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diy: watercolor & calligraphy place cards




In Calligraphy, Craft, DIY, Videos

On 24, Aug 2011 | 13 Comments | In Calligraphy, Craft, DIY, Videos |

{ project creation, execution and calligraphy by molly suber thorpe of plurabelle calligraphy;
filmed and edited by lilian day / }

I recently spent two weeks back home in Maine where, away from my Los Angeles studio, over many a bowl of fresh blueberries, I had the time to test out a number of the craft projects I’ve been dreaming up. My favorite one is this set of watercolor-patterned place cards finished off with calligraphy. I experimented with lots of colors and techniques and I found that making them was incredibly relaxing. In fact, I enjoyed making them so much that I wanted to share, so my sister and I whipped up this little video tutorial.


•  Heavy watercolor paper
•  Xacto blade, straight edge and cutting mat
•  Artist tape (1″ wide is ideal)
•  Large paint brush (or foam brush) for brushing on water
•  Small paint brush for watercoloring
•  Assorted watercolors of your choice
•  Acrylic paint in an accent color for splattering
•  Paper towels
•  Table salt
•  Calligraphy pen
•  Ink (or watercolor or gouache) of your choice for the calligraphy
•  Bone folder


1.  Cut up heavy watercolor paper into 3.5 x 6″ cards.

2.  Paste 1″ of artist tape across the full length of the cards starting 1″ from the bottom. Use at least two layers and press it down firmly so that no watercolor will be able to seep underneath it. There should be 1″ of paper exposed below the tape and 4″ exposed above it.

3.  Using the large paint brush, brush both the front and back of each card with water then pat dry with a paper towel. (This prevents the paper from stretching and warping unevenly.)

4.  With the smaller paint brush, paint the cards with an abstract watercolor design in the colors of your choice. I used four different shades — two pinks, peach and goldenrod.

5.  Blot off excess watercolor with a folded paper towel then fill in especially empty spots with more watercolor.

6.  Sprinkle the cards with a pinch of table salt. This creates a unique pattern by unevenly absorbing spots of wet color.

7.  Fill the small paintbrush with the acrylic paint and splatter it randomly over the card. Choose a color that will really stand out from the background colors you chose. I used gold to add some sparkle.

8.  Lay flat to dry.

9.  Once dry, brush off the salt and carefully peel off the tape. If the cards aren’t flat (which can happen in humid weather), press them between a stack of books overnight.

10.  Write the guests’ names on each card. I am a calligrapher so naturally this is my favorite part. If you’re nervous about messing up, just practice each name on scrap paper a few times until you’re comfortable. If you do not use a calligraphy pen and ink, then be sure to use a high-quality felt-tip pen and test it on a scrap of watercolor paper to make sure it doesn’t bleed.

11.  Fold each card in half and crease firmly with a bone folder.

Et voilà! Finished!

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  1. Thank you so much for this tutorial.I loved it and I will soon try it myself :)

  2. christina

    such a beautiful idea! love the video

  3. Ellie

    What kind of nib did you use? Thanks! What a gorgeous tutorial!

  4. Ellie: in the video I’m using a Brause EF66. I’m glad you like it!

    — Molly

  5. Annie

    Beauitful Molly!

  6. Anna Liffey

    So lovely! I especially love the table settings!

  7. Lovely, lovely! Well done Molly and Lilian! Incredibly talented, both of you. Very nice editing, and I especially admire the china set at the end.

  8. I am crazy in love with your handwriting !

  9. Love the look of these place cards, but how do you keep the ink from bleeding on the watercolor paper? Thanks!

    • Hi Juliana! The answer to this is two-fold. First, I always use hot press watercolor paper, which has a very smooth, firm texture and is quite stiff. Other watercolor papers, like cold press paper and untreated paper are very fibrous and therefore don’t take ink well. While the paper choice is arguably the most important factor, it is also true that some inks simply bleed more easily than others. You may have to experiment with a couple brands to find one that works. When it comes to black ink, I love iron gaul inks (any brand) and sumi ink (again, any brand). When it comes to color, I generally use gouache paint, which rarely bleeds on any surface. Hope that helps!


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