I love envelope art because it requires minimal time commitment, and it gives you the opportunity to experiment with new lettering and art techniques. As an added bonus, your recipient will get something in the mail from you that makes them happy! Today, I’ll show you how to make a piece of striking botanical envelope art using basic watercolor, lettering, and calligraphy techniques.
1. Draw Guidelines
Before you begin, you’ll need to draw pencil guidelines. These guidelines will ensure that your watercolor botanical frame has a nice, clean edge.
I drew guidelines 1.25″ (32 mm) in from the edges of a 5″ x 7″ (127 mm x 178 mm) envelope. Feel free to customize your guidelines’ distance from the edge of the envelope. The closer the guidelines are to the edge, the more space you have to write the address!
2. Paint Leaves
Erase any crossing pencil guidelines such that you are left with a rectangle. Moisten several green colors in a watercolor palette (I’m using the Sakura Koi Travel Set), and wait for a minute or so for the water to soak in.
Once the watercolor is glistening, use a small brush and light green watercolor to paint seven leaves peeking out of the pencil border. Wait a minute or two for the paint to dry, then use the very tip of your brush to paint veins on the leaves with a darker green color.
3. Paint Fern Branches
After you paint the leaves, exert minimal pressure on your brush to paint fern branches. To make a fern branch, you’ll first want to draw a curved line originating at the pencil guideline. Draw five lines on either side of that line (ten total). All of these new lines should curve toward the edge of the envelope, and should become progressively shorter.
Once you have drawn the lines required for the fern branches, use two different hues of green (dark and light) to give the lines some volume. To do that, you’ll first dip your brush in the lighter value and make short, dense strokes originating off of one of the curved fern lines. Next, dip your brush in the darker value and do the same to the next curved fern line.
Continue to make small brush strokes in varying shades of green until the ferns are all filled out.
4. Paint Leaf Clusters
At this point, you’ll want to moisten your brush with a different tone of green. Use that tone to paint several medium-sized leaf clusters.
The clusters should originate from the pencil guideline and feature 2-3 leaves.
5. Paint Spiky Branches
Now, use another tone of green to paint branches with short, spiky clusters of needle-like leaves. To do this, you’ll first paint a curved line. From that curved line, paint a cluster of 6 or 7 little lines that originate from a common point.
Each curved line should feature at least three clusters.
6. Fill in the Rest of the Border with Small Branches
At this point, you can take a look at your border and identify where you still have negative (unpainted) space. Use different colors of green to paint clusters of connected, curved lines. Then, draw little leaves coming off of those curved lines.
Continue to paint clusters of lines and leaves until your border is completely filled out.
7. Write the Envelope Art Recipient’s Name
Once you finish painting the border, use a block lettering style like Stitches (shown) or George to write your recipient’s name. I prefer to use block lettering because it complements the geometry of the botanical frame!
Once you have written the name, draw a line about 1/4″ (6 mm) underneath it.
8. Calligraph the Recipient’s Address + Embellishments
You can finish up the envelope art by writing the recipient’s address in the calligraphy style of your choice under the recipient’s name! If you feel that the envelope needs some embellishment, you can add simple flourishes. Once all the ink is dry, erase your pencil guidelines.
When the envelope is finished, add stamps and send! (Don’t worry — covering up some of the design with postage stamps doesn’t take away from the beautiful visual effect.)
I really like this envelope art concept because it offers an approachable introduction to watercolors. The shapes for the botanicals are simple, but they still require some patience and coordination. This is a great tutorial to try if you want to improve your watercolor skills! It also provides an opportunity to work on your lettering and calligraphy.
If you try this tutorial, I’d love to see your results on Instagram (@thepostmansknock) or Facebook! It’s always really cool and rewarding to see the stylistic variations that people put into tutorials. Whether or not you have time to give this envelope art concept a go, I hope you have a great weekend, and I want to thank you for reading TPK!