• Festive Candles Watercolor Birthday Card Tutorial

    In today’s tutorial, I’ll walk you through how to make a watercolor birthday card with striped candles and flourished calligraphy.

    Festive Candles Watercolor Birthday Card Tutorial

    Birthday candles are colorful and celebratory — but, in real life, they’re fleeting. This watercolor birthday card captures candles at their most festive, with glittery flames to boot! To make it, you’ll need a few supplies and about an hour of free time.

    Supplies Needed for the Festive Candles Watercolor Birthday Card

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    You can use a readymade 5″ x 7″ blank watercolor card for this tutorial, or you can make a card yourself by folding a 10″ x 7″ piece of watercolor paper in half.

    To get started, gather the following:

    1. Make a Pencil Draft

    First, use your ruler and a mechanical pencil to make guidelines with the measurements pictured below:

    Making measurements on a birthday card
    In metric speak: 1″ = 2.54 cm, 1/4″ = 0.6 cm, 10/16″ = ~1.6 cm, 1/8″ = 0.3 cm, and 3″ = 7.62 cm. Don’t fuss too much about these measurements; they don’t need to be exact.

    Then, use the bottom two guidelines to write “Happy Birthday”. (For a reference and practice writing this greeting, see the Greeting Card Calligraphy “Cheat Sheet” + Worksheet.) Next, draw nine or so rectangles positioned at various slants, and draw diagonal lines inside those rectangles. Leave room below the top pencil guideline for the flames! The rectangles should fill up the entire 3″ horizontal guideline.

    Making a candle-themed birthday card
    For practice writing “Happy Birthday” in ornate calligraphy, download the (free) Greeting Card Calligraphy “Cheat Sheet” + Worksheet.

    Next, draw wicks and flames as shown below.

    Candles-themed birthday card
    It’s okay if some of the flames extend a little above the top pencil guideline.

    2. Add Watercolor

    Now, use white watercolor to fill in every other space in your candles.

    Painting birthday candles on a birthday card
    I used “Chinese White” from the Winsor & Newton Cotman 24 Watercolors palette.

    Continue to paint until you’ve applied the white to all of the candles.

    Painting candles on a birthday card
    Note that the white paint will look darker than the white watercolor paper.

    Next, start adding colors to the candles. To do that, paint the blank stripes with a color like purple. Then, dry blend just a bit of purple into the white paint. Finish up by outlining the edges of the candles with a dark color (like Payne’s Gray) and dry blend that color into both the white and the purple paints.

    Painting candles on a birthday card
    I used “Purple Lake” from the Winsor & Newton palette for this candle.

    Here’s a closer look at the process. For each candle, fill in the stripes first. Then, paint quick, tiny dots on one edge of each white section.

    Painting candles on a birthday card
    The candle shown here features Hooker’s Green Dark (again, from the Winsor & Newton palette).

    Before the green dots have a chance to dry, use a wet paintbrush to blend the dots into the (dry) white paint.

    Painting candles on a birthday card
    Adding some color to the white helps the candles to look more realistic.

    Then, make a thin outline along the edges of the candle with a size 0 paintbrush and Payne’s Gray watercolor. Before that has a chance to dry, blend it in to the rest of the candle. Then, use white paint to fill in the bottom part of each candle’s wick.

    Candles on a watercolor birthday card

    If you’re intimidated by this painting technique, consider enrolling in TPK’s The Ultimate Beginner’s Watercolor Online Course. Take the course, and blending watercolors will become second nature!


    3. Add Sumi Ink

    Next, use sumi ink (or any black ink — Ziller works well, too) to trace over your calligraphy and fill in the rest of the candles’ wicks.

    Adding calligraphy to a watercolor birthday card
    I used a Brause EF66 nib + oblique pen for this step, but you should choose the pen holder and nib that you’re most comfortable using. (New to pointed pen calligraphy? See The Beginner’s Guide to Modern Calligraphy.)

    4. Add Flames and Erase Pencil Guidelines

    To finish up, use your paintbrush to apply red metallic paint around each candle’s wick. Blend that red metallic paint into gold metallic paint. Finish up by filling in the rest of the flame with a bright yellow watercolor like Lemon Yellow Hue.

    Festive Candles Watercolor Birthday Card Tutorial
    You can find red and gold metallic watercolors in the The TPK Finetec Palette. If you don’t have metallic watercolors, normal watercolors will work just fine for this step! The flames just won’t “dance” in the light.

    Once all the paint and ink has dried, use a good-quality eraser to get rid of all your pencil guidelines. Your card is now finished and ready to spread joy!

    Festive Candles Watercolor Birthday Card Tutorial

    I hope that you enjoyed today’s watercolor birthday card tutorial and that it inspires you to get creative this weekend! Even if you don’t know someone with a birthday coming up, it’s never a bad idea to create birthday cards in advance and send them as the occasion arises. There are several birthday card tutorials that you can browse on TPK … why not make an afternoon of it? 🙂

    Thanks so much for reading, and I’ll catch you next week!


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