Metallic watercolors are the candy of the art world: pure joy and pleasure. I remember the first time I used a Finetec Golds palette, and how thrilling it was to see the pigment combine with water to become molten gold. In that particular instance, I applied the gold to my dip pen in order to calligraph 100 intricate wedding envelopes. It was love at first write, and I’m still a metallic watercolors fanatic for a variety of applications.
The sparkliest time of year quickly approaches, and I’d like to take that opportunity to show you how you can harness the power of metallic watercolors. In this article, you’ll find examples of how to use them with a pointed pen or a paintbrush in order to create projects that literally shine!
1. Holiday Gift Tags
Try cutting gift tag shapes out of a large sheet of watercolor paper, then use blue metallic watercolor to make an icy flourished Christmas tree! Then, you can write the “to/from” information on the back. Tie the gift tag to your package, and you’ve got a stunning gift presentation.
For these gift tags, I used Blue Silver watercolor from the The TPK Finetec Palette to make the tree. Once that had dried, I used iron gall ink and flourished Kaitlin Style calligraphy to write the “to/from” names. If you’re intimidated by the confident-looking tree motif, take heart: it’s pretty easy to make, and you can draft it out in pencil first if you want to. Below, you’ll find a tutorial video over how to make a tree like this one.
For additional flourished tree motif ideas, see this article. Think beyond the gift tag! A flourished tree motif adds beauty to holiday cards, envelopes, bookmarks, and sketchbook pages, too.
2. Metallic Watercolor Florals on Dark Cardstock
Metallic watercolors show up beautifully on dark cardstock! Try using them to make a satisfying floral motif like the one below. You can find detailed instructions in this tutorial.
3. Simple Doodles
If you’re in a doodling mood, try combining a dark gold or bronze metallic ink with Bleed Proof White to make simple Scandinavian-style drawings. “Inca Gold” from the Golds palette is a good color for this project! I don’t have a tutorial for this card, but you can make one like it by looking at the photo below and using a tiny brush (size ooo, oo, or 0) to paint.
4. Pine Bough Flourishes
Phyllis Macaluso (@fpmmac on Instagram) is the queen of using metallic watercolors to make stunning flourishes. In this tutorial, she gives you a peek into her process and a free printable to help you create boughs like this yourself.
While Phyllis uses a pointed pen for her pine bough flourishes, there’s no reason that you couldn’t use a tiny paintbrush. The only “must” for a successful pine bough motif is a white pencil to make guideline draft on dark papers. A graphite pencil works beautifully for drafts on light-colored papers.
5. Watercolor Calligraphy Ornament
You can use a combination of regular and metallic watercolors in order to make a beautiful Christmas ornament! For the ornament below, I used colors from the Winsor & Newton Cotman set and gold and silver watercolors from the Finetec Golds Palette. You can find detailed instructions over how to make an ornament like this one here.
5. Gilded Flowers
You can use metallic watercolors to add a luxurious shine to black and white floral illustrations. You’ll literally be gilding the lily — with oh-so-beautiful results. Learn how to make an illustration just like the one below in this tutorial.
It’s not just lilies that benefit from the metallic watercolor treatment. I’ve successfully tried it with hydrangea illustrations, too! Remember: you don’t have to use gold watercolor. Other tones will add some pretty shine, too! Have fun, experiment, and remember that black/gray tones + sparkles are never a bad idea.
6. Christmas Ornament Envelope Art
In real life, Christmas ornaments shine and twinkle. You can mimic that on paper by using metallic watercolors to draw ornaments! To make envelope art like this, use waterproof ink to write your recipient’s name and make a few hanging ornament doodles. Then, follow the instructions in this tutorial to make spattered metallic watercolor ornaments.
7. Floral Fairytale Cakes
The Fairytale Illustrated Cake Tutorial is another Phyllis Macaluso favorite here on the TPK blog! Phyllis loves to combine vibrant regular watercolors and shimmery gold and silver tones to add an ethereal quality to sumptuous cake illustrations. I highly recommend using a pointed pen to add embellishments to your cake’s florals. A paintbrush, unfortunately, just can’t give you that delicate look.
8. Holiday Cards
Any holiday card created with metallic watercolors will have a luxurious and elegant feel! The “JOY” card below utilizes a tight vine pattern drawn in specific shapes in order to stand out. You can find instructions over how to create it here, but feel free to make it your own! I’ve seen people create similar cards using silver watercolor, different tones of cardstock, or different phrases (like “HBD” for “Happy Birthday”).
9. Christmas Tree Envelope Art
I’m in love with the combination of neutral dark paper, white ink, and metallic watercolors. Put those three things together to make a holiday tree around a white address, and you’ve got holiday paper project nirvana! Learn how to make eye-catching tree mail art like this here.
10. Various Embellishments
Mostly, I love using metallic watercolors to add a little “pop” of sparkly color — a fabulous embellishment to otherwise matte calligraphy or watercolor. Here are a few photos to inspire you to sneak in some sparkly goodness:
If you’re looking to pair metallic watercolors with your pointed pen, it’s vital to read the How to Write Gold Calligraphy With Finetec Watercolors tutorial. The same process applies for any shade of metallic watercolor: moisten, paint the pigment on the back of your nib, and write. See the tutorial for exact instructions and pitfalls!
If you’re curious about metallic watercolors in general, the Finetec Gold Watercolor: Everything You Need to Know is an interesting read. Some of the points in the article hone in on Finetec metallics specifically, but there’s plenty there that applies to all brands!
I hope that this article inspires you to play with metallic watercolors! They’ve always been one of my favorite art and calligraphy supplies because they emphasize the handmade nature of any project. It’s tough to mass produce the unique glittery look that the tiny mica particles give the paint. Furthermore, pieces made with metallic watercolors are best experienced in person because of the way they enthusiastically interact with light … that’s tough to capture in a photograph!
You can find two fabulous metallic watercolor palettes in the TPK Catalog: the Finetec Golds palette and the The TPK Finetec Palette. (I use Arabic Gold for so many blog tutorials that I also stock an Arabic Gold pan.) If you’re looking to purchase single pans, check out the considerable collection at Paper & Ink Arts (affiliate link)!
Through Tuesday of next week (11/15), all Finetec palette orders (Golds or TPK palette) will come with a free blunt art syringe. Add a palette to your cart, and the syringe will appear there, too, for a cost of $0. You’ll appreciate having the syringe on hand when it comes time to put just the right amount of water on that little pan of glittery goodness! Happy creating, and enjoy!