A few years ago I stumbled across a Canadian artist, Ceecee, on YouTube and fell in love with her watercolour + doodles combo. They are so whimsical! And do-able. Even for beginners. This is where I first saw this great technique making DIY watercolour cards and I’ve watched nearly every one of Ceecee’s videos since then. To get a head start on our activity today feel free to watch her video on how to paint a balloon greeting card. She’s fantastic!
Why you should try your own DIY watercolour cards
First, let’s talk about why this is such a great activity. Even if you’re not the arty type – especially if you’re not! Here are some reasons why DIY watercolour cards should be your next family activity.
Eight stellar reasons:
- You get to learn a new skill! A great reason all on its own.
- It’s a great activity to do with the kids. Quality family time. 🙂
- You can show your kids that it’s fun to learn something new at any age, and teach them this by doing it yourself (actions speak louder than words!).
- Using the creative side (right side) of your brain gives the analytical side (left side) a chance to switch off and helps you be present in the moment.
- It’s an off-screens activity and we all know how valuable they are these days.
- It’s a super easy way to get started with watercolour paints – anyone can do this!
- You have a product at the end that you can use. Homemade giftcards show people that you have put effort in and homemade anything is coming back in style.
- These are super versatile. You can use them as birthday cards, to welcome new babies, anniversaries, graduations… any celebration where you’d take a balloon, you can gift this card!
How to make your own watercolour + doodle giftcards
There are a few different ways you can do this. You can paint directly on to a card – either a brought one or fold a piece of card in half to make your own. Score the paper ever so gently down the outside of the fold to help get a clean, crisp fold.
But today I’m going to show you how to paint on a small square of paper and then glue it onto the face of a card. There’s less stress if you mess it up – you can just throw that piece out and start over. And it adds a little bit of interest and contrast to the final look.
What you’ll need
To make these cute and versatile cards you’ll need the following:
- watercolour paints
- cup of water and papertowels
- watercolour paper (you just need something thick enough to cope with being wet, mine is 240gsm)
- ink pen (I’ve used a medium 0.7 tip)
- scissors, or you can use a rotary blade and cutting board
- glue (or double sided tape)
- and optional last – glitter or metallic acrylic paint.
And if you don’t have some/any of these, you should be able to find most of it in your local dollar store. Don’t feel you need to splash out on any of this. And think outside the box with the optional glitter or metallic paint. This is to add a bit of bling, a little something extra. So if you have stick on diamantés lying around, or glitter glue, or metallic felt pens, just use those. Today I’m using gold acrylic paint and bronze acrylic ink.
And I have my trusty painting companion…
1. Cut your watercolour paper to size
If you are using an A4 piece of watercolour paper, you can get about six pieces. To get just the right size for your card you might have them a little smaller still and end up with some leftover paper. I’ve cut mine around 3 and 1/4 inches by 4 and 1/4 inches. It leaves a nice frame of colour around it for when I glue this onto my card. But you’ll see further down how you can cut them even shorter if you want some text on the front of the card as well.
2. Testing out your paint
Start off with some of your off cut bits of paper, and have a play with the paints first. The main thing you need to know with watercolour paint is that you just need a tiny bit of colour. This applies to both how much you are putting on the paper, and also when you are mixing a new shade or colour. Just use a tiny bit first! You can always add to it. So rather than thinking about adding some water to your brush, think of it as adding a brush with a little colour on it into a little puddle of water. You’re tinting the water more than diluting the paint. Does that make sense?
The next thing you want to do is think about a colour scheme. You can use two or three different balloon colours, but keep in mind that you’ll also add a metallic colour at the end. Choose something that will either contrast nicely or match in with the colour of your card.
3. Paint your balloons
Once you’ve found a nice colour scheme, just paint a few ovals. They can be different sizes, and different intensities. To get a less intense colour, just add more water to your brush. You can also use the paper towels to soak up excess colour off your brush. To overlap your balloons, you do need to wait until the first one has dried.
They don’t look like much yet – but just wait!
My daughter joined me this morning, and it reminded me of when my kids first tried this activity with me. It was hard to make neat circles/ovals the first time around and it took the kids awhile to really get how little paint you needed. And how much water you did need. So if they are especially young, new or are easily frustrated, just let them play with the paints first.
See if they can get variations in the intensity of the colour, by using more or less water, but the same colour, and practice taking some colour off if it’s too opaque. You can either use the paper towel to soak up moisture from your paint brush and then dip the brush back onto the paint and it will draw up some of the colour. Or you can just dip a corner of the paper towel straight onto your painting and it will do the same.
Now grab your second colour and add another one or two more balloons (ovals or circles).
And if you’ve chosen three colours for your colour scheme, paint the third lot of balloons.
At this point you need to let the paint dry. It won’t take too long, as we haven’t put huge amounts of water and paint on the cards. But if you’re an impatient person 😉 feel free to use a hairdryer to speed up the process.
4. Get your doodle on!
Doodling has made a huge comeback over the last ten years. It’s relaxing, it helps switch the analytical side of our brain off and engage the creative side. And it’s fun! So grab a pen with a nice ink nib – make sure it’s waterproof and smudge proof – and have a go. I know that when you first get started it can be hard to think up different patterns, but take some inspiration from the photos below and just have fun with it. Don’t over think it!
At this stage, you can use your metallic paint or stickers or glitter, whatever you have handy, to add a little bling.✨
Fill each of the shapes in with some doodling, and then finish off the balloons with a little bowtie at the bottom to show the tied bit and a string dropping down. These can either fall straight down or gather together into a bow.
5. Assemble your cards
Once your satisfied with your doodling, simply glue your artwork onto the cards. If you are going to add some text, use a pencil first to draft your words and make sure they are sitting in the right spot. Then grab your black pen again and have a play with the thickness of your lines too to add some interest to the words.
Don’t worry about mistakes – we all make them.
For the balloon card that has ended up as my ‘it’s a boy’ card, I kept smudging the bronze acrylic ink because I was being impatient. The bronze spots got bigger and bigger each time I tried to fix them, but in the end, I had a smudge in the corner I just couldn’t make right. So I cut the corners off! Don’t worry if you make mistakes, just try to figure out a way to cover them or make them a part of the artwork. It really doesn’t matter.