This tutorial combines a little bit of watercolor, a smidge of illustration, and a pinch of calligraphy to make a spectacular, retro-esque thank you card. (Be sure to read to the bottom for a special weekend bundle!)
When you have a moment, consider making this floral retro thank you card and using it when the occasion strikes. This project is a calming, straightforward watercolor and illustration endeavor, perfect for all levels of artists aiming to craft something special. Plus, it’s an excellent way to show appreciation to someone special in your life for any kind gestures they’ve made!
1. Draw a Banner
First, get a 5″ x 7″ (12.7 cm x 17.78 cm) blank watercolor card. If you don’t have blank watercolor cards on hand, you can easily DIY one by folding a 10″x7″ (25.4 cm x 17.78) piece of watercolor paper in half. Use a pencil to draw a 0.5″ x 3″ (1.27 cm x 7.62 cm) rectangle just under the vertical center of the card.
Next, draw two skinny rectangles that connect to both sides of the rectangle that you just drew. These rectangles should also have a 0.5″ (1.27 cm) height.
Finish up by drawing two forked shapes — see the photo below — that connect to the skinny rectangles. The forked shapes should also be 0.5″ (1.27 cm) tall.
Now that your banner is finished, use waterproof black ink to trace over it with a straight pen fitted with a Nikko G nib. You’ll be painting over this banner with watercolor later, so waterproof ink is a good idea!
2. Add Calligraphy
Once the banner ink has dried, use a ruler and a pencil to draw three guidelines: one near the top of the banner, one near the bottom of the banner, and one in the middle of the banner. These lines will guide you as you write calligraphy. Once you have drawn the lines, write “thank you” in all-lowercase Amy Style calligraphy. Again, don’t forget to use waterproof ink!
Of course, this part is customizable: you can write any message you want, in any calligraphy style that you want. I just like the way that the curvy Amy Style lettering complements the geometric banner. After you write the calligraphy, wait for the ink to dry, then erase your pencil guidelines.
3. Paint the Flowers
To make the flowers for this thank you card, you’ll start by painting nine circles in four different colors. I chose to use shades of earthy green, sandstone, blue, and gray. Try drawing the circles in an orientation like the one below when you make your first floral retro thank you card. For subsequent cards, you can experiment a bit!
Once the paint has dried, use your pen and ink to draw a bold, small circle in the middle of two of the watercolor circles. Then, draw a series of several lines around the perimeter of both watercolor circles. Finish up by drawing a dot at the end of each line. Note: if your pen and ink act up when you’re drawing on the watercolored surface, try using a black gel pen instead.
Next, choose three random watercolor circles and draw a “cut pizza” design over them. To achieve that, you’ll draw a circle just inside the perimeter of a watercolor circle, then draw a series of lines crossing through the middle of the circle that you just drew.
Now, use your pen to draw rows of small vertical lines over three more watercolor circles.
At this point, you should have one watercolor circle left. Draw a cluster of densely-spaced dots in the middle of that last watercolor circle. Surround those dots by widely-spaced dots. Finish up by drawing a series of close lines around the perimeter of the watercolor circle.
4. Draw Stems and Leaves
To draw flower stems, take a straight edge or a ruler and draw a pencil line down from the center of each flower. The length of each stem should vary.
Next, trace over the pencil lines with your dip pen and ink. Feel free to add a half-oval under some of the flowers, where they connect to the stem. This will help to give the flowers some weight.
At this point, you can draw different sizes of leaves and simple black and white flowers coming off of several stems. Once you draw the leaves and simple flowers, try adding various sizes of small circles around the watercolor flowers.
5. Add Watercolor to the Thank You Card Banner
The finishing touch to this thank you card is a hint of color in the banner. I used a golden yellow tone, but you can add any color that you like. Make sure you use a strong concentration of pigment to water on the sides of the banner, then tease the watercolor out to the middle with clean water. If you use this technique, you can highlight — rather than take away from — the “thank you” in the center of the banner.
Once your banner has dried, the card is finished! Either send it right away, or keep it on deck for the next time you want to thank someone.
A Special Weekend Bundle
This weekend, I have a delightful little bundle to help you make this project (and others like it): Ziller ink, a straight pen, a Nikko G nib, a Paris Map cleaning cloth, and a dropper bottle + mixing cup. The price for these items is normally $36.25, but through Monday evening, you can get the bundle for $30.
Pair this bundle with watercolors you already have, some luxury artist grade watercolors (like Greenleaf & Blueberry), or TPK’s beloved student grade Cotman set. Happy creating!
If you have any questions about the process or materials used in this tutorial, please feel free to ask in the comments! I’m always happy to answer. Thanks very much for reading TPK, and have a wonderful and creative weekend.