DIY Craft Project: How to Make Colorful Bookmarks Using Easy Watercolor Techniques
It's easy to make your own colorful bookmarks using some simple watercolor techniques and materials. A fun project for artists of all ages, handmade bookmarks are a great way to enhance your enjoyment of reading!
April is National Library Month in the United States
Celebrate by making your own bookmarks with your family and friends! There are so many wonderful and fun watercolor techniques that will create lovely bookmarks regardless of your artistic experience or skill.
Materials for Bookmarks
Watercolor paper, or paper for watercolor painting, comes in a few forms. You can buy loose sheets of watercolor paper, pads of paper, or watercolor blocks. Loose sheets are usually larger 20 by 30 inch pages. These sheets can be cut down to a smaller size to use.
Pads of watercolor paper come in a variety of sizes. You can even buy postcard size pads of watercolor paper. These might be good if you are making bookmarks with very small children. You can let the children decorate these smaller sheets, let them dry, then cut them lengthwise into small bookmarks.
Watercolor blocks are pads of paper that are sealed on all the sides. This allows for the paper to dry flat. You leave the paper in the pad as you use it, then remove it from the pad once it is dry. These blocks are usually a bit more expensive than a pad or single sheets of watercolor paper.
Watercolor paper will wrinkle a little bit when it gets wet and dries. Ordinarily when using loose sheets of watercolor paper, you would tape the paper down on a hard work surface as you paint and let it dry before removing it. This allows the paper to dry flat. However, I wouldn't worry too much about wrinkles. These bookmarks are going to be placed inside of books and you can just press them between a few books to flatten them before use.
Watercolor paints come in a couple of forms: either in flat dishes (called pans) or in tubes. Either will work great for these bookmarks. The sets with the little dishes are less expensive and have a combination of colors in them. These sets are particularly good for children.
You will also need a watercolor brush (most sets include a brush), a dish for mixing water with your paints (you can use a paper plate) and some small containers for water. Also keep some paper towels handy for cleaning your brush, blotting your paints, and for quick clean ups.
Wax Resist Technique for Making Watercolor Bookmarks
One of the best watercolor techniques for making creative bookmarks is wax resist using a white crayon, grease pencil, or even a candle! The wax in these materials acts as a resist against the water in the paints, leaving the area that you've marked with your crayon or grease pencil white while the area around it fills with paint color.
You can see from my example how the white crayon and grease pencil writing shows up against the paint. The candle would also do the same, but my candle was a bit bulky to write with, and my sample got a little messy.
To Begin Creating Your Watercolor Bookmarks
1. With a ruler and light pencil, measure out and mark the outline for your bookmark. I made my bookmarks of different sizes, but between 2" and 3" wide and roughly 6" to 8" long. I made my bookmarks larger if I wanted to make a more complicated design on them.
You can make the top of your bookmark rounded or pointed if you like. You may want to leave about 1/2" at the top to punch a hole and add a tassle when you're finished with your bookmark.
2. Using a white crayon, white grease pencil, or a white candle, draw your design on your bookmark. Your design does not need to be fancy or complicated. Some simple wavy lines or squiggles will look great when you add the watercolor. You can also draw flower shapes or add words on your bookmark.
3. When your drawing is done, mix a little bit of your paint with your water to begin painting. The more water you add to your paint colors, the lighter it will appear on your paper. You can make your colors darker by adding more paint, or by going over an area with your color until to get the shade you want.
You can blend colors together by layering them on top of each other. Above, I kept layering my blue paint to make it darker, then added purple towards the bottom to create a gentle transition of color down my bookmark. This is an easy technique that creates a beautiful result!
You can also allow two colors to bleed into each other by adding some clean water to your painting and letting the neighboring colors move into this area.
If your paper begins to get too wet or your colors too messy, you can blot your paint surface with a paper towel to soak up the excess water or paint. Then you can begin to work on your painting again.
Try Using Salt as a Resist in Watercolor Painting
Another fun watercolor technique to try when making bookmarks is a salt resist. Salt will absorb the water in the paint and leave white speckles on the paper. To use this technique:
1. Put down your watercolor paint on your paper. Quickly sprinkle salt over your paint area (kosher salt or larger grain salt works better, but you can use table salt too. Spread a generous amount if you are using table salt).
2. The salt will start to soak up the water and paint where it lands. Let the paint dry completely. Once the surface is dry, brush off the salt grains from your paper. Some may stick, but you can just scrap them off with your fingernails or a table knife.
Finishing Your Watercolor Bookmarks
Once your watercolor paint is completely dry, you can add other details and embellishments to finish your bookmarks.
1. You can use color pencils or crayons to add more color or detail to your design. This is a great way to add a personal note or saying to your bookmark.
2. You can glue on some sequin or glitter to add more decoration to your surface. I suggest just adding thin embellishments on your bookmark since you want it to be flat to use in a book.
3. You can also use some decorative edge scissors to cut out your bookmarks. This adds a pretty design to the edges of your finished piece.
4. Or leave a little border around your bookmark, and trim it with some washi tape for a pop of color and to make a clean finished edge.
5. Lastly, you can punch a hole in the top center of your bookmark to add a tassel made from ribbon or yarn. A few strands of different colored yarn or ribbon will add some fun to your bookmark!
I hope you have fun making and using these wonderful watercolor bookmarks!
Copyright © 2015 by Donna Herron. All rights reserved.