If you were anything like me when you were a child, then you probably wished for the coolest new toy for your birthday. Cards just came with the gift; they were largely ignored. In adult life, however, we come to value time more than things. That’s why it’s so gratifying to receive a DIY birthday card: you know that whoever sent it spent a considerable chunk of their time carefully crafting the card, thinking of you all the while! In today’s tutorial, we’ll talk about a simple DIY birthday card concept that revolves around the recipient’s initial.
To make this card, you can start by using Photoshop, Microsoft Word, or a similar program to make a print-out of a large letter (font size ~500).
Next, use a light box — a sunny window would work, too — to trace the letter in pencil on a 5″ x 7″ blank watercolor card. If you just place the front half of the card on top of the print-out, then put both pieces of paper over a light source, you should be able to see the letter through the card to trace over it! If you don’t have a printer and cannot use a tracing technique, however, you are welcome to free-hand draw your letter.
Once the letter has been drawn, you’ll want to use your pencil to draw a banner over it. To get started on the banner, choose the area of the letter where you think a banner will best fit. Then, draw a long and slightly wavy line like the one below over that area.
Next, draw a second line about 3/4″ (19 mm) under the first line you drew. This new line should be parallel to the first line!
Make a closed shape by adding two slightly curved vertical lines to connect the ends of the wavy horizontal lines.
Next, find a place near the bottom of your letter where one end of your banner can “peek” out.
Draw the other end of your banner near the top/middle of the letter.
Use an eraser to get rid of any parts of the letter that intersect the banner …
… Then use your pencil to plan out the calligraphy you wish to include in your banner.
At this point, your card is officially ready for painting!
You can prepare your watercolor palette by spraying a fine mist of water over in order to moisten the paints.
Identify a relatively dark shade of green in your platte, and use it to paint a few slightly curved lines like the ones shown below sprouting out of the side of the letter.
Use that same green tone to paint leaves coming off of the lines. Try to vary the sizes of the leaves; it will give the piece a more natural and spontaneous look.
Once the dark green paint has dried, use a lighter tone of green to paint stems and leaves directly beside it. Make sure at least one of the light green stems intersects a dark green stem!
Next, use a blue tone to make more stems and leaves. These new stems and leaves should appear on the opposite side of where the light green stems and leaves are.
Continue to work your way around the letter, alternating the colors as you go.
When you’re finished painting the stems and leaves, the piece will look something like this:
Wait for all the paint to dry, then use a dip pen and waterproof black ink to draw over the pencil calligraphy you created earlier. (The piece below was written using an all-lowercase Kaitlin Style, but any calligraphy/lettering style will look good on this card!)
When the ink used to create the calligraphy has dried, trace over the other pencil lines in the piece.
At this point, you can decide to be finished, or you can add some color to the banner! I am filling in my banner with yellow watercolor paint, but any light watercolor tone would work well.
You can use purple tones to add shadows to the banner!
If you are satisfied with the way your card looks now, this is another point at which you can decide to be finished. For this particular card, however, I felt that the “A” needed to stand out a bit more, so I used some light gray paint to help the letter pop!
The result? An artistic, demure DIY birthday card that says, “I painted a lot of little leaves for you … so you know that I care!”
Accompanying Envelope Suggestions
In this section, I’ll show you two styles of envelope art that would go great with a DIY birthday card like this! The first style of envelope art, pictured below, uses George Style lettering to echo the straight, clean lines in the letter on the front of the birthday card. The envelope is green, which corresponds with the watercolor tones used in the card (you can purchase an envelope like this one at Paper Source; the color is “Clover”). If you’re curious about how to create this envelope, you can check out the envelope art mini-tutorial that will be posted on the TPK Facebook page this Sunday morning!
A second compatible style of envelope art is the one shown below; a tutorial for it appeared on the TPK Facebook page on June 5th. This envelope utilizes neat Amy Style calligraphy and leaves/stems similar to the ones in the birthday card! To make an envelope that matches the card, you can use the same colors used in the card to paint the stems and leaves on the envelope.
If you aren’t a Facebook user, don’t worry! I know that not all TPK readers are on Facebook, so I will post a round-up of Facebook mail art mini-tutorials here on the TPK blog early next month.
For now, I hope you enjoyed learning about how to make this DIY birthday card! I, personally, am very much looking forward to sending this piece to a friend who I know will really appreciate the demure feel of the artwork. A card like this is a nice little birthday surprise that has longterm display appeal!
If you have any questions or comments about this card or the techniques used to create it, please feel free to contribute to the conversation below! Thanks very, very much for reading the TPK blog, and have a fantastic weekend!