• 7 Artistic Ways to Fill In Blank Space

    Blank space — whether it’s in a sketchbook, on an envelope, or even on your wall, can be scary! How do you fill in that space in an elegant and intentional way? In this article, we’ll cover seven concepts that you can use to add detail and interest to your work.

    7 Artistic Ways to Fill In Blank Space
    You can use illustrated tiles to fill in blank space on anything from mail art to walls! In this article, we’ll examine seven different ways to enhance your projects with clever motifs and techniques.

    We’ve all created a project at some point that just feels sparse! Whether you’re working on a sketchbook page, an envelope, or even a blank wall, it’s good to know a few artistic ways to fill in space. You can use the ideas in this article to enhance both your paper projects and your home!

    1. Add an Illustrated Tile Motif

    Illustrated tiles add beauty and visual interest to anything you’re working on! I’ve used it for everything from walls (see my workspace tour) to mail art and sketchbooks.

    Hand-Drawn Tiles Envelope Art | The Postman's Knock

    I even love using illustrated tiles to fill up space on my walls! In the timelapse video below, you can watch me finishing up a tile motif on a piece of furniture that we use as a room divider. I walk by these tiles several times a day, and they catch my eye every single time:

    I currently have two illustrated tile tutorials on the TPK site:

    2. Draw Branches and Leaves

    When you’ve got a large expanse of blank paper in front of you, you can go back to basics and draw branches and leaves. If you really want to get rowdy, you can add in a few gold dots, too!

    A Shinola Sketchbook
    If you’re right-handed, try starting your branch motif at the top left of the page and work your way over/down. Lefties should start at the top right. In this way, you’ll avoid smudging your work! (As a side note, the “B” in this spread is from this tutorial.)

    “Branches” are easy … they’re just curved lines. Then, leaves are almond shapes that connect to the lines. You can use any writing instrument to make them!

    I used a black Muji pen to make these leaves and branches over a series of three evenings. When I was finished, I went through and added dots of Arabic gold watercolor with a paintbrush.

    3. Illustrate Roses

    When I have a good amount of space to fill up and I want to give my piece a vintage and pretty feel, I draw roses.

    Where to Buy Envelopes for Calligraphy | The Postman's Knock
    It’s important to use waterproof ink — like Ziller — if you want to fill in your rose illustrations with watercolor.

    Roses might look intimidating, but they’re easy to draw if you use a template.

    Vintage Roses Illustration Printable Being Used with a Light Box | The Postman's Knock
    When I want to add roses to mail art or sketchbook pages, I normally use a light box to trace over a template. The template provides an effective little shortcut!

    I recently wrote a tutorial over how to draw vintage roses yourself. If filling in space with a rose motif appeals to you, you can read that tutorial here.

    4. Add Miles of Flourishes

    If you’re comfortable using a dip pen (or faux calligraphy or a brush pen), consider adding flourishes to your too-bare pieces. Swoops and swirls provide an elegant way to fill up space!

    Making Fabulous Calligraphy Flourishes (Includes Free Worksheet)
    I cover how to make white and gold reinforced flourishes like these in the Intermediate Modern Calligraphy Online Course.

    Place cards, envelopes, bookmarks, and general artwork can all benefit from a bit of flourish. When I use flourishes, I tend to go overboard, and I’m never sorry about that!

    Flourished Envelope

    Besides the intermediate course, there are a few free resources that will teach you how to flourish here on TPK. They include the following articles/printables:

    5. Paint with Coffee or Tea

    There have been a few occasions where I’ve made a sketchbook page that’s missing something. The white background just isn’t quite right, but adding too much color will throw off the balance of the whole page. In that case, I make (extremely strong) coffee or tea, and I use it to layer on subtle color.

    How to Add Color to Your “Day in the Life” Sketchbook Layout
    You can learn how to layer on tea or coffee to fill in blank space in this tutorial.

    I especially love using my beverage to add spatters to the page. You can enhance the spatters by outlining them in black ink.

    Starbucks Sketchbook Page

    The How to Add Color to Your “Day in the Life” Sketchbook Layout tutorial details how to use coffee or tea to enhance your artwork. I also used this technique for the Coffee Stained Autumn Greeting Card Tutorial.

    6. Do A Bit of Decoupage

    If you’re in a rush (and even if you’re not), decoupage is an amazing way to add visual interest to your pieces. Just find a subject or photo that you like, cut it out, and glue it on to whatever you’re working on.

    Decoupaged Envelope

    Just a word of warning: if you plan to use decoupage on mail art, be sure to glue down the edges of your artwork very well! Otherwise, postal machines may tear the artwork off of the envelope.

    Handmade Envelope | The Postman's Knock

    For fun decoupage subjects like the adorable fox above, take a look at the The Letter Writer’s Complete Resource.

    7. Draw a Wreath

    Illustrated wreaths usually look best with some sort of text or calligraphy inside. I usually begin by writing the text/calligraphy, then I center the wreath around whatever I’ve written.

    Woodland Watercolor Wreath Tutorials: Part III | The Postman's Knock
    You can learn how to paint this wreath here.

    I’m a big fan of using wreaths to fill in black space, so you’ll find several illustrated wreath tutorials on TPK:

    Keep an Eye Out for Inspiration!

    Honestly, I could go on and on with ideas for filling in blank space. In scrolling through the TPK Instagram feed for ideas about what to include in this article, though, I found too many to include here! From drawing lace to making postage stamp collages to adding loose floral illustrations to your pieces, there are so many things you can do to add interest and balance to your pieces.

    Floral Illustrated Lace Motif
    This floral illustrated lace might take a while to create, but the results are worth it!

    Here’s what I would recommend: if you’re on Pinterest, start a board where you can “pin” your space filling ideas. Then, next time you’re stumped about how to fill in blank space, reference your board. Chances are an idea will jump right out at you!

    If you have any go-tos for filling in blank space, please contribute them in the comments; I always appreciate suggestions and ideas. Thanks so much for reading, and happy creating!


    Lindsey's Signature | The Postman's Knock