Skip links

Painting my storefront window with lettering

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«.

Lettering-Alphabete – Chris Campe beim Malen in Hamburg, 2022, Foto: Hari Klein

Photo: Hari Klein

Material

  • 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
  • rags
  • painter’s fleece or tarpaulin to cover the floor
  • if necessary, a chair or ladder
  • work clothes and shoes, an apron
Schaufenster bemalen mit Lettering – Werkzeuge, Tipps von Chris Campe

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.

Lettering-Skizze für das Schaufenster-Alphabet »Snowballphabet« von Chris Campe, Hamburg, 2020

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.

Lettering-Skizze für das Schaufenster-Alphabet »Snowballphabet« von Chris Campe, Hamburg, 2020
Schaufenster bemalen mit Lettering – Werkzeuge, Tipps von Chris Campe

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.

Schaufenster bemalen mit Lettering – Werkzeuge, Tipps von Chris Campe
Vorzeichnung für ein Schaufenster-Alphabet von Chris Campe, Foto: Hari Klein, 2022

Photo: Hari Klein

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.

Chris Campe beim bemalen ihres Lettering-Schaufensters in Hamburg, 2020

8. Cleaning the Window from the Inside

At the end, I remove the preliminary drawing and clean the window on the inside.

Chris Campe beim bemalen ihres Schaufenster mit Lettering, Hamburg

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.

Schaufenster bemalen mit Lettering – Werkzeuge, Tipps von Chris Campe
Skizze für das Schaufenster-Alphabet »Patternphabet« von Chris Campe, Hamburg, 2021

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.

Constellation-Alphabet, Lettering von Chris Campe, 2020
Chris Campe beim bemalen ihres Lettering-Schaufensters in Hamburg, Foto: Hari Klein, Hamburg, 2022

Photo: Hari Klein

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.

Chris Campe beim bemalen ihres Lettering-Schaufensters in Hamburg, Foto: Hari Klein, Hamburg, 2022

Photo: Hari Klein

An Overview of All Window Alphabets

Since the first Window Alphabet in October 2018, I painted nine window alphabets. This is a chronological overview, in my portfolio you can look at the photos in large.

Serie von Schaufensterbemalungen Window-Alphabet – »Ligature Alphabet« von Chris Campe / All Things Letters am Venusberg, Hamburg

Ligature Alphabet, 10. 2018

Serie von Schaufensterbemalungen Window-Alphabet – »Fraktur« von Chris Campe / All Things Letters am Venusberg, Hamburg

Frakturphabet, 06. 2019

Serie von Schaufensterbemalungen Window-Alphabet – »Weird Alphabet« von Chris Campe / All Things Letters am Venusberg, Hamburg

Weirdphabet, 12. 2019

Serie von Schaufensterbemalungen Window-Alphabet – »Monoline Alphabet« von Chris Campe / All Things Letters am Venusberg, Hamburg

Monoline Condensed, 03. 2020

Serie von Schaufensterbemalungen Window-Alphabet – »Dripphabet« von Chris Campe / All Things Letters am Venusberg, Hamburg

Dripphabet, 05. 2020

Serie von Schaufensterbemalungen Window-Alphabet – »Horizontalphabet« von Chris Campe / All Things Letters am Venusberg, Hamburg

Horizontalphabet, 08. 2020

Lettering-Alphabet »Snowballphabet« von Chris Campe, Schaufenster-Alphabet, 2020

Snowballphabet, 12. 2020

Handgemaltes Lettering-Alphabet von Chris Campe auf dem Schaufenster ihres Ladenbüros am Venusberg in Hamburg

Patternphabet, 07. 2021

Wobblephabet - Handgemaltes Lettering-Alphabet von Chris Campe auf dem Schaufenster ihres Ladenbüros am Venusberg in Hamburg, April 2022

Wobblephabet, 04. 2022

Leave a comment