I love a good wreath any day (real or illustrated), but they’re especially wonderful during the holiday season! In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to make a lush and pretty watercolor fir wreath. We’re using the wreath to make mail art today, but remember that you can use the wreath for anything: gift tags, bullet journals, sketchbook pages … whatever you fancy!
Whenever I have the time, I like to make video versions of tutorials in addition to written instructions. It can be inspiring to see things come together in a video, and there are questions that might get cleared up along the way. So, let’s start off this tutorial with a 2.5 minute video:
(If you can’t see the embedded video in this post, you can watch it on YouTube here.)
For quick reference, here are the supplies from the video:
- Envelope: 5.5″ x 5.5″ envelope template from The Letter Writer’s Complete Resource + drawing paper
- Wreath: Ziller ink + straight pen + Nikko G nib; watercolor palette + gold watercolor pan
- Calligraphy: Perfect Calligraphy Envelope Generator + parallel glider; iron gall ink, Brause EF66 oblique pen + nib, Janet Style calligraphy
Now, here are the written instructions:
1. Make a Square Envelope
A round watercolor fir wreath looks best on a square envelope. Many of us don’t have square envelopes laying around, but they’re easy to make. Just grab the 5.5″ x 5.5″ (~14 cm x 14 cm) template from The Letter Writer’s Complete Resource, and trace around it on a piece of drawing paper.
Then, cut out the template.
Fold in all the flaps, then glue the bottom three flaps to each other. And voilà! You’ve got a square envelope.
2. Draw Your Wreath
Now, center an object that’s approximately 4.5″ in diameter on top of your envelope, and trace around that object with a pencil.
Then, use quick, short movements to draw needles on all of your branches.
If you notice that your ink flow is skipping a lot, try dipping the (loaded) nib into your art water. Doing that will help the ink to descend smoothly from the tip of the nib! Note that adding water to waterproof ink doesn’t affect the waterproof nature of the ink.
3. Add Watercolor
Once your ink has dried — anywhere from 2-5 minutes — pick out a fairly dark tone of green from your favorite watercolor palette. Moisten that watercolor with water, then use a size 2 (-ish) paintbrush to paint over the branches you just drew.
Each little branch will require only one quick stroke, and it’s okay if the watercolor doesn’t cover the entire branch. In my opinion, partial coverage leads to a chic, almost vintage look.
Once you finish painting with the green watercolor, moisten a pan of gold watercolor. Use the same size 2 paintbrush to make little dots of gold along the wreath.
4. Write Calligraphy Inside the Watercolor Fir Wreath
When you’re happy with how your wreath looks, you can use the calligraphy style and ink of your choice to write an address inside! For this envelope, I used The Perfect Calligraphy Envelope Generator and a parallel glider to draw pencil guidelines. Then, I used iron gall ink and a Brause EF66 oblique pen + nib to write in Janet Style calligraphy.
To finish up, I added a modern postage stamp and two vintage stamps, which cover the “bad envelope fee” of 20¢. Then, just to be safe, I rubbed a layer of MicroGlaze over my artwork and calligraphy. (December is a fairly wet month, and who knows what this envelope will encounter on its way to the UK!)
This tutorial lists several specific tools, but you should feel free to adapt it to the supplies that you have at home! Remember, too, that if you decide to send a square envelope, the (US) post office charges a non-machinable envelope fee of 20¢. I like to position stamps on the top left and top right of the envelope to cover that fee.
If you’re not feeling mail art, this wreath would be great for gift tags. Or, use the waterproof ink + watercolor technique from this tutorial to make a single fir branch on a tag. That’s pretty, too!
I hope that this tutorial prompts you to try your hand at making a watercolor fir wreath, or a creation inspired by it! As Christmas approaches, it’s nice to have quick project ideas like this one at your fingertips. Have a wonderful weekend, and we’ll reconvene next week!