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learn how to paint watercolor letters

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!

48 thoughts on “learn how to paint watercolor letters”

  1. Hi Emily, Are we still able to purchase and download these letters? I clicked the link but got an error message. Thank you!

  2. 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!

  3. 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! :)

  4. 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!

  5. 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

  6. 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.

  7. 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!!!

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

  11. 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 ;-)

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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!

    1. 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 :)

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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!

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