3 Easy DIY Greeting Card Ideas using Watercolour and Gouache

This time of year, many of us are thinking of creative ways to treat our loved ones to something special. Homemade presents are always a winner because you take time to make something unique, just for that specific person!

Cards that complement the gift make the present even more special, so I’m going to show you some of the greeting cards that I’ve painted specially for the people in my life.

Idea 1: Watercolour Birds

Birds are a classic choice for the birdwatcher in your life! I chose a cardinal for mine because they’re a bright and happy wintertime bird. I worked in simple layers, starting with orange and working my way to red.

The dimensionality that comes with shifting colours will make your card look professional.

For the shadowed parts of the cardinal, I made a dull purple out of the red and a warm blue. I used some black straight from the pan for his face, but mostly I used the purple mixture from the shadows with some green mixed in to neutralize it. For his eye, I used white gouache to make it shine.

The branch is made out of leftover red and green from mixing other parts of the painting, which helps to unify the picture. The background foliage is subtly hinted at with wet-on-wet splashes of paint, and that’s really all you need.

If the background is too busy, you’ll distract from your subject, so there’s no need to worry about getting fancy with the background.

Want to learn more? Check out our bird painting classes!

Idea 2: Landscapes

Landscapes are an excellent choice for a homemade card because you can choose a place that means something to the recipient! I used a favourite scenic overlook in my state. First, begin with a soft sketch.

Using the wet-on-wet technique, make a simple gradient for the sky. The higher part of the sky is darker than the horizon, so remember this to add depth.

After softly hinting at the furthest details with a light and primarily blue mixture, go in with some lovely bold gouache to efficiently block in the shadows for the mid-ground. Don’t be shy!

Because brown grass has some different coloured undertones, I prepared the foreground with red and green watercolour.

Use the main yellowy-brown gouache to detail the foreground and add definition to the hills in the back. All it takes is a few simple lines to suggest form and light!

You’ll want to blend and layer the colours on the hills to get a nice nuanced realism. Some blue for the shadows is a great idea. If you’re out in the hills, you’ll notice how blue the shadows are in the mid-afternoon.

Interested in learning more about landscapes? Check out our Beginner's Watercolour for Landscapes course! 

Idea 3: Cut Paper

If you like 3-dimensional and unusual cards, this will be the choice for you! Combining watercolour and collage is so much fun if you have some loose watercolour paper lying around.

I chose a Dala Horse, a charming little folk art horse from Sweden, for my subject. I recommend looking into your own culture’s folk art for inspiration when you make this card because your family will love to see it!

Cut all the paper pieces and arrange them as they will be glued together in the end. Doing so will help you visualize colours. Anytime a project involves putting things together, you’ll want to make sure the components all work with each other before committing to any glue or paint.

Here’s the fun part! Paint each part of the collage with as many layers as it takes to get full vibrancy. You can do even flat washes or experiment with gradients!

Once you’ve glued your pieces together, it’s fun to add details. Swedish folk art has a lot of little flourishes over top of simple shapes, so I detailed my collage using some metallic paint after glueing it together.

When you’re finished with your painting, it’s a good idea to look at it in natural light to make sure everything is balanced and pleasing to the eye. The great thing about folk art, at least in my ancestral home’s case, is that it can be a bit imprecise and still look good.

Sometimes, I like to mix up the colours when I make folk art, and people think it’s cool! Don’t feel so tied to tradition that you stifle your inspiration!

Need a few more greeting card ideas? We've got you covered! Check out these 4 Easy Watercolour Holiday Greeting Card Ideas!

I hope this little peek into my gift-making gave you some fun ideas to make for your loved ones! If you need Don't forget to subscribe to our email newsletter to be the first to know about our exclusive deals and tutorials! 

Elsa Wahlstrom is an illustrator/writer living in the south Idaho hill country. She  loves to create cozy, homey pictures and populate them with funny little creatures  having surreal little adventures. Her biggest inspiration is the music and comedy that  came out of England in the late 60s. When she’s not busy making art, she goes for long  hikes, plays a few instruments, and collects vinyl.
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