing in lettering, I know the basic letter shapes so well that I can vary them freely. That’s actually the idea behind the »Window Alphabet« series: I keep altering the familiar shapes of the alphabet in interesting new ways.
How do you find the ideas for your alphabets?
I develop my ideas in my sketchbook by drawing all the time. Anything can be an inspiration for an alphabet. I came up with the »Weirdphabet« because someone told me that her child draws the »E« with any number of crossbars.
When I drew the »Monoline Condensed« alphabet, I wanted to create a script ABC and squeeze all 26 letters next to each other on the window. That way each letter automatically became very narrow.
Do you paint all this by hand or do you use stencils?
I paint by hand, without stencils. Depending on the alphabet, I either make a relatively precise preliminary drawing or I paint freehand. That works for me because I have a lot of experience with my hands.
On the photos with the overall view, the letters look very even, but up close you can see the irregularities. The nice thing about painting on glass is that I can always correct it by scraping the paint off again. I have already scratched off half an alphabet again, because I only noticed at the »P« that I had forgotten the »G«.
Why do you do this?
Well, for fun, of course! And I wanted to take advantage of having such a nice big window space available … Besides, the shop window thus fulfills its original purpose: the alphabets draw attention to my work. At the same time, they serve as a curtain to curb the curiosity of passers-by—my office space is not very big and many of the people who pass by it stop and watch me work: »Oh, look, she’s painting!« I am not super comfortable with show working like that so I’d rather give them another eye-catcher.