In this session, we hosted the incredibly inspiring Teela Cunningham, a designer, educator and founder of Every Tuesday, an education resource for ambitious graphic designers and hand letterers.

Teela chose Tuesday as the name because by Tuesday you’re over the pain of Monday and are feeling the most motivated within the week. Well... because Teela is so busy on a Tuesday we borrowed her for a Wednesday instead!

During this session, Teela demonstrated the art of creating realistic watercolor lettering effects with watercolor floral embellishments, all within Procreate. It was awash with hints and tips to help you take your pieces to the next level.

Drawing a Letter

Start with a blank file of 1500 x 1500 pixels at 300 DPI in Display P3 color profile. Create your own lettering on a single white layer by choosing any word, for this tutorial we are using the word, “GATHER”. Pick a purple color for this.

Recoloring with 5x

There are two methods for recoloring:

NUMBER 1: Color Drop Method - Pick a color you want, drag the color to your element and drop it. It’ll automatically color that space. However if you have a lot of elements and your graphic has soft edges and a soft brush, it may not completely grab all the color and leave spaces empty. 

NUMBER 2: Selecting What's on the Layer - Select everything that's on your layer and tap on the thumbnail to select. Now that everything's selected, you should see horizontal lines. Create a brand new layer right above it and then select the color that you want to change it to. Return to the new layer and hit ‘Fill’ to add in color. Turn off the visibility of the previous layer and you're all set to go. If you have a bunch of elements, it's a really fast way to apply it to everything without having to think about the soft edges. 

Applying Watercolor Effects & Texturizing 

When you're painting on watercolor paper, it helps having a brush that has a little bit of texture to the edges, just so you get a kind of rough texture that naturally occurs. For this, use the Smudge Tool as it helps in pushing color outside the normal bounds, while keeping it within the edges of the lettering. Tap on your layer thumbnail, and select it. Choose the Smudge Brush and select the Texturizer Brush in the Watercolor Lettering Brush Set

The more texture the better. All you want to do is basically stipple it by tapping on your screen and it will automatically start applying some texture. It's also pressure sensitive so if you want it more extreme or reduced in size, just reduce your pressure accordingly. 

Darkening the Edges

Just like the Traditional Watercolor Lettering, as your lettering dries, the water can push some of the color to the edges and you'll get the dark areas along the edges sporadically. To do this, create a brand new layer right above the layer you’re working on. Pick the round hard paint brush, the same as the one you used to do your lettering with and pick a dark purple color. 

Apply a clipping mask above to lock the color inside the lettering. 

Start by drawing these dark purple lines randomly along the edges, making it look more realistic as a whole. 

In some parts, we’re also going to soften areas by using the Smudge tool. Pick the Semi-Dry Wash Smudge Brush and push the color as much or as little as you want giving it a more realistic watercolor effect. In order to get that effect, just push and smudge areas where you like. 

Adding Color and Shading

Create a brand new layer and select a clipping mask once again. Keep the dark purple selected and pick the Damp Smudger Brush. This will just give us nice blocks of color that have texture in it. So we're just adding in a little bit of color variation to this, to match some of those areas that we just painted in. You can choose to add in more or less of the purple color depending on how realistic it looks. 

Then add some yellow color shades because that's going to tie some of the elements that we're going to draw later on, to make the piece feel much more balanced. To do this, create another layer right above it and apply a clipping mask. Now grab the yellow color and repeat the steps by adding a little bit yellow here and there, sporadically.

Adding Water Blooms

Now, add in some water blooms the exact same way. Come back to the original lettering that you started working on and tap on the layer, thumbnail, choose select, and push some of the color into the letters. Then select the Smudge tool and grab the Watercolor Bleed Brush, sized at 20%.

As you push in the color, you'll see you're getting these blooms. And sometimes you can get some dark edges showing too, which is a nice by-product of it. 

The messier, the better sometimes. However, pay attention to details. The more you apply those details to your digital work, the more realistic it'll look. 

Pro tip: Look at the real thing, dissect it, and then try to mimic it in Procreate. 

