Watercolour Christmas cards and gifts tags

Watercolour Christmas cards
Watercolour Christmas cards.

Christmas and New Year have come and gone and I hope you all had a wonderful time during the break. Following on from the last three years I made my own Christmas cards and gift tags again, this time (really) trying not to make them too complicated. I went back to watercolours but also played around with using masking fluid in the making process.

Christmas cards

I did a lot of experimenting before coming to the final designs because I found masking fluid to be a bit of a tricky beast in the beginning. It lends itself to being applied on larger, less detailed spaces than the much smaller card size I intended to have. To make things easier for myself I created a really simple tree design with just the star on top. The below sketch was my template that I used. I’ve created a much nicer and cleaner version here that you can download should you want to try making these cards yourself.

Watercolour christmas cards - Initial sketch
This my sketch that I based my card designs on. I didn’t end up using the truck part to make applying the masking fluid more simple. Download a nicer, cleaner version above.
Watercolour christmas cards - masking fluid
You can find masking fluid at any art stores that sell watercolour supplies. NOTE – Apparently this stuff is also used in Halloween makeup so a lot of places I visited were sold out of it during November/start of December!

To apply the masking fluid, you can either trace the design and then apply between the lines or you can do what I did and just apply it directly while following the design through a lightbox or something similar. Tracing is probably the easier way to go because you can see where you’ve applied without the backlight obscuring it. This tutorial is a good example of that method. I always find removing pencil lines to be quite tedious so I decided to follow the guides through a lightbox. I filled in the ENTIRE tree area, including over the baubles, and the star. I also placed masking fluid along the crease at the back of the card so I wouldn’t accidentally flick any watercolour over that side. I found dipping my brush into water first made it easier to apply on the paper.

Speaking of brushes, when applying masking fluid make sure to use brushes you don’t care about getting ruined! The fluid will dry within the bristles and clump up and you’ll have to remove it, especially if doing multiple cards. I found rinsing the brush out in water before I dipped it back into the masking fluid each time helped the it last longer before I needed to clean it out. Using brushes with more courser bristles also helps with the cleaning then those with finer hairs are are lot harder to remove clumps from.

Watercolour christmas cards - using masking fluid
Hard to see but I filled in the entire tree area, including where the baubles are, and the star. I also painted along the crease on the back.
Watercolour christmas cards - using masking fluid with water makes things easier
If you are doing more than one card at a time, I suggest getting new water every couple of cards.
Watercolour christmas cards - masking fluid brushes
These are the two brushes I used for applying the masking fluid. The smaller one for filling out the star and the larger for the tree area. This is what they looked like after I finished using them so don’t use brushes you don’t want to get ruined!
Watercolour christmas cards - masking fluid clumped up in the brush
An example of the masking fluid clumping up in the brushes. I used pins and tweezers to remove it.

I also did some ‘splattering’ over the top to make some smaller speckles in the background. It can be messy though so make sure your work area is splatter safe!

Watercolour christmas cards - masking fluid splatter
Hard to make out but you can see some of the speckles I applied after the main section was done.

After applying all the masking fluid make sure it is COMPLETELY DRY before applying anything over the top of it. I don’t own any proper watercolour paints and instead use the pencil variety and just make a large coloured area to dip into as needed.

Watercolour christmas cards - watercolour pencil
Each one of these spots was enough colour for one card.
Watercolour christmas cards - painting over the masking fluid with watercolour
I did a loose paint over each card area as I wanted a more ‘quick swept over’ look. Before it dried, I wiped away any excess watercolour from the tree section where possible just in case it seeped through (notice the top tree is whiter than the bottom one which has just been done).
Watercolour christmas cards - applying a second watercolour colour
After the blue had dried, I applied a second darker shade. I found it made the speckles in the background stand out more.

After all the watercolour was applied, I left the cards again till they were 100% bone dry. It’s worth leaving them for a full day just to be safe. Trying to do the next step before they are dry will risk ripping the paper as I discovered during my initial tests.

Once the cards were all dry, I got an eraser and gently rubbed the masking fluid to make it peel off. This can take some time so don’t try to rush it. For the smaller speckles, you can simple rub the eraser over them quickly and they should easily come right off.

Watercolour christmas cards - Rubbing the masking fluid off with an eraser
Rubbing the masking fluid off with an eraser
Watercolour christmas cards - a card with all the masking fluid removed
A card with all the masking fluid removed. The speckles really pop out now.

With the masking fluid removed, I now put the cards back on my lightbox and painted in the baubles based off my sketch.

Watercolour christmas cards - painting on the baubles
Card on the lightbox for the second time.
Watercolour christmas cards - baubles painted in
How the cards look with the baubles painted in.

Originally I intended to just cut up the cards and be finished but unfortunately I found some of the watercolour got on the inside and looked quite messy. I ended up sticking the cards to a second piece of paper and then cutting them out. This also gave them have a bit more thickness which I think made them better anyway.

Watercolour christmas cards - watercolour on the inside of the card
Here you can see some of the watercolour that spilled over to the inside.
Watercolour christmas cards - sticking the inside paper into the cards
I cut out the cards and stuck them to a second bit of paper (make sure it is already folded). Stick them under something heavy to make them stick properly and then cut them out.

And here’s the final product! Pretty happy with how they came out in the end. I’m no expert when it comes to these things and usually make up my own methods so when they turn out decent it’s something to be happy about :P.

Watercolour christmas cards - The final card
The final card!

Gift Tags

For the gift tags I used the exact same process as above with the only differences being that they were flat, not folded cards, and due to their smaller size I only used the small brush for the masking fluid. I also made red versions to mix it up a bit.

Watercolour gift tags - work in progress
Gift tag work in progress. I suggest making a few extra than you need in case you stuff some up like I did!
Watercolour gift tags - final gift tags in use
The final gift tags in use.

And with that my cards and gift tags are done! I hope any of you who want to try making these found the above useful in some way. I’ve already had ideas for next years cards so keep a look out for those in 2015 :).

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