How to Make Beautiful, Personalized, Watercolor Christmas Cards: Part 2

Every year, it seems I find boxes of beautifully detailed Christmas cards in our local stores. The cunning, intricate designs and quality workmanship draw me like the proverbial moth is drawn to the flame. The designs seem to be cuter each year, with appliqué elements, embossing, cutwork, and all manner of card-makers artistry. Making your own handmade, watercolor Christmas cards is not as difficult as you might think, and is certainly less expensive.

In Part 1 of this two-part article, you will find directions for preparing your materials, as well as step by step instructions for transferring your design and inking your cards. This article, Part 2, contains detailed information for painting several festive designs including a traditional Holly and Bells design, a friendly Country Christmas Snowman, and a modern take on an old standard – a Poinsettia Christmas card.

Beautiful Christmas card from  art2canvas.nuxit.net
Beautiful Christmas card from art2canvas.nuxit.net
Basic Supplies - photo from RedElf
Basic Supplies - photo from RedElf

Tools and Supplies for watercolor painting…

You will need watercolor paper or watercolor card stock, 2 graphite pencils (H and HB), a pencil eraser, cotton swabs, paper towels, masking fluid - clear or tinted, your choice, a set of watercolor paints, watercolor brushes, tracing paper, graphite paper, a drawing pen with waterproof ink for inking your design, clear tape, watercolor paper-tape or artist’s tape, and your pattern of choice.

You will also need 2 cans or jars for holding clean water - one for washing your brushes, and the other for painting.

Preparing to paint your inked design...

Once you have completed inking a design, set it aside. I have found it is better to leave the inked design for a couple of hours, so the ink can “set-up.” Even waterproof ink might run if you apply too much watercolor right away, or apply too watery a wash. To avoid this problem I usually ink several cards in a row, and then go back to the first one to begin painting.

The size of brushes you use will depend largely on the size of your project. For Christmas cards, I generally use a ½ inch flat brush, for background washes, and a couple of #1 round brushes with fine points.

Preserving the white areas of your finished designs is important in any watercolor painting. Leaving areas of white allows the color of the paper to show through. The white of the paper will function as the brightest areas of your finished painting - the freshly falling snow, the dazzle of sunlight on dancing wavelets, the glint of reflected light on holly berries…

Dip a fine point round brush in dish detergent, or rub it on a moistened bar of hand soap, and allow it to dry. Using the previously soaped brush, carefully apply masking fluid to the white areas you wish to preserve. Allow the masking fluid to dry before applying watercolor.

You can reinforce the highlights with Chinese White watercolor paint, but it is an opaque color, so I prefer to use it for corrections in very small areas, or for very small highlights.

Christmas Bells showing the first washes - photo by RedElf
Christmas Bells showing the first washes - photo by RedElf
Christmas Bells showing the final washes - photo by RedElf
Christmas Bells showing the final washes - photo by RedElf
Holly & Christmas Balls with first washes - photo by RedElf
Holly & Christmas Balls with first washes - photo by RedElf
Holly & Christmas Balls with final washes - photo by RedElf
Holly & Christmas Balls with final washes - photo by RedElf

Painting your Christmas card…

I love a variety of Christmas designs, but I especially love these two because though these designs are traditional in theme, they go so well with Country Christmas décor.

Holly and Bells card:

  • Apply masking fluid to bell and berry highlights
  • Apply light green wash to leaves
  • Apply darker green wash to undersides of leaves
  • Dry-brush the same shade of darker green into the center leaf fold and along major vein lines
  • Wash ribbon with light blue
  • Add small wash of darker blue along one edge
  • Wash berries with light fuchsia
  • Add dark red was to undersides of berries
  • Wash bells with medium yellow
  • Wash undersides of bells with coppery or golden yellow
  • Add small touches of dark yellow on middle “joins” and to one side of each piercing

Allow to dry, and then rub gently to remove masking fluid.


