Three Ways To Try Watercolour Calligraphy

Three Ways To Try Watercolour Calligraphy

When people say they “can’t draw”, it’s a great opportunity to remind them that writing is a form of art, too! In fact, it’s probably one of the oldest art forms: think hieroglyphs, Chinese characters, and the first symbols created to represent an object or to pass on a message.

Fast forward to present day, calligraphy has evolved into something quite modern, yet still has that rustic “handmade” feeling. So for today’s article, I’ll show 3 different ways to use watercolour in calligraphy, from brush lettering to using more interesting brush types.

Quick Practice

Before we begin, it’s always good to practice a little! No matter what your handwriting is like, there are two basic rules to follow:

1. More pressure on your downstrokes (i.e. thick lines)

2. Less on your upstrokes (i.e. thin lines). 

As long as you remember these two rules, your handwriting will be instantly transformed! Bonus tip: For curved lines, you can transition from thin to thick or vice versa, depending on whether you’re going from an upstroke to downstroke or the other way round. 

As for horizontal strokes like crossing your T’s, you can pick between doing thick or thin lines, or even tapered lines. Just keep them consistent in your calligraphy piece and you’ll be fine. Also, it’s ok to take it slow when writing, and it helps to focus on seeing each letter as a shape rather than a letter.

You can see a simplified demo in the picture above. I’m using a brush pen here, as they’re really good for practicing with since the brush’s felt tip is much easier to control.

Brush Lettering

One of the fancier forms of calligraphy, brush lettering has become quite popular in the last year or so. For this form of watercolour calligraphy, all you need is a round paintbrush, a container of water, watercolour paint, and paper (best to use the smoother hot press watercolour paper for this!).

After picking or mixing your desired colour, simply start writing while following those two rules mentioned before. If you start running out, just re-dip your brush in paint, and keep going from where you left off before the paint dries.

You can even change colours whenever you like! This creates an “ombré” effect, where one colour blends into the next. Just make sure the paint is still wet when changing colours, and thoroughly wash your brush between each change. 

Water Brush Calligraphy

Another way to do watercolour calligraphy is using a water brush, which is a brush that has a water reservoir in the handle. You can either fill it with clean water and do brush lettering the normal way, or fill it with watercolour ink, so you can do calligraphy at any time without having to refill your brush as often!

The downside with using the paint fill method is that you’re stuck with one colour until it runs out, although you can dip the brush in a different colour and watch as the colour gradually changes back to the original one. You can also get several water brushes and fill each with a different colour, but in most cases, this method is best for those who prefer working with a limited colour palette.

One thing a water brush does really well is the “fade-out” effect, which can be done simply by continuing to write while the paint is gradually diluted by the water in the reservoir.

Experimental Watercolour Calligraphy

Last but not least, you can experiment with different brush types while applying all you’ve learned above! The round brush is the most commonly used, but how about trying a flat brush for a more slanted look? Or even a filbert brush? What about trying a different handwriting style? The possibilities are only limited by the types of brushes you have and your imagination, so play around with what you have! 

Finally, when you’re comfortable with the writing portion, feel free to add some embellishments to your calligraphy piece. Flowers, leaves, other shapes and swirls to match your message, etc. The important thing is to have fun, and to get your creativity flowing!

Have you ever tried watercolour calligraphy and/or brush lettering before? What’s your favourite inspirational quote, and have you tried turning it into a calligraphy piece? Let us know in the comments below!  

Nicola Tsoi is a practicing graphic designer and illustrator based in Hong Kong. During her downtime, she likes to watch birds do funny things, search for stories, and bake up a storm. She keeps a pet sourdough starter named Doughy.
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