learn how to paint watercolor letters

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I spent a few hours painting last week. They are simple little paintings – just a letter in relief done in watercolor – but they turned out so well, I knew I ought to share the details.

instagram-letter-b

{via my instagram}

learn-to-paint-watercolor-letters

This is a great painting project for the beginner watercolor-ist. You don’t need fancy brush skills or even fancy tools to do this. Keep reading to see how it’s done.

supplies-for-watercolor-letters

SUPPLIES //

watercolors {I use an set by Prang and it’s about $8 at the art store or online here}
brush {this one is a number 2 rounded brush by royal. I’m not well-educated on the right brushes to use – I just like them to be pretty fine so that I can do detail work}
watercolor paper {this is my favorite because it is super thick}
clean water
paper towel
pencil
good eraser {like this}

For more on watercolor technique, this is a great resource. Plus the photos are really pretty.

STEP ONE // trim your paper to 5 x 7 {or desired size} and lightly sketch the outline of your letter

sketch-letter

I just chose a few different fonts in Illustrator and copied by eye, but you could certainly print out your letter and transfer {using this method perhaps}. Don’t worry about it being perfect – watercolor by nature is a little loose so it’s nice to have a hand-drawn look to these. The fonts I used are bodoni at home, bombshell pro, jacques & gilles, and georgia.

STEP TWO // mix your paint color

add lots of water to watercolor tray

Add lots of water to the color, then dab a bit on your brush and begin to mix your color on the palette. Very rarely do I use the color straight from the color tray. I pretty much always mix in a bit of brown to tone down the color and will add yellow to brighten as well. Just play around with the colors to see what tones you prefer.

watercolor palette mixing colors

STEP THREE // trace a small part of the outline of the letter, leaving the inside free of paint.

painting with watercolor outline the letter

STEP FOUR // blend with water and various shades of the same color for a ombre/messy watercolor look. The key is to keep your brush very wet and be a little sloppy with your strokes.

blending watercolor with water

blending-watercolor

One of the best things about watercolors is that they are very forgiving. If you add too much paint, just mix in more water, or dab off with a dry paper towel.

STEP FIVE // once completely dry {it only takes a few minutes} erase pencil marks

erase pencil marks on watercolor letter

With varied colors and fonts, this makes for a really fun way to add personality and originality to a simple monogram.

watercolor-letters

Originally I made these as gifts for the blogger-friends who joined me on the 20 days of giveaways, but I loved them so much, I just kept going with each letter of the alphabet.

watercolor-letters-various-colors

I know you can make these on your own – and please do try! It would be a fun project to do with kids, make a huge one for your wall, or tiny ones to adorn gifts as tags.

But, of course, I know not everyone is crazy for diy watercolors, so I’ve scanned in my letters and now have digital watercolor letters you can download and print {and pretend you painted yourself}.

watercolor-alphabet-collection

Of course they are great on their own, but also fun to use to spell out a word or make a banner.

sip-watercolor-letters    joy-banner

The collection is now available for purchase and instant download in the shop.

I can’t wait to see what you create with these!

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45 Responses to learn how to paint watercolor letters

  1. Aja August 14, 2013 at 4:59 am #

    I adore this! I have also wanted to try watercolor again, and even purchased some supplies a few months ago. Time to bust those out and get painting! Thanks for the lovely inspiration, as always!

    • aja @ sevenelles.com August 14, 2013 at 10:48 am #

      I have never heard of another “Aja”. I’ve heard of “Asia’s”. Our mother’s listen to A LOT of Steely Dan!

  2. Beth August 14, 2013 at 5:49 am #

    I absolutely love this!!! I think I will have to give this a try – your steps help calm my fears! :) Thank you so much for sharing your prints as well.

  3. Shannon {Our Home Notebook} August 14, 2013 at 6:12 am #

    I love these! So pretty. Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. kimberly oyler August 14, 2013 at 7:04 am #

    and i will now be making every letter of these. so pretty.