Holly and Christmas Balls Card:

  • Apply masking fluid to Christmas ball and berry highlights
  • Apply light green wash to leaves
  • Apply darker green wash to undersides of leaves
  • Dry-brush the same shade of darker green into the center leaf fold and along major vein lines
  • Wash berries with light fuchsia
  • Add dark red was to undersides of berries
  • Wash first Christmas ball with medium yellow
  • Wash its underside with coppery or golden yellow
  • Dry brush dark gold or orange around its middle
  • Wash the second Christmas ball with light blue
  • Wash its underside with medium blue
  • Dry brush violet around the middle of the second Christmas ball

Allow to dry, and then rub gently to remove masking fluid.

Finishing the painting...

Once your cards are completely dry, carefully rub off the masking fluid. Rub only those places where you have applied the masking fluid, so as not to remove any of the rest of the watercolor paint.

I left the white spaces on the leaves untouched in the finished "Holly and Christmas Balls" card, but I decided to add small, light watercolor washes in pale yellow-green to the leaves in the "Christmas Bells" card.

I rubbed small amounts of metallic powder to enhance the color of the ornaments (balls) - violet to the top of the blue ball, and copper to the bottom of the yellow ball. Then, I added small, metallic gold paint highlights to the bells and ornaments.

To finish the "Holly & Bells" card, I added decorative lettering to the front, and a holiday greeting inside. Finishing the "Holly & Christmas Balls" card required a bit more effort.

I had damaged the card stock slightly just below the ornaments, so I cut out the ornaments, and dry-mounted the painting on colored card stock. Then I added decorative lettering to the front and a Christmas greeting inside.

Holly & Bells, and Holly & Christmas Balls - finished cards

Photo by RedElf
Photo by RedElf
Photo by RedElf
Photo by RedElf
Christmas Angel pattern - photo by RedElf
Christmas Angel pattern - photo by RedElf
Christmas Angel: first set of washes - photo by RedElf
Christmas Angel: first set of washes - photo by RedElf
Finished Christmas Angel - photo by RedElf
Finished Christmas Angel - photo by RedElf

Country Angel

In painting with watercolors, the easiest way to get a white object to show up on a white card is to brush in a colored background. For added texture, you can also spatter the whole card with a fine spray of masking fluid before washing in the colored background. Then, when the card is dry, you can rub off the masking fluid, to reveal a pattern of white specks - instant snowfall.

Cute Country Angel Card:

  • Using masking fluid, cover the trim band on the angel’s skirt, all the holly leaves and berries, and the stars
  • Place a dot of masking fluid on each of the decorative black dots
  • After the masking fluid has dried, mix a light blue wash, and lightly cover the angel’s wings, bodice, and the area on her skirt above the scalloped line
  • Carry the wash out to the sides of the card, and towards the top on either side, letting the wash fade out to white by the time it reaches as high as the tops of the wings
  • Once the first wash has dried, add a deeper shade of blue to the wash to make a medium blue
  • Wash the angel’s wings, bodice, and skirt with the medium blue
  • Using a cotton swab, lift out the wash on the dress above the scalloped line, the center of the bodice and in the center of each wing, as shown
  • Let the card dry
  • Mix a dark blue, and wash the angel’s collar, wing trim, and the bottom dress trim
  • Let the card dry
  • Gently rub the masked areas to remove the masking fluid
  • Mix a gold wash and paint the angle’s hair, and the stars
  • Apply pure red to the berries
  • Apply medium green to the holly leaves
  • Let the card dry
  • Dry brush dark green over the evergreen branches, following the ink lines
  • Add a tiny circle of pink to the angel’s cheeks

Finishing the "Country Angel" card

Once the cards was completely dry, I reinforced the red of the berries and added dimensional glue to all the dots and stars. Before the glue started to dry, I sprinkled it with sparkle dust, tapping off the excess once the glue had set up (about 1/2 hour).

Then I added decorative lettering to the front, and a cheery Christmas greeting inside.

Country Angel - finished card

Photo by RedElf
Photo by RedElf

Once your cards are dry, you can hand letter your message on the inside.

