• Elegant Sympathy Card Tutorial

    Today, we’re hearing from Ana with this gorgeous sympathy card tutorial! This is the first sympathy card tutorial here on TPK, and it’s elegant, tasteful, and appropriate for sensitive situations. If you don’t have an occasion to send this card, I hope you try out the cool technique that Ana uses here!

    Elegant Sympathy Card Tutorial
    This sympathy card motif came about because of an ink smudge mistake!

    Hi everyone! Ana here, and I’d like to begin with a confession: I rarely sketch or calligraph for fun. See, my desire for perfection is on par with my fear of mistakes. So, of course, the one night I decided to exercise my calligraphy skills, I was mid-stroke and a bead of abyss-black sumi ink practically jumped onto my page. I think I even saw it laugh! But instead of seething with frustration or pulling out a fresh page, I just kept going. I looked at this inky intruder and said, “I’m going to turn you into something cool!”. This sympathy card tutorial is dedicated to all my fellow artists—anyone who’s ever had their dreams dashed by spattered ink, a stray line, railroading, or a smudge.


    First, let’s get situated. For this tutorial, you’ll need:

    1. Make Measurements and Outlines

    First, orient your card portrait style. You’ll begin by making the center text box. To do that, start by drawing two vertical lines that are 1-1/4 inches from the long edges of the card.

    Full disclosure: I’m in love with my triangular ruler.

    Now, make two new lines that are 2 inches towards the center from the short edges of the card. Once you’ve done that, you’ll have a box!

    When you’ve finished drawing all of your lines, erase everything that’s outside of the box in the center.

    2. Trace

    Now, let’s break out that sumi ink, straight pen, and Nikko G nib! Use a ruler or straight edge as a guide to trace over the box you just made with sumi ink! It’s fine if the line bleeds a little bit because this project is about beautifying imperfections! 

    See how there is a little bit of a bleeding/fray with the sumi ink? I think it adds character, and we will gussy it up later on in the tutorial.

    3. Add a Sympathy Card Message

    For this project, I chose to use the Lasso Hand Lettering style. Why? Well, it’s flourished and fun in all the right places, while still formal and elegant in all the others. “Thinking of you” is a bit of a serious, sentimental statement, so I picked a style that would fit the tone but still give some creative wiggle room.

    Lasso Lettering
    You can learn the Lasso hand lettering style here!

    First, sketch out that phrase with your pencil! Consider using guidelines if doing so will help you with spacing and letter consistency.

    Don’t be afraid to sketch the lettering out a couple of times to achieve the look you’re going for!

    Once you’ve sketched out those words, trace over them with a black pen. I find it easiest to letter with a regular black gel pen, so that’s what I used!

    Be sure to let all of the letters dry before you erase any pencil guidelines!

    4. Start Smudging!

    Generously dip your straight pen into the sumi ink. Then make a nice thick, stroke somewhere on the card. It should be more of a short, squat stroke and can even just be a drop of ink. 

    Feel free to use your pen or your paintbrush to complete this step!

    Now, use your fingertip to smudge the mark you just made in one sweeping motion. It should just be a quick little flick — you don’t want to give too much of a tail or length to these marks! I give mine a bit of bounce and curve for a little extra character. 

    I found my pinky to be the best size and most out of the way in order to accomplish this effect.

    Continue smearing blotches throughout the card. You can really put them anywhere, but try to create a good balance of white space throughout the card so not one single area is saturated with these dark petals. 

    5. Create Flowers

    This part is my favorite because you really get to put your personal creative touch on the card. Using the straight pen and Nikko G, trace around the smears so they begin look like flower petals!

    Look closely and you’ll notice I add little hash lines to further define the petals.

    You can leave some of the petals untraced, too, and they will still look really pretty! This piece is all about creative personality, and I want you to employ your own! Now, sketch flowers out around the card in pencil. 

    I really love wild gardenias and poppies, so I drew both!

    Now, trace over the pencil flowers with your dip pen.

    Use stroke and pressure variation to create depth and contrast in the different flowers you illustrate!

    6. Add Gold!

    Now, it’s time to prepare your gold watercolor! Use your paintbrush to mix a bit of water into the paint until it reaches the consistency of cream. 

    Remember the smudges we made with our fingers? This is going to be a similar technique. But this time, either brush the gold straight onto your fingertip or dip your finger in the palette. 

    You’re duplicating the motion you did with the sumi smudges, only this time with gold. Don’t be afraid to overlap smudges! It adds a cool contrast effect.

    Brush some gold ink onto your Nikko G and trace over and around these smudges just like before. 

    You’ll finish up this step by returning to your sumi ink. Use your dip pen to hash some little fray lines around the border. Then, add more black tracings throughout the card for even more detail and layering. You can do this with your straight pen or a thin (size 000) watercolor brush!

    7. Use Your Art Water

    After I drew out all of the little leaves and petals, I realized the card could use some more depth and contrast. So, using a watercolor brush dipped in your sumi-stained art water, paint your card … between the flowers, over flower petals — whatever you prefer! 

    Add a little more sumi ink to your water if you think it’s too light! Note: the art water dries lighter than how it looks when you first brush it on.

    8. Add a Few Final Touches

    Now, add a second line around the center border using your black pen. It’s okay if the card is still a little wet from your art water; I found that it added more imperfect-perfection to the card! Once you’ve done this, you’ve finished your sympathy card.

    An elegant + tasteful sympathy card!

    As a kid, my dad always told us: “There are no mistakes — there is only art”. Keep this in mind as you approach your creative endeavors! Art and inspiration comes from everywhere; If anything, I hope this tutorial has taught you that.

    Thanks very much for reading,

    Ana's Signature | The Postman's Knock