Now that you have your texture, details and extra color in place, the watercolor lettering is done. Make sure to de-select and group all of your lettering layers together and keep them organised. You can also relabel things with 5x. To do so, tap on the layer thumbnail and hit rename, you can scribble it out and then write whatever you want. However this feature is only available if your iOS is up to date i.e. iOS14 or later. 

Adding Embellishments

Grab a brown color and hop into the Watercolor Illustration Brush Set. Pick a Round Line Brush as it has a little bit of pressure sensitivity, but it's basically a moderate brush with watercolor texture inside of it. 

It's really nice for details like stems and branches. Size it to 6% and draw two branches. The first one is going to start right underneath the crossbar of the T and swoop up. It's going to come from underneath and go the opposite way and just curve. Now, as you build on top of everything, everything's going to focus towards the center of this, and that's what the goal is, for everybody to see this beautiful watercolor lettering and then notice all the watercolor embellishments around it. Add some additional freehanded branches.

Now, attach some leaves onto them to make it feel more folic. Create a brand new layer. Go back into the Watercolor Illustration Brush Set and use the Medium Paint Round Brush for a wet on dry effect. Select a darker purple color and start making leaves that are pointed on both sides. The brush has both density and opacity variations that’ll help you make the leaves look more realistic with some dark and some light leaves. You can choose to create as many or as few leaves as you may like. 

In traditional watercolor lettering, if you paint something, lift up your stylist and paint on it again. The area that you previously painted may have already dried by then. So when you paint your new stroke, you get a beautiful overlap, which is really helpful when you're creating leaves. 

Adding Fall Berries, Wheat and Pine Elements

Create a brand new layer and grab a pinkish color. Pick the Medium Paint Round Brush as it is pressure sensitive. For the berries, vary up the pressure a little bit so that you can put a big berry and then a cluster with some different sized berries. This will fill out the branches a little more, giving it a Fall feeling. 

A wheat element is very iconic of Fall. It’s a great element to add some weight. To do this, create a brand new layer and grab a yellow color. Pick the Round Liner Brush and reduce the size down to 5% for this. Start by drawing in the wheat elements by doing a simple doodle.

Pro tip: Make sure you don't overlap elements very much. Once you start having a lot of color overlaps in one area, things can start to look very muddy or confusing. Avoid overlapping as much as you can. 

To add in Pine elements, create a brand new layer. Grab a darker color, return back to the Round Liner Brush, doing the exact same thing that we just did with our wheat elements. However, these pines are going to be a little bit larger in size as you go lower and smaller at the top.

While competing for attention make sure to keep one thing in mind: that your lettering is the focus and primary element whereas the embellishments are the secondary element.  

Finishing Touches

Whenever you have a lot of white space and you're looking for something to fill it, like when you are creating florals or foliage, add some extra leaves to finish it. To do this, create a brand new layer and grab a gold color. Pick the Medium Paint Round Brush.

Choose a different variation of leaf for this, so it's similar but it's a little bit different from the leaves that we’ve done previously. Look for any place that needs just a little something extra and add it in. Slowly as you add that throughout the branches, everything will feel full and more finished. 

You can change the extremely white background to a cream color for the final touch, making it more realistic, as if it were actually painted on real watercolor paper. In order to make sure that you're at the top of your layers, create a brand new layer. Select a true black. In the Watercolor Illustration Brush Set, there are some Watercolored Paper Texture Patterns. Zoom out the whole lettering. Choose the Medium Tooth Paper Texture, keeping the brush at max size, and in one continuous motion paint over the top of that. This adds that extra little detail to everything. 

Now do the exact same thing with the Paint Splatter. Apply a Multiplied Blend Mode to the next layer that you’re going to create, so that wherever the paint splatter hits on top of color, that already exists. It's going to blend in a darker way which mimics realistic watercolor. Create a brand new layer up at the top and change the blend mode to multiply. Grab the dark purple and choose the Rounded Splatter Brush. Splatter through the entire surface. 

Then reduce the size to 5% grab the pink and then we'll do the yellow similarly. And we’re done! That is realistic watercolor lettering with fall embellishments.