DIY Hand-Painted Watercolour Christmas Cards

Saturday, December 5, 2015

I hope you all haven’t gotten your Christmas cards written up yet this year because I have a great DIY Hand-painted Watercolor Christmas Card Tutorial for you today! In this tutorial you’ll find 5 different designs that are so easy to do yourself, even for beginners!

Handmade Christmas cards add a special touch to your annual Christmas greetings and, since watercolours can be very forgiving, it’s a great medium to choose to make yours! There’s a few different options you can choose when it comes to watercolour paper, though, and, if you keep reading, I’ll tell you a little bit about each and instructions on how to prepare loose sheets. First, let’s get to the materials you’ll need to make any of the 5 Hand-painted Christmas Cards I show in the tutorial, and then on to the video.


- Watercolour Paper (I discuss the options below)

- Watercolor Brushes (I used a size 6 and a size 2)

- Watercolor Paints (you can get an inexpensive set at Walmart)

- Black Felt Tip Pen (I used a #0.3, you’ll want a permanent, lightfast pen)

- Pencil
- Eraser

- Ruler
- Xacto Knife

- Water
** Additional materials may be needed depending on the paper you choose. Those are outlined in the Paper Options section further down this post. **

When preparing to make your hand-painted Christmas cards there are a few paper options that you can choose from, but I’ll stick to the basics. In the photo below I’ve shown 3 different watercolour pads, but there is another option that I will tell you about as well. Let’s discuss those:

Because watercolour paper tends to bulge and warp when wetness is applied to it, it needs to be “stretched” in order for it to dry flat, otherwise it will dry looking very warped and that does not look too pretty! There are a couple ways to do this - let’s start with watercolour block pads.


These are sheets of watercolour paper that are glued together on all edges to create a block. This means that they have been pre-stretched for you and will eliminate the extra steps it takes to stretch your paper yourself, which will be discussed in out loose sheet paper options. On the top edge of the block there is a gap that isn’t glued, this is so that you can insert a palette knife or something thin between the sheets of paper, drag it around all the edges to release a sheet AFTER you’ve finished painting and your paper is once again FULLY dried and flat.

In the above photo I’m showing 2 different options for these types of pads. The first one (green cover), Arches Aquarelle, is a very fine quality version that I would only recommend if you’re going to use it for paintings other than Christmas Cards as well, since it does have a price tag to go with it, but it is an option. Different qualities of watercolour paper allow painters to be little tougher on the papers when applying certain more advanced watercolour techniques, this won’t matter for these cards. The second block (black cover), Canson Montval, is the same idea only is a more affordable option. It’s still a great quality paper, but not as fine a quality as the green covered block. This is a more affordable block but not your MOST affordable option yet, though it is a good choice if you’d rather not have to deal with the extra time, supplies, and steps it takes to stretch the loose sheets of watercolour paper. With these blocks you’re pretty much ready to go! If you’re using the 9 x 12 inch block pads, you can only do 2 cards at a time, so keep that in mind when deciding if you want to go with a watercolour block or loose sheet pad.


Going with loose watercolour sheets, either in a pad or single sheets, will be your most affordable options. Which one to choose will depend on how many hand-painted Christmas Cards you plan on sending out.

In the photo above I’m showing the watercolour pad with loose sheets that I use in the video. You can find a watercolour pad similar to this one at Walmart. These pads are like a regular pad of paper in that they are just attached together at the top edge, and you just pull to tear off a sheet. I didn’t take a photo of the large single sheets since they are easy to imagine - just a large single sheet of watercolour paper. These loose sheet options require a few extra materials for stretching your paper, and, if you’ve never done it before, a bit of instruction, but don’t worry, I’m gonna explain! Let’s take a look at what you’ll need and then those instructions.



- Large Sheet of Masonite Board (or something similar)

- Watercolor Paper Tape (Water activated kraft tape)

- Scissors

- Sponge or Large Paint Brush

- Water

This is how to stretch your watercolour paper the traditional way. Many people use just masking tape , or painter's masking tape, which is fine, but DO NOT soak your paper beforehand (see directions below for explanation) when using masking tape, or it will not stick. You can soak it after it's taped down. Just keep in mind, you will need to cut your paper around the edges to release your painting, you can't just peel this tape off, like you would with masking tape. Perhaps I will think about doing an instructional video in the future on the 2 methods I use to stretch my watercolour papers. Here is the traditional one for now:

1. When you pick out or buy your board for stretching your papers on you may want to get it cut to a certain size. I have 2 different sheets I use - a larger one for large paintings and a smaller one like I used in the Hand-paint Christmas Cards tutorial. The one I used is about 22 x 26 inches and fits 2 sheets of 9 x 12 inch paper. This allows me to make 4 cards at a time. If you use a bigger board, you can fit more sheets, which means you can work on more cards at once.

2. Use your paper as a guide to measure how long to cut your strips of tape. You need one strip of tape for each of the 4 sides of each sheet of paper. If you’re doing 2 sheets on one board, you can place them close enough together to use one piece of tape on those edges that are side by side. See my photos below to see how I did mine.

3. Soak each sheet of paper with water fully. Allow excess moisture to drip off, and/or blot if with paper towel, but DO NOT allow the paper to dry.

4. Position your sheets of watercolour paper on your board where you will tape them. Make sure to have enough extra space around the edges to stick your tape. It is okay if your tape curls around the edge, but they need enough surface to stick to.

5.  You’ll need to dampen the back of the tape with water to activate the glue. Do this one strip at a time and place it along the edge of your paper as straight as possible. Make sure to have about 1/2 inch overlapping the edge of the paper and the rest sticking to the board on all sides. Don’t use too much water. I used a large, clean paint brush to dampen my tape. You can also use a sponge, but make sure not to wipe the glue off.

6. Let your paper dry fully.

So, now that all the paper options have been covered, and instructions for stretching loose papers have been explained, once your stretched papers are dried, or if you’re using the watercolour block, you can section off your sheets into card sizes using a pencil like I have in the above photo. My cards will end up being 4 x 6 inches, so I section off 2 halves that are 6 x 8 inches, and then measure and draw a fold line on each so I know where the front and back of my cards will be. Again, see the above photo.

And that’s it, now we’re ready to paint our beautiful watercolour Christmas Cards!!

Happy Holly-Jolly-Days!

Sam ♡

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