Watercolor lettering: Four techniques to try

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  • How to watercolor watercolor techniques
  • How to watercolor watercolor techniques
  • How to watercolor watercolor techniques
  • How to watercolor watercolor techniques
  • How to watercolor watercolor techniques
  • How to watercolor watercolor techniques
  • How to watercolor watercolor techniques
  • How to watercolor watercolor techniques
  • How to watercolor watercolor techniques

With flowers in bloom and Mother’s Day around the corner, the time is perfect for a beautiful washy watercolor lettering session. Whether it’s a quote for your desk or some framed artwork for your mom, painting in watercolor is a great way to express a simple message in a beautiful way. Lettering Artist Amber G. shared a few techniques in one of our Think.Make.Share workshops at Hallmark.

How to create your own watercolor lettering

Gather your supplies. Cue up some music and find a place you can spread out and let your pages dry. Jot down a few phrases you want to letter before you begin painting.

Start out by just painting circles and experimenting with different paint-water ratios. Most people don’t use enough water starting out, so when in doubt, add more water.

Once you’re warmed up, try one of the three techniques below.

WATERCOLOR LETTERING SUPPLIES

  • Watercolor paper with a little texture in it (Kilimanjaro, Stonehenge)
  • Tubes of watercolor paint (These can get expensive, but if you’re just starting out you can purchase one or two at a time and still get beautiful results. Lots of brands are good—I like Winsor & Newton.)
  • Small paintbrush with a pointed tip (for lettering)
  • Larger paintbrush (for washes)
  • Masking tape (for masking technique)
  • Plastic palette or paper plate (or pull out your portable mini-palette)
  • Paper cup of water
Example of "puddling," a watercolor lettering technique.

 

Example of "masking," a watercolor lettering technique.

 

Example of "puddling," a watercolor lettering technique.

 

Watercolor lettering technique: Puddling

  • Choose a simple one- or two- word phrase and paint each letter in different shades of the same color family. You’ll want to have a lot of pigment in your brush for this to work well.
  • Then, shortly after, using a clean brush, paint a circle of clean water around the word, letting the water puddle up.
  • Now touch the puddle to your letter-forms in several areas and let the pigment flow out of them.
Pro tip: Pick up your paper and turn it different ways to make colors flow into each other.

 

Example of "masking," a watercolor lettering technique.

 

Example of "masking," a watercolor lettering technique.

 

Example of "masking," a watercolor lettering technique.

 

Watercolor lettering technique: Masking

This is a great technique to try if you don’t feel super-confident in your lettering skills.
  • Using thin masking tape, construct a simple word like MOM (or a simple shape like a rectangle) on watercolor paper.
  • Using a very wet brush, paint blobs of different colors all over the tape, letting the colors run together.
  • Wait until it’s dry (at least 10-15 minutes) to pull up the tape.
Pro tip: Don’t try to control your results too tightly. The beauty of watercolor can only come out when you let the inconsistencies and surprises happen.

 

Example of "gradation," a watercolor lettering technique.

 

Example of "gradation," a watercolor lettering technique.

 

Example of "gradation," a watercolor lettering technique.

 

Watercolor lettering technique: Gradation and spatter

The beautiful inconsistency of watercolor can add elegance to your own simple handwriting.
  • Gradation: Using just one color, paint each letter with a different amount of water. Focus on making some letters highly pigmented/opaque and others very light/washy.
  • Spatter: When your lettering is complete, hold the paintbrush three to four inches above work and tap or flick it to create an expressive splatter as a finishing touch.

What to do with your watercolor lettering

Now that you’ve created some words, here are some ideas for what to do with them:

  • Punch a hole in it and add ribbon to create a sweet gift tag. Simple watercolor stripes make great hang tags.
  • Sign and frame your message for an inspiring art print.
  • Create a custom card by trimming out your work and attaching it to a folded card—or send it as a postcard.

So…what will you try? We’d love to see your watercolor lettering projects. Share them on our Facebook page or tag @think.make.share on Instagram.

Photographer: Pat Bush  |  Videography: Hallmark Union Hill Studios

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  1. 5.18.17 | Reply
    Shere wrote:

    Love your blog! I wish I was as talented as your lettering artists….I’ll have to go for the masking tape method!!!