Watercolor Brush Lettering with a Water Brush
If your interest in hand lettering has just started or you’ve been delving into the world of hand lettering for a while now, you may have noticed that there are an abundance of options out there. Dip pen calligraphy, faux calligraphy, brush pen lettering….not to mention all of the various techniques that you can use to create each of these lettering styles. Each has its own merits, but one of my new favorite lettering styles is watercolor brush lettering with a water brush. Unlike the other styles I listed, watercolor lettering tends to be more organic with a bit more room for experimentation. Plus, it can produce some stunning colors and blends. Ready? Great!
(Psst…There’s lots of lettering worksheets included in this post, but also make sure to check out Random Olive’s shop for more watercolor lettering goodies!)
Materials Needed for Water Brush Lettering
- Waterbrush – I got this set of three Pentel Aquash water brushes and I love them
- Watercolor paints – You can use a pan watercolor set, like the Prang set that I use or you can use liquid watercolors like the Dr. Ph. Martin Hydrus Watercolors (*sigh* watercolor aspirations….). I’ve also seen good results from the Artist’s Loft set that can also be found at Michaels (though I haven’t used these personally)
- Watercolor paper or cardstock – For watercolor paper, I use the Canson Watercolor Pad. You can also use cardstock or plain paper, though printer paper does tend to ripple when it dries.
- Paper towel or scrap piece of paper
How to Create Brush Lettering with a Water Brush
If you want another way to learn about watercolor lettering, make sure to check out the Youtube version of this blog post:
Anatomy of a Water Brush
Before using your water brush, you’ll need to know how it works. Unlike a regular paintbrush, a water brush has a barrel that you can fill with water. This makes mixing the paints and writing with watercolor easier.
To fill with water, unscrew the end of the brush that has the bristles. Fill with water, then screw the cap back on. For pan watercolors, warm water works the best to soften the pigment to make for easier mixing.
To get the water to flow, gently squeeze the barrel.
Prepping Your Watercolor
If you have a watercolor pan set, you’ll need to prepare your watercolors. To prep your watercolors, you need to add water. One of the great features of water brushes is that they have water built into the brush. Squeeze the water brush over the pan and add 2-4 drops of color to the pans. If you want a more concentrated pigment, add less water. If you want a lighter, waterier color, add more. I like to wait a few minutes after adding the water before mixing so the water can sink in to the watercolors.
Stir the water to mix it with the pigment. Don’t be afraid of ruining the bristles…they’re fairly resilient. Mix until you think you’ve got the right concentration of color, then test it out on a sheet of paper. If the color is too watery or light, mix the color some more. If the color is too pigmented or dry, add another drop of water and mix.
When you’re satisfied with your color, you’re ready to letter!
How to Letter with a Water Brush
Lettering with a water brush is both very similar and very different than lettering with a brush pen. To start, dip your brush into your mixed watercolor. If you find you have too much liquid on your brush (i.e. a watercolor blob at the end of the bristles), gently brush the tip against the edge of the watercolor pan.
I find it’s the easiest to start with one color. When holding your brush, keep your brush at a 45 degree angle from the paper.
The most important thing to remember when lettering with a brush pen is this: Thin on the upstrokes, thick on the downstrokes. To put it simply, when your brush moves upward on the paper, use the very tip of your brush to make a thin stroke. When you move downward on the paper, increase the pressure of your brush so that the stroke is thicker. With both upstrokes and downstrokes, remember to keep your brush at a 45 degree angle. For more information on how to do this, check out The Beginner’s Guide to Brush Lettering.
Thick strokes with heavy pressure – Your goal is to have the bristles fan out to form a nice, thick stroke.
Thin strokes with light pressure – Your goal is to have the bristles of the brush stay together at a point to make a nice, thin stroke.
Before jumping in to write words and letters, it is helpful to practice the basic strokes. Click on the worksheet below to download a worksheet for practicing tracing strokes with a water brush.
When you’re ready, a good transition is to practice writing letters in isolation. Download the worksheets below to practice tracing letters using thick and thin strokes.
Finally, when you’re ready to connect letters, tracing phrases can be a great way to practice. This worksheet from Random Olive is a perfect way to practice connecting letters and put your new water brush lettering to good use. Download your free traceable worksheet below.