Watercolour letters with Schmincke HORADAM® AQUARELL - by Julia Faßhauer

The trendy technique of "watercolour letters" is very versatile, and it is a delight for beginners and advanced users alike. In this blog the font artist Julia Faßhauer shows us step by step how to colour a graphically designed motto with different HOARADAM® watercolours.

You will need:

  • Colours: Schmincke HORADAM® AQUARELL tubes: 475 Helio turquoise, 214 Chromium orange hue and 354 Madder red dark
  • Brushes: Size 2, da Vinci Nova Synthetics
  • Paper: Watercolour Paper DIN A4, mat, e.g. Hahnemühle
  • Pencil


Presketch of the watercolour letters, if needed onepiece of carbon paper for transferThe sketch can be printed and transferred.


I sketched the motto "We rise by lifting others" in advance with even proportions. I scanned the final drawing and provided it as PDF for download. In handlettering, the interplay between curved script fonts and straight fonts with and without serifs is particularly interesting. I will create shadows and bring out the individual words through their arrangement, colour and contours.

Step 1

Firstly, I transfer my preliminary drawing to the watercolour paper. This can be done, for example, with carbon paper or by colouring the back of your preliminary drawing with a soft pencil and then tracing it. Thus, the pencil pigments on the contours will be transferred to the watercolour paper. The preliminary drawings can be very bright, so you will nearly not see them later.

Step 2

On my palette I thin Helio turquoise with water (three different mixing ratios) to obtain darker and lighter tones. I mix a sufficient amount of colour. If I would try to remix a tone later, it probably wouldn't work well to achieve the exact tone, so better mix more colour in advance.

Step 3

In the next step I take the "darkest" of the three Helio turquoise tones and colour the word "WE" accurately. I work as fast as possible to get an even surface.

Step 4

The next word to be coloured is "LIFTING". It should getthe effect of three geometric shadows to emphasize the meaning of the word. I use the same tone as in step 3 and carefully colour the lowest shadow. Here I proceed quite slowly, because the areas are very small, and I want to achieve clean edges.

Step 5

In step 5, I take the middle of the three Helio turquoise colours and colour the remaining two areas. Here, I proceed very slowly, too. The upper part should be the brightest. It is important to let the individual parts dry well so that the wet colours do not flow into the other parts. Then, after complete drying of all parts, I will paint the word "LIFTING" with the lightest of all Helio turquoise mixtures.

Step 6

While the word "LIFTING" dries, I work on the word "RISE". I mix the madder red just with a little water and colour the letter very carefully and quickly. Firstly, I contour the outlines of my preliminary drawing and then colour the areas.

Step 7

Until "RISE" has dried, I continue with the light orange and the word "OTHERS". Here it is particularly important that the blue colour of "LIFTING" is already dry. With the thinned with water Chromium orange hue I colour the letters. Here, I start colouring the contour and then the surface. Thus, I geta uniformly coloured appearance.

Step 8

In order not to blur the wet colour, I turn my paper by 180°.A fter that, I dilute my red with more water and get a lighter pink tone. I colour the word "BY" which appears in front of the RISE and the LIFTING. As this word is bright, it is important that all previous contours have been worked out in an exact way.

Step 9

The finishing effects can be applied to the last word. For a colourful effect, I will outline the letters with a darker orange colour. Therefore, I add a little more of the Chromium orang h ue to intensify the tone. Now, I work very slowly and very precisely with the tip of my brush. In this last step hold on your breath and makes ome breaks. If the hand trembles, you will not achieve clean contours.