I love art deco everything — dishes, decor, invitations, patterns — you name it! Being an art student and a recurrent reader of The Great Gatsby, I’ve been in love with the Roaring 20’s for quite some time. There’s just something alluring about the gold decor, lavish parties, and flamboyant jazz of the Gatsby era that I felt the need to encapsulate in a project.
In this post, I am going to show you how to make a birthday card using a geometric, art deco style. (It’s my youngest sister’s 13th birthday this week — officially a teenager … God help us all — so the timing is perfect.) Of course, the first thing you need to do is get inspired. I’m talking organizing a Gatsby watch party, hosting a jazz concert, dressing like a flapper for a week, sipping on mint juleps kind of inspired. Or … you could just look up photos on Google. Once you have compiled your photos of Robert Redford as the original Jay Gatsby, you’ll want to gather the (other) appropriate supplies.
1. The Supplies
Here’s what you’ll need for this tutorial. Feel free to make substitutions if necessary!:
- 100# black cardstock
- White pencil + a black eraser (to avoid eraser marks on the dark cardstock)
- Straight pen + a Nikko G nib
- Finetec “Inca Gold” watercolor
- Small (size o-ish) watercolor brush
Don’t forget any other personal essentials you might need! For this project, I made sure there was a puppy nearby, a podcast cued up, and a hot cup of tea on hand.
The tutorial I am sharing may look complicated, but once we really break it down to the simple elements, it will be smooth sailin’!
2. Layin’ Down the Law (Lines)
When you’re making a card like this, it’s best to start by creating a draft! I used a white pencil to do this because the white marks are easy to see (and erase)! If you don’t have a white pencil, feel free to use a graphite pencil instead. First, identify the four corners of the card, then use a small mark to label the one inch distance to either side of each corner of the card.
Then, use your ruler and a pencil to draw lines across the card to connect the marks you just made. Next, repeat the previous step, but label the marks 1 1/2 inches to either side of the corners. Then draw connecting lines.
Your next batch of marks will be exactly the same as the last, but from the corners, you will measure 3/4 inches. Again, once you have all 8 marks on the card, connect those lines, folks!
Now you should have a card with 12 different lines on it appearing to have some rhyme or reason to them (a pattern of sorts, if you will). Congratulations—you’ve completed the hardest part of this tutorial!
3. The Finetec
I used Finetec Inca Gold for this tutorial. Inca Gold is perfect for this project because it’s a yellow-brassy gold that fits the style and rich gold of the art deco period!
To prep your Finetec, you’ll want to take a bit of water from your art mug and drip it directly onto the pigment that you’ve chosen. This is easiest achieved with a spoon or a blunt syringe.
Now, take your watercolor brush and simply whisk around the water and paint until the viscosity is about that of heavy cream. If it’s too watery, your lines will end up looking transparent!
Paint the gold directly onto the back of your Nikko G nib.
To really get the paint flowing, scratch the nib a bit on the cardstock. This may be something you want to test out on a scrap piece of cardstock, too, if you’re a first-timer with gold inks like me! Then start drawing over your pencil lines with the gold watercolor. Note: Make sure you allow a minute or so to dry between strokes. The process will seem tedious, but it’s worth it to avoid smearing.
Once your lines are totally—and I mean totally dry—go ahead and erase your pencil guidelines.
4. Decorating the Decor
Alright, you’ve heard the saying “not all that glitters is gold” right? Well, you can go ahead and scrap that, because everything here is going to glitter and it should all be gold! To make this card really lavish, you can add some extra detailing by filling in the little rectangles in the corners of the card. This is easiest done with your bitty-baby watercolor brush!
For some extra design flair, you can take a triangle tool and trace its 90 degree corner into the corners of your card using your white pencil. (Alternatively, feel free to do this with a flat ruler or simply a corner of a piece of paper.) There’s no rhyme or reason to the measuring this time, so you can just eyeball it. Once you go over those lines using the gold, let the paint dry. Then, erase your pencil lines!
Following that, fill in the larger rectangles on either side of the card. Your first layer of Finetec may be a bit transparent, so you may need to let it dry and paint over it with a second coat!
5. The Sunbursts
In my last blog post, I finished off my mom’s address label with some neat little sunbursts. That is a recurrent design of the art deco style, so I thought it would be fun to continue that trend here! To make sunbursts, orient your card landscape, as if you are opening it up towards you. Then, locate the top and bottom outermost border lines. Start with the bottom border line and measure 1/8th of an inch below that line. Then, draw a centered line about 3 inches long. From the center of that line, draw a short line extending to 1/8th of an inch from the edge of the card. At the base of that centered line, draw a half circle and color it in a bit! Then, use the T-square-ish guideline to freehand draw four more extending lines towards the edge of the card to create a sunburst look.
Flip the card, and repeat the sunburst process on the other side. Finally, go ahead and draw over your sunbursts with the gold! Aaand…erase!
6. Next: The Text
Now it’s time to write out “Happy Birthday” or “Cats are Groovy” or whatever your heart desires. I chose to use TPK’s George Style lettering because its angular nature complements my art deco card theme!
Then, use your paintbrush to fill in the first word of your message (in this case, “HAPPY”). You won’t want to fill in all of your lettering because it will overpower the card if you do!
7. Voila! The Perfect Art Deco Birthday Card
I’m still learning brush pen calligraphy, so I decided to calligraph an envelope for my card using Janet Style calligraphy. I put a few vintage stamps on there to really say “I USE THE POST OFFICE”. (These stamps are actually void … which is fine since I’m hand-delivering the card to my sister!)
My recommendation for anyone making this art deco birthday card is to be patient. The gold watercolor takes time to dry, and it can be a frustrating medium to use! In the process I smeared mine, bumped it, dripped gold ink on the page, lit the card on fire, threw it in the trash, vowed to never attempt dip pen lettering again, etc. But here we are, having created this swanky, hotsy-totsy birthday card! It just goes to show you that anyone can create art, no matter your skill or experience level.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for the hours you’ve surely just committed to reading this! I hope you will give this art deco card tutorial a try, make one even better than mine, and share it with us on Instagram (#thepostmansknock). 🙂