Easy watercolor background ideas for hand lettering

Here are some quick and easy ideas on how to decorate the background of your lettering projects using watercolour paints. You don't always need expensive tools to create art - for many of these techniques, I've used everyday, household objects. Click the play button to view each video tutorial.

For best results, I would recommend using good quality watercolour paper such as Arches, or Daler Rowney Watercolour Aquarelle paper.

Fiery colour explosion

Create the illusion of flames leaping from your page using as many or as little colours as you like.
  • Use masking tape that won't rip your paper- test beforehand!
  • Use concentrated watercolour paints for extra vibrancy. I used Dr Ph Martin's 'Radiant concentrated' watercolors
  • If you have a sable brush, use that because it holds a lot more water/ paint than regular brushes. I used an Art Spectrum Kolinsky brush in size 2
  • Apply a wash of water beyond where you want the colour to end. This will allow the colour to feather out nicely
  • Wait until the water has absorbed a little. You want to be able to see the ridges of the paper with a sheen of wetness on top, not pools of water sitting on the page - VERY IMPORTANT, otherwise you won't achieve the fiery effect
  • Wait until the paint has dried before peeling off the tape. Don't be tempted to peel it off earlier, for obvious reasons

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Water drops

For that 'sea spray' look, take a clean brush, dip it in water and tap it over the damp paint. The drops of water will spread apart and give it a splashy look.

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Foamy seas/ sky

Use a foam brush, acrylic paint and a light, patting motion to create texture that resembles sea spray or fluffy white clouds.

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Toothbrush paint splatters

Dip the toothbrush into your watercolour liquid and flick it across the paper. For denser colour patches, hold the brush closer to the paper and do smaller flicks. Make sure your masking tape won't rip your paper by testing it beforehand.

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Toothbrush paint splatters without masking tape

This is an alternative idea to using masking tape to create masked areas. Lay down a plastic ruler on top of a card cut-out of a simple shape (you can also just use the ruler by itself). Dip the toothbrush into your paint solution (I'm using gouache) and flick it across the paper. For denser colour patches, hold the brush closer to the paper and do smaller flicks.

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Toothbrush paint streaks

The toothbrush chronicles continues! This is a two-tone, grassy effect that you can easily create by painting with it.
  • Flat bristles help create even strokes. This one was a freebie from an airline
  • You don't want to soak the toothbrush in paint- it needs to be relatively dry to create the 'grassy' texture. You just need a small amount of paint
  • Keep your 'masking paper' in place with a little bit of masking tape in the centre

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Baking paper

Create a speckled texture by using an assortment watercolour paints or brush pens to coat one side of the baking paper, then pressing it down onto your paper surface.

If you're new to brush pen lettering, you might like to check out our free downloadable starter's guide below, or our beginner's brush pen lettering kit. Download our complimentary envelope template to practise your calligraphy drills and end up with some beautiful mail art, ready for sending.

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