We’ll Get Through This Together – card tutorial

I've decided to do a series of photo tutorials, and this first one - a greeting card tutorial - expresses a weird and wonderful truth. Despite the isolation of our various mandatory quarantines, we are finding ways to come together.

We're checking in with each other, calling family members and friends, texting love (and memes), using technology and social media to play games, attend concerts, throw parties... see - and be seen by - each other.

In these times when our health and well-being depends on our staying apart, we are finding ways to be there for each other. I think that's amazing, and reassuring, and hopeful.

And hope is the theme of this first greeting card tutorial. (Click the images to get a closer look.)

1. Use 5x7 watercolor paper
2. Divide paper into 3 sections

For this tutorial, I cut a larger piece of Canson Watercolor paper down to 5x7. You could also cut it to 7x10, and then fold it into a 5x7 greeting card. (Alternatively, you could just buy a package of blank watercolor greeting cards, but where's the fun in that?)  🙂

Next, draw light penciled lines to divide the card into three even spaces. (It doesn't have to be perfect. I had my fancy transparent ruler right there, so I used it, but you could just eyeball it.)

3. Draw wavy text guidelines
4. Erase original division lines

Now draw in the wavy lines that will guide your text. You'll need a top and a bottom guideline in each of your three sections. You can draw your lines in any random wave pattern, just bear in mind you'll be writing between the lines, so try not to get your top and bottom lines too close together. (The very narrow space between the lines in the bottom section above is about as narrow as I'd go.)

Once you have your text guidelines, you can erase the light penciled lines you used to divide your paper into three sections.

5. Find center in text
6. Mark center point
7. Aim for center

Maybe the most important step in any lettering project is to figure out the placement and spacing of your letters. Here's how I do it.

First, I write out my words, count the number of characters in each line (including spaces), and use that to note where the center is. For example, in my first line, there are 8 characters, including the space. That means the center of the line is between the second "L" and the space. (You can see in Photo #5, how I've noted for myself in red where the center of each line should be.)

Then I make little tick marks at the center of each text line on my paper. (In this case, 2.5 inches, as shown in Photo #6.)

When I write out the words, I aim to be on the correct letter when I reach the center tick mark on my paper. This can be tricky, but you get better over time. Still, I had to write "together" twice because I missed center the first time, and my word was too far to the left.

You want your letters to stretch all the way from the top text guideline to the bottom one. I find printed capital letters are the easiest to work with because they're all the same height, and there are no dangling bits.

8. Pre-select paint
8. Pre-select paint
9. Paint
10. Paint some more
11. Paint everything

Pick your palette ahead of time and have your paints ready. There are seven wavy stripes in our design, so I picked four analogous colors, figuring I'd use a new color for each stripe, and then head backwards to my first color again:


If you want to make sure your paint colors stay completely separate, wait for each stripe to dry before you paint the next. I didn't worry too much about that. My colors are similar to each other, and I was fine if they mixed a bit. That's part of the magic of watercolor!

You want to be able to see your penciled drawing beneath your paint. Watercolor is semitransparent, and it dries lighter than it goes down, so seeing what's beneath it is usually very easy.

12. Ink between stripes
13. Ink text
13. Ink text
14. Tracing is meditative

Once your paint dries COMPLETELY, ink over your pencil lines between the stripes, then trace your letters.

You'll notice I had to clip my paper to a piece of 5x7 cardboard backing after I painted it. That's because I used inexpensive 140 lb paper, which buckled as it dried. I fastened it to keep it from curling while I worked, and by the time I finished, my paper was flat again.

If you need to flatten your paper and don't have clips or cardboard, you can put the dried painting under a stack of books for a few hours.

15. Ink new waves
16. Ink intersecting lines
17. Yay for doodly lines!

Now, add more wavy lines. You're basically adding visual interest to the design. On my card, I've added intersecting waving lines between each text line.

18. Add vertical stripes
19. Randomly thicken some
20. Almost done

Make it even more doodly-interesting by adding stripes in the spaces between your intersecting lines. I arbitrarily thickened random stripes because I don't like things too neat.

21. Thicken letter down strokes
22. Now the letters stand out

Once I added all the doodly ink elements of this card, I felt like the words didn't stand out enough, so I went back over my letters, thickening all the downstrokes. To know which lines to thicken up, think about how you write the letter. Only thicken the downward strokes.

You'll often hear this technique called faux calligraphy. Watch for a tutorial on that soon!

23. Using paint marker, add white dot lines
24. Add dots to your heart's content
24. Add dots to your heart's content

The final step is my favorite! Using a paint marker or gel pen, add white dots between all your black doodly lines.

I used white and black for all the pen work on this card, but feel free to experiment. You can check out my illustrated list of favorite art supplies right here.

And that's it! I would love to see what you create with this tutorial. Please don't hesitate to tag me on Instagram or Facebook to make sure I see your creative genius. It's important to stay connected in these times, and I can't think of many better ways than sharing art.