• Coffee Stained Autumn Greeting Card Tutorial

    In this tutorial, you can have you pumpkin spice latte and make art with it, too! Today, we’ll use coffee, waterproof ink, and metallic watercolor to make a lovely autumn-themed greeting card.

    Coffee Stained Autumn Greeting Card Tutorial

    This autumn greeting card celebrates the two best parts of the season: multicolored leaves and warm drinks! Today, I’ll show you how to use coffee to stain a Japanese maple leaf illustration. Then, we’ll use metallic watercolors to add some interest and shine.

    1. Draw a Pencil Draft

    First, use a pencil to draw maple leaves on a piece of 5″ x 7″ (127 mm x 178 mm) handmade paper or a watercolor card. If this step terrifies you, remember that there’s no shame in tracing! I’ve provided an outline for you to trace over a light box or a bright window, which you can find by clicking here.

    Making a pencil draft
    I am using handmade paper from Indian Cotton Paper Co. for this tutorial.

    2. Ink Over the Draft

    Now, use waterproof ink and a straight pen fitted with a Nikko G nib to trace over your pencil draft.

    Inking the Card
    It’s important to use waterproof ink for this step since we’ll be exposing the ink to a lot of liquid later! Ziller Soot Black is a foolproof choice.

    Continue to add ink to the paper. Once you’re finished and the ink has dried, use a high-quality eraser to get rid of any remaining pencil lines.

    3. Add Coffee

    Now, put a small amount (~1/8 cup) of hot water in a small vessel. Stir in 1-2 tsp. of instant coffee to make a very dark, strong cup o’ joe. Then, use a fairly small paintbrush — size 2 or so — to paint over all the leaves and stems.

    Coffee-Stained Leaves

    Once the coffee dries, layer on more coffee in various spots. In the short video below, you can watch me painting coffee on the leaves to enhance their look. (Please excuse the flickering light in the second half of the video. My toddler was overseeing my work and kept turning the light on and off!)

    Once you finish staining the leaves, flick your paintbrush against your finger to make various coffee splotches. Then, when all your coffee has dried, you can use your pen and ink to make an outline around two of the leaves.

    Coffee on Autumn Leaves
    Outlining the leaves is optional. I like to do it to add artistic flair!

    4. Add Metallic Watercolor

    Coffee perfectly reflects the dull brown sheen of autumn leaves. But, for the sake of playfulness, we’re going to counteract that dull sheen with some gold watercolor. Moisten your gold with a bit of water, then, after a minute or two, stir in the water to mix up the paint. Then, use your paintbrush to embellish the base of some leaves and the tips of others with gold.

    Coffee Stained Autumn Greeting Card Tutorial
    If you want to, you can use the watercolor calligraphy technique to load gold onto your dip pen and draw a couple of outlines.

    After you embellish with gold, you can add a bit of metallic red and bronze from the Finetec Pearl Colors palette. I used the two tones to embellish the card with spatters and add some contrast to the leaves’ stems. This is an optional step, but I like adding those warm colors to underline the autumn theme!

    Coffee Stained Autumn Greeting Card Tutorial
    If you don’t have the Pearl Colors palette, you can always use regular red and warm brown watercolors.

    5. Write a Message

    In the space in the lower right portion of the card, use your pencil to draft out “WISHING YOU A” in a serif font. Then, write “Cozy / Autumn” in pretty Janet Style calligraphy.

    Now, ink over your lettering with your favorite pen and nib combination (for me, that’s a Brause EF66 with an oblique pen). Once the ink dries, erase any pencil draft lines.

    Coffee Stained Autumn Greeting Card Tutorial

    6. Send!

    When all the coffee, paint, and ink has dried, you’re good to send your autumn greeting card! I decided to pair this card up with an envelope that I used coffee calligraphy to create. The two make the perfect coffee-scented autumn duo.

    Coffee Stained Autumn Greeting Card Tutorial

    Even if you don’t make a maple leaf-themed card, I hope that you feel inspired by this tutorial to think outside of the box when it comes to artistic mediums! Remember, if you’re nervous about freehand drawing these leaves, you can find a traceable outline here. Thanks very much for reading, and have a fabulous weekend!


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