Holiday Watercolor Card Ideas with Kristin Van Leuven
Are you in need of some new holiday watercolor card ideas for this year? Join Kristin Van Leuven to learn unique watercolor techniques for four different holiday cards. Kristin will take you step by step through the process of each card and technique so you can implement it for your own card making.
Supplies you’ll need:
- Strathmore 400 Series Watercolor Cards
- Daler-Rowney 48 pc Aquafine Watercolor Studio Set
- Maimeri White Gouache
- Princeton Aqua Elite Brushes Round size 8 and Wash ¾”
- Princeton Velvetouch Brushes Angle Shader 3/8”
- Lyra Rembrandt Art Design pencil
Card No. 1: Snowy Trees
In this first tutorial, you'll use a fun salt technique to create a snowy background with layers of trees on top. You’ll need an Aqua Elite ¾” wash brush and a round size 8 brush as well as some salt (any kind will work). The colors you will need are transparent turquoise, indigo, sap green, alizarin crimson, and white gouache. If you would rather watch the video tutorial, you can watch it here.
Tape your card down. Take your ¾” wash brush and wet the entire surface of the card until it has a slight glisten. You don’t want it to be soaked through, but wet enough that the paint will naturally spread when you add it.
Add a transparent turquoise wash to the card immediately after you wet it so it flows and blends well. Add more pigment towards the middle and top. If you paint down too far, use paper towel to blot the bottom to keep it white for the snow.
Go straight in with indigo (using a lot of pigment) to add a darker shade of blue to the top of the card.
Clean your brush and put a little bit of water on it to blend the two blues together
While everything is still very wet, grab your salt and sprinkle it all over the card to create a snow effect.
The salt will soak up the color to create the cool snow effect. Once it’s dry, brush the salt off with your finger or a paper towel.
Now use your size 8 round brush to mix transparent turquoise and indigo for a slightly darker hue to start the background layer of your trees. The paint should be a slightly watery consistency. Paint the trees kind of abstract and different heights. These will be your trees in the distance. Use a wet brush to smooth out any harsh lines.
Add a little sap green pigment to your turquoise and indigo mix that you already have to get a darker blue/green color to paint your in-focus trees. These trees will be more detailed. Start in the center of the tree and use a swooping motion at the edge of the branch to create a nice shape. Let this layer dry.
Add a little bit of indigo to your current wash for an even darker color to add shadows to your trees.
Create a very light transparent turquoise wash to create a shadow underneath each tree. This will create a nice blue, glistening shadow.
Mix a little bit of Alizarin Crimson in with your indigo, turquoise, sap green mix to create a nice color for your trunk and branches. Lightly and roughly paint your branches and tree trunk. They don’t need to be perfect!
Use your Maimeri white gouache and light pressure to add bits of snow on your tree branches. Let this dry.
Add a very light wash of blue on top of the dry gouache snow you just painted to give it more depth and make it look more realistic.
Use your Lyra pencil to write a phrase on your card! Kristin chose “all is calm” to fit with the serene snowy theme.
That’s it! Now you have a beautiful snowy card to send to a loved one.
Card No. 2: Plaid Patterned Merry & Bright
In this second tutorial, Kristin will walk you through how to paint a fun plaid patterned card with gold details and a piece of scrap paper to add text. You’ll need an Aqua Elite 3/4” wash brush, a round size 8, and a Velvet ouch 3/8” wash brush. We will be using hooker’s green, alizarin crimson, gold, and indigo for this card. If you would like to watch the video tutorial, you can find it here.
Tape your card down. Using your size 8 round brush mix a dark/pigmented hooker’s green wash. It should be decently pigmented and not very watery. Add a tiny bit of alizarin crimson to give the green more depth.
Grab your ¾” wash brush and paint horizontal stripes. We fit about 5 stripes on the card. Don’t worry about making them perfectly straight. The waviness gives the card a vintage feel.
Once the previous layer is dry, grab your 3/8” angle shader brush to paint vertical green stripes.
Once everything has completely dried, grab your round size 8 brush. Mix some alizarin crimson with your hooker’s green to get a deep dark green. Using the very tip of your brush paint thin zig zag lines within the squares where the horizontal and vertical lines meet. These can be messy, thick, or thin.
Create a super pigmented wash of the alizarin crimson mixed with a touch of your green mixture. Use your round brush to paint two vertical lines in between each green vertical line. You will also paint two lines horizontally in the space between each green line. Make sure you leave a space in between each red line for gold lines later.
With the same brush get it wet so that it’s a light watery consistency of that red color you created. Fill in the squares that were created with your horizontal and vertical thin red lines.
Wash your brush super well so that there is no remaining color in it to mix with the gold. You also want very little water, so the gold is as pigmented as possible. With the tip of your round brush paint vertical and horizontal lines in between the two red lines.
