Once you discover watercolor calligraphy, a whole new door to creativity will open! All of a sudden, you can create calligraphy or lettering in any color. When you travel, you no longer have to risk wardrobe-ruining ink spills! You just put a palette and a dip pen in your bag, and you’re all set to go. Despite its advantages, though, watercolor calligraphy isn’t without its quirks. Here are seven tips to help you navigate the dip pen and a watercolor palette like a pro!
1. Pre-Moisten and Mix Watercolor “Inks”
To make your watercolor suitable to use with a dip pen, you want it to have an inky consistency. To achieve that consistency, it’s best to moisten your watercolors. Don’t just lightly mist them with a spray bottle. Instead, use a blunt syringe or a spoon to put at least 1/16 tsp of water in each pan you plan on using.
Once you’ve moistened your watercolors, let them sit for a minute or so. Then, take a brush and use it to mix your watercolors into an ink-like consistency.
2. Use a Size 2 Brush
If you’ve seen the A Video Crash Course on Watercolor Calligraphy post, then you know that you apply watercolor to the back of your nib using a brush. (If you haven’t read that post, definitely take a moment right now to check it out!) Paint application with a small brush leads to too little watercolor on the nib, while application with a large brush leads to too much watercolor on the nib.
In my experience, a size 2 brush is generally just right. It gives you plenty of color without resulting in an excess of “ink”.
3. Use the Side of Your Nib to “Scrape” Color Off of Your Brush
When you apply watercolor to your nib, try holding your brush at a perpendicular angle to the nib. That way, you can use the side edge of the nib to your advantage to “scrape” all the color off the brush!
4. Give the Nib a Shake to Get Rid of Excess Watercolor
If there looks to be an awful lot of watercolor on your nib, you probably need to get the excess off. Otherwise, it will rush down the nib and on to your paper in a blob! To prevent that, give your pen one firm shake over your art water after you apply the watercolor to the nib. If there’s any excess watercolor on the nib, it will slip right off into the watercolor, leaving you with just enough “ink” to write.
5. Protect Watercolor Calligraphy Envelopes from Moisture
I hesitate to include this tip because I personally feel that in a lot of cases it’s not necessary. When I create watercolor calligraphy envelopes, I never put protectant on. However, if you live in a humid area or the envelope is going to an especially wet area, it’s not a bad idea to protect your hard work! You can learn how to waterproof your envelopes in this blog post.
I’ve got a philosophy as far as watercolor calligraphy being ruined by moisture. Basically, if the envelope gets wet enough for the watercolor calligraphy to run, you’ve probably got bigger problems (like the contents being ruined). A couple of drops of water won’t do much to the envelope, but if it gets soaked, the address will probably be illegible — which is also the case with most other envelopes.
6. Think Outside of the Watercolor Calligraphy Box
You may think that the dip pen and watercolor combination can only be used for watercolor calligraphy. If you enjoy drawing, though, you can also use a dip pen to make illustrations!
Don’t hesitate to experiment with your dip pen and watercolors! I’m certain that you’ll fall in love with the things that you come up with.
7. Write on High-Quality, Non-Absorbent Paper
You have to remember that when you write with watercolors, your “ink” is really just pigmented water. As a consequence, if you write on an absorbent, fibrous paper, the “ink” will bleed. Try to write on a piece of 20# printer paper, and you’ll see what I’m talking about! Your strokes will soak into the paper, causing fuzzy and messy edges.
If you plan on doing watercolor calligraphy on envelopes, just make sure they’re nice quality. They shouldn’t be flimsy! This blog post will guide you on buying envelopes that are effective for all varieties of calligraphy. If you’re writing in a sketchbook journal or making a calligraphy quote, try to make sure you’re writing on 70+ lb. paper. (My preference is 80 lb. drawing paper or 140 lb. watercolor paper!)
My friend (and, fun fact, former college roommate) Jess at Greenleaf & Blueberry recently released an awesome calligraphy palette. It has been a lifesaver during the annual holiday trip to my in-laws’ in Peru! I hate packing ink — I’ve learned my lesson with suitcase ink spills in the past — so watercolors are a fantastic option.
Jess designed this palette to feature traditional ink colors, metallics, and an opportunity for mixing. For example, you don’t have an orange in this palette, but you have red and yellow, which you can blend! Same goes for green: just mix up some blue and yellow. I have to say that I love the three metallics, which I frankly found to be smoother and more opaque than Finetec!
I pulled some former roommate strings to get Jess to give away a set of these beauties here on the TPK website! You can enter the giveaway in the Rafflecopter widget below.
This international giveaway will end on Saturday, 1/13, at 11:59 PM MST. The next morning, a winner will be announced (first name, last initial) in this blog post and on social media; and I will email him or her. If you’re not on social media, you can still enter! Just use the “Subscribe to the G&B Newsletter” option to get your name in there. Best of luck to you — my fingers are crossed that you’ll end up with a shiny new watercolor set in mid-January! Thanks so much for reading TPK, and enjoy your weekend.