Last weekend, I had the pleasure of teaching a workshop at Rustic Trades Furniture in Denver that kicked off with a DIY Christmas card tutorial. It was an awesome little event; we all gathered around a (beautiful, artisan-made) table, enjoyed refreshments, and laughed — a lot. You’ll find out what was so funny when you make this project … the step that requires lung power can be frustrating and comical all at once!
I realize, of course, that many people who read the TPK blog were unable to attend the workshop. With that in mind, I want to make the project we did available to you as well! After all, this is a quick but lovely last-minute type of card to whip up and send before Christmas arrives. Here are the materials you will need to get started:
- Blank watercolor cards (I use size A7; you can DIY some watercolor cards by folding watercolor paper in half.)
- Watercolor paints (I use Greenleaf & Blueberry, but whatever you have on hand will be perfect!)
- Art masking fluid or white paint (acrylic or gouache)
- A pencil
- Dip pen and ink or any gel pen (e.g. Pilot G2)
Begin by using your pencil to freehand draw 5-6 different sizes of circles on your watercolor card. I cannot emphasize enough that they don’t need to be perfect! The appeal of this DIY Christmas card is its artistic, handmade “vibe”.
Have you ever seen Disney’s Aladdin? Okay, you know that little red hat that Aladdin wears? (If not, it’s one Google search away!) Basically, you’re going to draw a shape like that on top of each circle you drew. Try to center the “hat” the best you can, and try to vary the hat’s shape according to the size of the circle (small hats for small circles, larger hats for large circles). When you’re finished, your circles should look like the ones below.
Next, draw a small half circle on top of each hat, as shown in the photo below:
If you have room, use your pencil to draw a banner somewhere on the card. If this step has you going, “What?! How do I do that??”, look no further than the How to Draw a Banner blog post! You can use any lettering style you want for the banner; I wrote in Amy Style calligraphy in the banner pictured below.
Next, use a ruler to draw vertical lines that extend from the top center of the semicircles to the top of the card. (I am using a rolling ruler, which makes life easier when you want to draw parallel lines.)
Once your lines are drawn, the card will look something like this:
Next, use a paintbrush to apply art masking fluid to the sides of the ornaments.*
*Since art masking fluid can be tough to see in photographs, I took the photo below to show you approximately where to apply the fluid. Notice that each circle features two lines (drawn in pencil) that are parallel to the right edge of the ornament. That’s where you’ll want to paint the fluid!
Give your masking fluid a minute or two to dry, then use a medium-sized brush to paint over your first circle. Make sure you paint a little bit outside the lines, and make it a point to get some paint on the “hat” as well! It’s also important that you make sure there’s a fair amount of paint on there; the goal is to end up with excess paint in the circle.
Now, this is the fun part! Turn the card upside down, and blow on the watercolor paint until it streaks out the bottom and/or sides of the circle!
Repeat the painting and blowing step one circle at a time until all of your circles — which are looking increasingly like ornaments — are colored-in. You can use several different colors, as I did in the example below, or you may use one color. As a side note, I’d like to say that your card will probably end up looking only vaguely like mine at this point. No matter how your colors/splatters look, keep going with the tutorial! You’ll be very pleasantly surprised at the end result, regardless of what things are looking like at this step!
If you opted to draw a banner, go ahead and paint that in with a nice, neutral color. For the banner, you will paint in the lines … we’re done with the loosey-goosey stuff!
Give your paint a few minutes to completely dry, then draw over all of your pencil guidelines with a dip pen and ink or a regular gel pen. I am using a crow quill pen (and black Bombay ink) in the photo below, but a dip pen fitted with a Nikko G nib would work great as well.
Next, add in shadow lines on your banner (as per the banner tutorial).
Then, draw several little vertical lines to fill up the space in the “hats”.
You’ll finish up the project by putting bows on top of each semicircle. To make a bow, you’ll first draw two slightly shaky ovals on either side of the vertical line that intersects the semicircle. Each oval should come to a point at the intersection of the vertical line and the semicircle.
Next, draw two wavy, short lines coming from the bottom of the vertical line/semicircle intersection. The position of the lines doesn’t matter, and you can draw one or both over the painted part of the ornament, if you wish!
Continue to draw bows until all of your ornaments have one.
The only thing left to do is get rid of the masking fluid! To remove masking fluid, you can simply rub an eraser over it; it will come right off. If you didn’t use masking fluid for this project, you’ll use opaque white paint as an alternative way to make highlights.
And voilà! A DIY Christmas card that is artistic, thoughtful, and anything but ordinary.
If you want to send your DIY Christmas card out in style, you can always feature the artistic ornament motif on an envelope! In the envelope below, the small ornaments complement diagonal Kaitlin Style calligraphy beautifully.
Of course, not all of your ornaments have to be a different color. In the card below, I used green watercolor paint for all of the ornaments, and I love how it turned out!
If you’re feeling creative, try drawing different shapes of ornaments and/or making a vertically-oriented card! As long as your highlights “hug” the right contours of the ornaments, everything will look fantastic. You don’t have to limit yourself to writing calligraphy in a banner, either; the front card in the photo below features Janet Style script that has been written at the bottom without any sort of border or illustrated element. It still looks great!
Finally, this concept isn’t just for cards. I had a great time painting these festive ornaments in my watercolor sketchbook! While these look great in a sketchbook, they’d also make for wonderful seasonal artwork to frame and display on the mantle; or you could include them in a scrapbook.
I hope that this tutorial comes in handy as the time window for (punctually) sending out Christmas cards gets narrower and narrower! This is a great project because it’s quick and you can make several at a time, provided you’ve got the lung power. 🙂
Thanks a million for reading, and enjoy your weekend!