Optional step 8:
Cut a little square of scrap watercolor paper to use to write a message on.
Optional Step 9:
Kristin chose to write “merry & bright” using indigo and the round brush. Feel free to write whatever you want!
Optional Step 10:
Paint the edges of the scrap paper gold to tie the whole card together. Add another piece of paper to the back so it stands off the card a little
Optional Step 11:
Glue the piece down to your card and let it dry.
You created a cute vintage inspired plaid card!
Card No. 3: Simple Holiday Wreath
For this third card, Kristin will show you how to make a wreath decorated with pinecones and berries. You'll be using alizarin crimson, hooker's green, indigo, and burnt umber watercolors. The only brush you’ll need is an Aqua Elite Round Size 8 brush. If you would like to watch the video tutorial, you can find it here.
Tape the edges of your card down so it doesn’t move while you’re painting. Using a round size 8 brush and a very light wash of burnt umber paint, brush the rim of the jar.
Push the rim of the jar onto your card to create a rough outline of a circle to use as a guide for your wreath.
Next mix sap green with a lot of water to create your first layer of pine needles. Use the very tip of your round brush and light pressure to create pine needles all around the guide you just created. Make some short needles and some long ones.
Change the direction of the needles on the left side of the wreath so it looks like two branches coming together. Your pine needles should go around the entire wreath.
Pick up some burnt umber to create a medium wash. It shouldn’t be too dark because you will add another layer of darker burnt umber.
Start by creating a top dot for the pinecone. As you move down the pinecone create little moon shapes. Make sure you leave white space in between all the moon shapes. Towards the bottom of the pinecone, you can create shorter spiky shapes.
While the previous layer is still wet, pick up a darker pigment of burnt umber and add in a layer of shadows to the pinecone. The base of the pinecone should be the darkest part.
Add a midtone value of sap green (less water) to add more accent color pine needles to your wreath. This will add more contrast and fill in any awkward gaps.
Use the dark burnt umber from before to add crossed branches to the bottom of the wreath.
Use that same dark burnt umber to add in branches throughout the wreath. These don’t need to be perfect and don’t paint every single branch! You want it to look like sticks.
Mix a lighter wash of alizarin crimson to paint the first layer of your berries throughout the wreath. Create rough moon shapes for the berries. They don’t need to be perfect circles. Leave some white space in them!
Use a more pigmented wash of alizarin crimson to add shadows and another layer to your berries for more depth.
Add some indigo to your green wash that you used previously for the pine needles. This will be your final layer of pine needles. Focus more on the bunches where the pine needles would meet the stem to create a shadow. Add this color wherever you feel like your pine needles need more fluff.
Take your Lyra pencil and write a fun saying! Kristin chose “happy holidays.”
That’s it! Now you have a beautiful holiday wreath to send to someone you love.
Card No. 4: Rainbow Trees
In the final tutorial of the series, Kristin teaches you how to paint three trees sprinkled with gold accents. You will need hooker’s green, indigo, transparent turquoise, alizarin crimson, and gold paint for this card. The only brush you’ll need is an Aqua Elite Round Size 8 brush. You can watch the full video tutorial here.
Mix a medium wash with the transparent turquoise. It should be an equal ratio of pigment to water. Start with the middle tree. Paint a line for the tip of the tree then make sweeping brush strokes to the right and left to create the branches. It should look a little like an abstract tree so don’t worry about being perfect.
Put some indigo on your paintbrush and drop it into the wet transparent turquoise strokes that you did in the last step.
Now add a trunk with the same color. It can be jagged in the middle of the tree.
Now you will paint the same thing on the left using hooker’s green. Use sweeping brush strokes to the left and right to create your tree. Vary the pressure of your brush strokes to create different looking branches.
Add more hooker’s green to your wash to create a darker more pigmented green. Paint your tree trunk and add some shadows to your branches while they are still wet.
Next mix alizarin crimson and a tiny bit of the green and blue wash to give it a deeper red color. Paint quick brush strokes to the left and right to create your third tree. Don’t forget to leave some white space!
Mix in more alizarin crimson to have a more pigmented color for the tree trunks. Use very light pressure and the tip of your brush to paint the tree trunk and branches.
Wash out your brush very well and add very pigmented gold to your brush. Add a gold star to your middle tree. You can also paint small circles/dots throughout the middle tree to add details and glistening moments.
Now dress up your red tree and make it pop with gold dots! You can cluster some together. They don’t need to be perfectly spaced out.
Don’t forget to add gold to your green tree as well! Have fun with it!
Use your Lyra pencil to write your favorite holiday saying. We’re doing “peace on earth.”
You’ve created a beautiful, shimmery tree holiday card!