In 2015, I wrote the original Botanical Letter Tutorial. When I redo tutorials, I normally completely replace the old tutorial with the new one. In this case, however, I think that it’s important to keep the original tutorial on the site! That way, you can see how I approached making two different letters: a “J” (in the original tutorial) and a “B” (in this tutorial). In this tutorial, we’re going to get much more detailed and — hopefully — you’ll gain better insight into how to make your own gorgeous letter! Read on to learn how to get started.
1. Print Out Your Letter
First, open up a program like Microsoft Word and type out your letter in a serif font like “Century”. Make the font size quite large! You want to make sure your letter can fill up a good portion of whatever paper you plan to make this project on.
I used Photoshop to print out this “B”. I like using Photoshop for projects like this because you can easily use a document size that accurately represents your paper size.
2. Trace Over the Letter
When I made this project in 2015, I did so on a 5″x7″ piece of watercolor paper. To trace over the letter on that paper, I put the letter under my project paper, placed both papers against a sunny window, and traced.
Today, though, I’m creating the botanical letter in my sketchbook! When I placed the “B” under a sketchbook page, I could faintly see the outline, so I simply traced around it.
No matter how you make it such that you can see your letter outline — be it with a light box, a sunny window, or without any aid — trace around it with pencil.
3. Make a Pencil Draft of Your Botanical Letter
We’re going to spend a lot of time and energy making a pencil draft of this botanical letter! Why? Because an excellent pencil draft ensures your success with this project! Pay sufficient attention to your draft, and the results will be incredible! This part is rather long, so I’m going to sub-section it for organization’s sake. Ready to jump in?
A. Draw Trees
First, identify the main spine, stem, or stress, or stroke of your botanical letter. (Did I just lose you with this terminology? Don’t be disheartened! Take a quick look at the image in this article.) Once you’ve figured out the main section of your letter, draw what looks like a wavy river from the top of the letter to the bottom.
Now, draw another river shape that weaves in the opposite direction. This new river should be behind the first river you drew, so make sure no lines intersect the first river.
At this point, you’ll want to add small branches to your “rivers”. Focus on the top of the letter in particular, and then add a few branches here and there on the sides of branches!
Once you’ve drawn your branches, add leaves to them.
B. Draw Flowers 1 & 2
Now that you’ve got some tree branches going, you’ll want to accent them with flowers! First, try drawing what we’ll call “Flower 1” in a patch of negative space between the branches. To do that, you’ll start by drawing a small, solid circle. Then, surround that circle with six curved and pointy petals.
Now, draw partial petals between each of the original six petals in the foreground.
Finish up Flower 1 with lines and dots to represent stamens.
Now, let’s make “Flower 2”! To draw Flower 2, start with a small circle in the middle. Surround that circle with three wavy, large petals.
Then, fill in the space between the original three petals with three new partial petals in the background.
Use these flowers to fill in the negative space between your branches and the letter outline. Feel free to put flowers in the foreground and in the background! Once you finish drawing your flowers, draw in some small berries.
Continue to use your flowers and some leaves to fill in the bottom of the letter’s stem.
Be sure to fill in horizontal strokes with flowers and leaves, too!
C. Draw a Daffodil
The star of this botanical letter is the daffodil, so make sure to include one regardless of which letter you draw! I’m choosing to put my daffodil in the bowl of my “B”. Begin by drawing a slightly rotated “U” shape.
Then, cap off the “U” with a ruffled top and a little stem and circle, as shown below:
Next, add three petals.
Finish up by adding three more petals and some lines to add dimension!
D. Draw More Trees
Depending on the letter you chose, you might need to draw more trees! You can see that I drew more twisted branches to fill in the bottom bowl of my “B”.
Add dimension, leaves, flowers, and berries to your trees, just like before!
Continue to draw botanical elements in pencil until your letter outline is bursting with beauty!
4. Add Ink
Once your pencil draft is finished, get out some waterproof ink (I love Ziller Soot Black), a straight pen, and a Nikko G nib. Use this winning combination to trace over the draft!
Continue to trace until you’ve filled out the entire letter. Don’t forget to apply light pressure to your nib when drawing over the lines inside the trees! Those lines should be pretty faint.
Once your ink has dried, use a good eraser to get rid of pencil lines!
5. Add Watercolor
Now, get out your favorite watercolor palette(s)! I’m using my Greenleaf & Blueberry Adventure Set — pictured on the right — and then a custom set that I compiled for myself, pictured on the left. (Jess of G&B actually compiled a custom page showcasing the paints used in this tutorial, if you’re interested!) You’ll also want a larger paintbrush (size 3-ish) and a smaller paintbrush (size 1-ish)!
We’re going to start by painting the trees. Moisten two browns — a dark and a light brown — plus a deep purple tone, if you have one. Use your light brown to make a base layer on a section of tree.
Before that base layer dries, use a darker brown tone to add dimension to the edges of the tree.
Finish up the tree branch by using a dark purple tone to represent shadows.
Use this technique to keep on painting until your largest section of trees is painted in.
Then, paint in any other tree sections as well.
Now, use three different tones of green to paint your leaves! Try to switch up your green tone every couple of leaves; after all, in nature, leaves aren’t all exactly the same color.
Now, move on to your Flower 2s. I used different hues of blue to fill in these flowers, but you should feel free to take creative license here!
Now, fill in Flower #1. I started off by painting it with Mayan Yellow, then I put hints of Yellow Ochre on the outside of the petals. I finished up by putting a dollop of Mayan Red in the center (while the yellows were still wet)!
Now, move on to the daffodil. You’ll want to use the same colors that you used for Flower #1, but this time, you’ll use the red to accent shaded areas.
Now, fill in any additional flowers with red and yellow.
Finally, fill in all your little berries with red!
The final step of this botanical letter tutorial is to add dimension to your berries by giving them all a little highlight. I think the easiest way to achieve that is with a dot of Bleed Proof White ink, administered with your Nikko G nib.
Admire Your Botanical Letter
Once you finish up adding those little white dots to the berries, you’re finished! You should give yourself a big pat on the back because this is a tutorial that takes a lot of thought and creativity.
As a side note, I want to mention the sketchbook I worked in today. It’s from Shinola, and Jess of Greenleaf & Blueberry recommended it to me … she calls it her “Goldilocks sketchbook”, and I have to agree! If you’re looking for a Christmas gift, that’s absolutely it. I’m loving mine, and now I regret not getting it monogrammed!
I hope that you loved reading the reboot of this tutorial as much as I enjoyed making it! I’ve been trying to work more in my sketchbook lately — just to build up a collection of my art and calligraphy all in one place. This was a wonderful project to put into my sketchbook, but it also would work beautifully as art for your home or incorporated into stationery! However you choose to use it, I know that you’ll enjoy the creativity and the challenge of making this gorgeous botanical letter.
Thanks very much for reading and have a great weekend!