Show me a cool hand lettering technique that’s easy, looks amazing, and has lots of applications, and I’m all over it. Currently, I’m all over Danielle Donaldson’s amazing watercolor lettering technique that she shows in her video Watercolor Words, part of our Whimsical Watercolor Digital Collection. This beautiful, loose, dreamy, artful method of painting words is something truly magical, and there’s no chance you’re going to mess it up.
Let’s start with a practice round, which Danielle recommends, and I heartily agree—even if you’re used to working in watercolor, writing words is another animal, and it doesn’t hurt to try it out. Following the video, I masked off a section of 140-pound cold press watercolor paper with artist’s tape, about a 4″ x 7″ area. I then used my own cursive handwriting to write the words “love you” in pencil, making sure I filled much of the space. Since Valentine’s Day is approaching, the words came easily. For your first attempts, two to three words work great—no need to make it complicated.
I mixed Payne’s Gray watercolor with a lot of water, loaded my brush, and wrote over the pencil lines. The pencil lines act as a guide, of course, making sure you have enough room for everything. Writing over pencil lines also takes away the stress of fitting everything in. I hate running out of room when I’m lettering something; trying to cram everything in takes the joy out of creating. This way, success is built right in.
Danielle’s method of working with a lot of water complements this type of watercolor lettering. I added more water, spreading color to the edges of the tape, and dropped in more color to the letters. I had to get out of my comfort zone a little here, but as long as the letters are readable, you’re good. I also dropped in a bit of bright pink in the gray to give the piece some interest. Following the video again, I loaded up my brush with paint and tapped it to splatter the color, which gave the watercolor lettering a fantastic look.
Every recipe needs a pinch of salt, right? Turns out that includes watercolor! Adding a little sprinkle of regular table salt to wet watercolor adds incredible texture. Just wait until the paint is completely dry before you brush it off. Here’s a detail of the salt in wet watercolor. Cool, no?
And here’s the practice piece with the tape removed. Seeing the boundaries of the watercolor lettering takes it to a new level altogether. I don’t even mind the pencil lines! You can hasten the dry time with a heat tool, but I love allowing watercolor lettering to dry naturally, producing a variety of values.
For my final watercolor lettering piece I decided to work in a watercolor journal, and due to its size I scaled the lettering block down just a bit. But since I still had the muscle memory of forming the words “love you,” writing them again came easily. I used the same methods of working with a loaded brush, spreading the color to the edges, dropping in a little pink, and adding paint splatters and salt. One huge plus about this technique is that you can write the same words 100 times and never get the same results twice.
I wanted to add a bit more to this piece, so I masked off the lettering block, adding a small border on all four sides to create some white space.
Pink and red watercolor paint was brushed onto the paper, then salt and splatters. I also added a few ‘X’s to play up the Valentine’s Day theme.
This technique is just a small part of what you’ll discover in this video, and the collection has tons more fantastic ideas and projects for watercolor and mixed-media. If you’re new to watercolor, or if watercolor is a staple of your art practice, Danielle has so many great things to show you. I was so captivated that I binge watched all three videos, then ran into my studio to start working. The book CreativeGirl will be a constant companion you’ll refer to again and again.
And if you’re looking for more fun mixed-media watercolor techniques from Danielle, check out this blog post!