Learning to Watercolor

Thought I’d share a little DIY work I did for our wedding, now that we got our photos back.

Kev and I DIY’d whatever we could for our big day, including our invites. I didn’t like any of the “free” or “close to free” printable invitation templates out there, and also needed a sort of creative suite that we could use for various assets/signage (i.e., menu, RSVP card, table numbers, etc.). We all know I can’t draw, but I figured I might be able to get away with some amateur watercoloring. It’s fuzzy and messy looking at it’s prettiest, so how could I go wrong, right? Well…

I read forum after forum (after forum after forum after forum) about anything from what sort of techniques there were to what type of watercolor paints (tube, cakes, pencils) and brushes (natural, synthetic, cheap, expensive) to buy.  I bought a pretty decent (but still inexpensive) set of watercolor paints and brushes, and a basic set of watercolor pencils to help with corrections.  I also looked around for artists whose style is similar to the aesthetic I had in mind and quickly fell in love with Yao Cheng Design‘s seemingly effortless but beautiful work.  I even tried mimicking one just as practice, but I couldn’t even figure out how to mix anything close to the colors she used let alone developing the shapes, color concentration, etc.

Yao Cheng Fail
Yao Cheng Fail

After several more tries with different looks, I finally came up wtih a few I was satisfied with.  But then I couldn’t get the watercolor to scan accurately!

Some More Paintings
Some More Paintings

After looking into a few more forums, it turns out that a lot of artists have this problem too and end up just taking photographs of their watercolor in a lot of cases with an expensive DSLR.  Purchasing a DSLR defeated the purpose of DIY’ing the invite to save money, so… I had to figure out a way to make do with what I had and scanning it.  The wreath was the one painting that had the least error, likely due to there being smaller strokes to show texture, vs letting color sit heavier in other places.  However, here is the scanned version of the first attempt (yes, there were multiple attempts).

Original Wreath
Original Wreath

For whatever reason, scanning really washed out the painting and added a grayish-yellow tinge, and it  reminded me a bit of Lamb’s Ear which is pretty but not what I was looking for. I took it to FedEx Kinko’s, scanned it at work, and went to a couple other different printers, and I even went to a few art supply stores to ask where people took their artwork to get scanned.  Turns out that our hand-me-down printer/scanner from Kevin’s mom was the most color accurate of the bunch!  Still – the above image was not what I wanted.

So I painted another “bluer”/bolder version of the wreath, thinking the scanner would balance it out.  And it worked!

Final Wreath Painting
Final Wreath Painting

I also made a few watercolor doodles with the same colors that we incorporated as accents throughout the rest of our “creative suite”:

Watercolor Doodles
Watercolor Doodles

Here’s the finished product.  I purchased blush envelopes from Paper Source (with a discount of course!) to add our wedding colors into the mix, and framed the invitation creative with a blush border to tie it all together.  I found a Pantone color guide online that broke down Paper Source’s paper color specs pretty accurately.  I designed everything in PowerPoint because I’m useless with Photoshop, and thankfully my very kind and patient friend Lingie laid it all out in a printable file that I could send off to my go-to reliable (and inexpensive!) printer.

Our Final Invite
Our Final Invite

In forgoing a design fee, we were able to get it all done including envelopes and RSVP postcards for under $125. We splurged a bit by using a really thick matte textured paper for the invite that almost looked like watercolor paper.  Here’s what the final suite looked like. Photo courtesy of Rodney Ty Photography.

Invitation Suite
Invitation Suite

I also used some little watercolor doodles to accent our address labels, favor labels, table numbers, menu, etc. Check out the gallery for more!  All of the professional photos were taken by Rodney.

5 thoughts on “Learning to Watercolor”

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