Introduction: Watercolor Holiday Cards

This is a really easy technique for making painted cards that look very professional! It is also my new favorite technique for combining digital design and painting: using the Silhouette digital paper cutter to cut vinyl stickers as paint masks on watercolor paper.

The results are extremely crisp. There is absolutely zero bleeding, even if you use a ton of water. It really surprised me how well the vinyl keeps out the watercolor.

You'll need a digital paper cutter like the Silhouette, some watercolor paper and paints and some adhesive vinyl.

Step 1: Create the Designs

The main tool here is a digital paper cutter. I've got the Silhouette Portrait, but there are many, many others. I like the Silhouette because their software is very easy to use, and they have a pretty extensive design store.

I used the Silhouette design app to create a few different stencils to try (screenshot above). I tiled several of each and selected "Silhouette Vinyl" as the material.

Step 2: Cut and Remove the Designs

Cut a piece of vinyl out from the roll and mount it to the sticky plastic sheet that the Silhouette uses. Then it is as simple as hitting "Cut".

Once the designs have been cut, there is a bit of technique involved in getting the stickers off the backing paper and onto the watercolor paper. This is my process, after a good bit of trial and error. It involves using transfer paper, which is a tacky paper that can help you lift the design off the backing and transfer it to its final position, while retaining any loose or disconnected parts.

  1. With the vinyl still stuck to the plastic sheet, start by carefully peeling off the vinyl from its backing that will not be used at all.
  2. Using a piece of transfer paper, apply the tacky side down on top of the sticker you'd like to transfer.
  3. Carefully pull the transfer paper up, helping the vinyl sticker stick to the transfer paper if necessary. The idea here is that the transfer paper sticks slightly better to the vinyl than the vinyl sticks to the backing.
  4. You should now have the vinyl sticker, stuck upside down to the transfer paper. Now just place the sticky side of the vinyl sticker (which is exposed) down wherever its final resting place will be. My transfer paper has grid lines which help you line things up.
  5. Push the transfer paper down hard onto the final surface and rub it a bit to get the vinyl to stick.
  6. Slowly lift the transfer paper up delicately. The vinyl should stick better to its final surface than the transfer paper sticks to the vinyl.

That is a lot of words. There is a bit of technique, but if you do it once you'll totally get a feel for it.

Step 3: Paint Over the Stencils

Now it gets artistic. Just use your favorite colors to paint a nice design over the stencil. I like the subtle mixing of colors especially.

In this step, less is definitely better.

Step 4: Remove the Stencil and Enjoy!

Wait until the watercolor has dried completely. Then use something small to gently lift the edge of the vinyl sticker and carefully work the whole sticker up.

That is it! Now you can make awesomely professional looking holiday cards at home!

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