  5. Cassi August 14, 2013 at 7:35 am #

    I love these, I will be trying this soon

  6. Katy August 14, 2013 at 7:49 am #

    Great idea!! I love watercolors. I will have to try this!

  7. Sarah August 14, 2013 at 7:57 am #

    If you want a sharper outline, print out the letter and place it on top of your watercolor paper. Trace the outline with a very sharp pencil or ballpoint pen, pressing hard (but not hard enough to tear the paper). Tracing leaves a groove that helps define the letter. If you’re careful, the groove keeps the paint where you want it, and you won’t have anything to erase afterward.

  8. melissa August 14, 2013 at 8:09 am #

    I love water color. Another idea if you want your kids to “help” is write your letter in white crayon, or rubber cement (it peels off if you rub it) then they don’t have to trace!

    • emily August 14, 2013 at 10:39 am #

      Great idea! I do need to do this with my kids … white crayons for the little ones and I’ll let the older ones try to do an outline – just to make it take them longer :)

  9. Heidi @ Decor & More August 14, 2013 at 8:28 am #

    I LOVE watercolor and I have on my list of goals this year to do a few of my own — what a timely and wonderful tutorial, Emily! Thanks for sharing!
    xo Heidi

  10. Shelly@ConfettiStyle August 14, 2013 at 8:39 am #

    Thank you so much for sharing this great tutorial. I’ve been wanting to play around with watercolors and this is a great project to try.

  11. Kay August 14, 2013 at 8:39 am #

    My daughter will be helping at camp next week and she loves this idea and will be sharing it with others! Very fun, fun, fun idea Emily. Like the crayon/rubber cement idea for the kids Melissa.

    • emily August 14, 2013 at 10:38 am #

      So glad she can use this for camp. I hope the kids love it.

  12. Inger August 14, 2013 at 8:52 am #

    If you want a really good brush that holds a lot of water/color but still has a fine edge, you need to buy brushes with sabel hair. Winsor & Newton have a great selection of sizes. The paper you used it’s ok, 300 grams/m and above is thick and nice.

    • emily August 14, 2013 at 10:38 am #

      Thanks for the tip!

  13. Mindy August 14, 2013 at 8:56 am #

    Thank you so much for posting this! What a cute and great idea! Can’t wait to give it a try!

  14. melaine thompson August 14, 2013 at 9:06 am #

    Thank you for mine Emily! I love it! Meant to say thank you earlier….. xoxo

  15. Abby August 14, 2013 at 9:17 am #

    just beautiful! you are so talented!

  16. Lisa August 14, 2013 at 9:51 am #

    Feeling inspired – thank you for that! I’ve always been afraid to try watercolors, but there is such beauty in this art. I might just have to get some this weekend and give it a whirl ;-)

  17. Courtney August 14, 2013 at 10:14 am #

    If you don’t want any of the paint to run to the letter you can always trace the letter in wax. :) I love watercolors.

  18. Aja @ sevenelles.com August 14, 2013 at 10:51 am #

    saw your picture on instagram! I tried making one for a wedding gift. Funny we chose the same font for the letter “H”. It turned out nice…thanks for the idea! Although a quick print would have been easier. They came out so pretty.

  19. PendleStitches August 14, 2013 at 10:52 am #

    I too have always wanted to try watercolours…this looks like a great way to dip my toe in. Thank you. Wouldn’t these make the prettiest birthday or note cards?

  20. Peggy August 14, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    Thank you so very much! I have been trying to come up frugal yet beautiful and meaningful gift ideas. This fits both! I will be dragging out my coupons for Hobby Lobby and seeing what I can purchase with my consignment check (its little but we are starting a no spend month in September so I really want to start easing my way now.) This will make a simply beautiful gift for my husband for our anniversary this weekend! Thank you so very much for sharing!

