Sunday, February 27, 2011

Personalised baby card

Today we will look at how to design and paint a personalised baby card.

These are very easy and hugely popular. I know that even though I can produce these myself I would have loved to have been given hand-painted cards when my babies were born, as baby cards always have a very special significance to me. I keep them all in a big shoebox covered in pretty wrapping paper, and I look at them occasionally and feel all soft and melty inside...

Luckily my friend's baby is called Anna, which has four letters, like the word "baby". So it was pretty easy to come up with a design. I decided I would do the baby's name underneath the corresponding letters in the word "baby" above it. However, if the baby has a longer name, just leave out the word "baby" and make the card a bit longer. Besides unusual shapes are always nice, and they stand out from the others.

Here's a card I did for my daughter's birthday two weeks ago:

The more observant among you will notice that I did not alternate the colours in "congratulations" correctly. This is because I lost my concentration for a second, even though I had told myself to be careful. I was in a big hurry as I only had about half an hour to design and paint it, as I had just completed that painting of the ladies on the beach, and I think it was about half past midnight the night before my daughter's birthday when I finally was able to start this card.


My daughter loves ducklings so they have been a bit of a motif in her life. I thought it would be nice to tie in the design on the inside by having a little duckling say the "Happy Birthday" bit. If you can think of anything personal like that for your card, it makes it that bit nicer.

But back to the baby card for the moment.

I will be using the usual technique of drawing onto nice heavy cartridge paper (the Daler Rowney "Ebony" type) that will withstand lots of rubbing out and messing about.

1.Take your 2B or 3B pencil. Lightly and loosely write the letters you want to use in capitals (much better than using lower case letters, as you will have far fewer curves to contend with, and straight lines are always easier).

2. Carefully make the letters "fat" by enlarging them around each of the letters. You will probably make lots of mistakes - I did. Make sure the holes in the middle of each letter are the same as all the others of the same letter - uniformity is really important and the letters will look messy if you disregard it. For example, the little triangles inside the letter A in "Baby" and "Anna" must all be roughly the same size.

3. Next, do some sort of little embellishment on the letters themselves, or, as I did, sitting on the letters. I decided to use little cuddly toys of different species as I thought they could look cute. You could do flowers, building blocks, little trains, rattles...come on, we've all seen baby cards!

4. It's nice to have some of the little objects in the foreground, overlapping the letters behind them. Just draw away and rub out the bits of letter they overlap.

5. Next, do some patterns on the letters. I seem to be obsessed with polka dots and stripes so they always feature largely in my work, but you can do anything you like. You could even copy some cute wallpaper patterns, or find some article or other on interiors in a magazine and pick out a pattern to copy. You will have noticed that I drew guidelines in order for the patterns to be nice and evenly-spaced.

6. When you are happy enough, trace over the design using the good-quality tracing paper I mentioned. You will end up with a clean design that is easy to transfer to watercolour paper.

I haven't been too careful with the patterns as I knew I would be able to do them easily enough onto the watercolour paper, but if you are less confident just trace exactly as you have drawn.

7. Draw over the pattern on the back of the tracing paper with no harder a pencil than a 2B, or it will be hard to transfer the line onto the watercolour paper. To transfer the pattern, scribble over all your lines quite firmly - and, most importantly, don't let the tracing paper move about! You can use a bit of masking tape if you like. You will also find lots of pencil smudges will appear on your beautiful piece of watercolour paper but they are easily removed with a good pencil rubber.
As you can see, the transferred drawing will be extremely faint. This is good, because you want the colour to stand out more than the pencil lines. You may wish to re-do the pencil lines for definition when you have finished - but you may not, and this way you have the choice. You can go over the faint traces in a very light hand if you want.

8. Making up the card: Once I transferred the drawing to the watercolour paper, I cut the card to size. To do this I first scored very lightly across the top of the card, just above the design, with a Stanley knife and a square (the fold is across the top as it would not fit in the other sense on my piece of paper). If you score very lightly, you won't cut through the paper. Be careful - it's easy to cut the paper in two by accident. Then you simply cut off the card at the edge of the design, then fold the card over. The score that you made means it will fold nicely. Don't try to fold heavy watercolour paper without scoring it first - it won't work and will look really amateur-ish.

Next post: Painting the card!

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