Stamping a message on your Christmas card is also fun, and will add color and texture to your completed card. Many lovely and fun stamp sets in Christmas designs are available from your local craft and scrapbooking stores. I like to experiment with different colors of ink, to find just the right shade for each of the different watercolor cards. As well, a variety of specialty inks allow you to add both color and texture.

You can also have fun with your computer by printing out your message in a decorative, colored font and printing it on plain heavy paper or card stock. If you’re not sure exactly what you would like to say, look at some old greeting cards you have received for an appropriate sentiment, and then adapt it, or change it slightly for each card recipient.

You can print several Christmas greetings on one sheet of card stock, and cut them out with scrapbooking scissors to give each one a different, fancy scalloped or decaled edge.

Apply double-sided tape to the back of each message to fasten it into your completed card. You can also fasten the printed messages into the cards with decorative brads, and dainty ribbons, for a festive touch.

Making your own Christmas cards can be cheaper than buying several boxes each year and only using a few. As well, kids love making their own handmade Christmas cards. With some adult supervision for little ones with paints and scissors, creating beautiful handmade cards is a wonderfully kid-friendly Christmas activity. …and who doesn’t love to receive a Christmas greeting card they know was made especially for them?

© 2010 RedElf

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22 comments

onegoodwoman profile image

onegoodwoman 5 years ago from A small southern town

Oh my gosh!

How creative you are!


RedElf profile image

RedElf 5 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so very much, ogw - it's always fun to come up with another project.


Judy Schmoetzer profile image

Judy Schmoetzer 5 years ago from Indiana

Absolutely beautiful! Thanks for writing such detailed step by step instructions. It makes it so much easier if I decide to try this project.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 5 years ago from Canada Author

Hi, Judy - nice to see you here! so glad you found the directions clear enough to follow. ;)


Enelle Lamb profile image

Enelle Lamb 5 years ago from Canada's 'California'

I would have a ton of fun making these, but I would never get any other work done! LOL Great instructions and another great creative Christmas hub!


RedElf profile image

RedElf 5 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, Enelle - like I said, I never seem to have enough hours to get the crafts done AND all the other stuff - like housework.


akirchner profile image

akirchner 5 years ago from Central Oregon

Both your hubs are wonderful and speaking from someone who loves water colors....so lovely!


RedElf profile image

RedElf 5 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, akirchner! That is high praise indeed.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

Your painting are so livelike and that shows a good artists. They you write down how to do it makes it sound so easy. Thank you for the joy of reading.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 5 years ago from Canada Author

Hh, you are most welcome. Thanks so much for stopping by to comment.


Hendrika profile image

Hendrika 5 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

Once again thank you for the detailed instructions. I also love the video showing how to make the glitter snowflake to hand on the tree. This year my granddaughter and I simply used the glitter glue that gave reasonable results, but nothing like the result you get here.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 5 years ago from Canada Author

Once again, thank you so much for your thoughtful comments, Hendrika! The sprinkled on glitter does have a softer effect, but the pens can be easier for little fingers to handle.


rosettaartist1 profile image

rosettaartist1 5 years ago from United Kingdom

Beautiful, inspiring.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 5 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, rosettaartist1. I love to make cards every year, so it's always nice when others appreciate them, too.


katherinethorell profile image

katherinethorell 4 years ago

Thank you for the great card idea! Your work is beautiful :)


RedElf profile image

RedElf 4 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, katherinethorell. You are most welcome - hope you enjoy trying out the ideas.


luckyfind profile image

luckyfind 4 years ago

You have a really well done site, I do some water color, but I know I can always learn from others. Thank you for the ideas great instuction.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 4 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, luckyfind. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting - always nice to meet another painter.


The Dirt Farmer profile image

The Dirt Farmer 4 years ago from Maryland

Gorgeous! You make it seem so easy. This hub is a real winner. Voted up and awesome.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 4 years ago from Canada Author

The Dirt Farmer, thanks so much for stopping by to comment. It's easy enough with practice. :D


Barbara March 2 years ago

Loved reading all the instructions, now I hope I will get down and make some of them,Thank you so much .


RedElf profile image

RedElf 23 months ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much for commenting. Glad you enjoyed the hub.

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