  21. Peggy August 14, 2013 at 11:08 am #

    I’m so excited! I found all new supplies at Hobby Lobby plus I had a 40% off coupon!! :-)

  22. brittanyMakes August 14, 2013 at 12:00 pm #

    GREAT TUTORIAL! Thank you! Can’t wait to try this at home :)

  23. Alicia @ La Famille August 14, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

    Seriously so fun! I love it!!

  24. Gretchen Neal August 14, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

    What a GREAT idea!! These are beautiful! I am going to make some of these very soon!! Thanks for sharing!!

  25. Lynn August 14, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

    Thanks for the great directions…going to give this a try. Also, thanks for the printables!!

  26. Hannah August 14, 2013 at 7:48 pm #

    I’ve always wanted to try watercolours. This looks simple, yet so very effective. I can’t wait to give it a try. Thanks for the inspiration!

  27. Gwendolyn August 14, 2013 at 8:28 pm #

    i love a good watercolor! doing the relief is really beautiful.

  28. andrea August 15, 2013 at 12:09 am #

    I did something similar with my kids this summer but instead used a silhouette of their favorite animal. I also had them wet the paper with water before adding color (except for inside the animal silhouette). Once you add color it just spreads on its own on the wet part of the paper. They loved it! I had them choose a palette of warm or cool colors as well.

  29. paige August 15, 2013 at 4:12 am #

    emily!!! i love the beauty of these…simply lovely!
    and can i tell you i have mine sitting right beside me ready to be framed. how precious and priceless is a handmade gift. i will truly treasure my ‘k’.
    much love sweet friend & thank you thank you!!!

  30. jeanette August 15, 2013 at 9:21 am #

    I’d name this font “sky writing” because the watercolor reminds me of clouds, esp l, m, n. Beautiful :)

  31. Karen August 15, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

    I love this! I will be trying this for sure. I love the idea of water colors, and I play around with them every so often. But it always feel intimidating at first.

  32. Lori Ann Woodard August 15, 2013 at 7:14 pm #

    This is great! Thank you so much for sharing. I love your website also!

  33. Kelly - Talk of the House August 17, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

    My mother does oil painting, but she does not do watercolors…and I love watercolors. These look terrific, and you make it look so easy. I will be giving it a try.

  34. Angela Ambroise August 19, 2013 at 1:18 am #

    Oh Emily, thanks sooo much I’m going to try this tomorrow and do it with my kids too. I love this. Funny, when I started reading and looking at the pic I thought, “She is painting outside the lines,” duh.

    Thanks

  35. Jillian August 19, 2013 at 10:28 am #

    Watercolors intimidate me, but your post is inspiring! Can’t wait to try it on some new art prints!

  36. Sarah M. Dorsey August 19, 2013 at 10:46 am #

    This is SO good! Thanks so much for sharing your tutorial!!

  37. Floyd Gary Clyne August 21, 2013 at 3:46 am #

    I came here looking for the How to do Fake Calligraphy for my granddaughter out of curiosity and I’m glad I did. This is a sweet blog. Loved seeing kids learn skills AND have fun doing it! – the staining, finding studs, etc. all of these are things I will do with my grandchildren. Thanks for reminding me that an old dog can teach tricks! God bless. Now off to hopefully find your calligraphy post!

  38. Rachel August 23, 2013 at 2:29 am #

    Done! I love them! Thank you for the inspiration!

  39. Michelle March 26, 2014 at 11:21 am #

    Thanks so much for sharing this! I just found your blog today and LOVE everything I’ve read so far! I’m definitely going to have to give this a try as finding cool letter “Q’s” (which is the first letter of my last name) is difficult! :)

  40. Erin @ The Great Indoors April 17, 2014 at 8:03 am #

    Found you via Centsational Girl — love these watercolors! I’ll have to give this a shot myself.

  41. Wendy June 2, 2014 at 11:37 am #

    I just tried this as my first watercolor attempt and I love how it turned out! I spent zero dollars (using my kids watercolor paint) to paint something really beautiful for my friend’s shower. Thank you so much for sharing your skills with all of us for free!

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