Quietfire Design's
Techniques Gallery

Colour Blending Letters
©2008 Suzanne Cannon

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This article first appeared in the April 2006 issue of byhand

Colour Blending - Calligraphic Style

I learned this technique from Martin Jackson many years ago. It seems simple enough, but good products are the key! The photos below show you how I do it now.
If you want the full meal deal, make sure you take a class with Martin! He is the colour blending guru!

Here is what you will need:


Set yourself up with lots of elbow room and all the tools you will need. I find often that if I dilute the ink 1:1, I get a better product. There is a dropper inside the lid of the Magic Colors, so I did 5 drops of colour and 5 drops of water with a pipette into one of the Rinky Dink vials. I use the Removable tape to attach my watercolour paper to my liner.

The colours I worked with for this project were Lagoon Blue (the base colour), Gamma Green and Delta Violet (the blended colours). This gives some of my favourite combinations for an "oceany" look.

For the diluted colour, I just dipped into the Rinky Dink, but if you're using full strength ink, you can use the dropper in the bottle to load your pen. For this demo I used the 5 mm Plakat nib. Looking back, I wished I'd used the Brause 5mm for better hairlines and thicks and thins.

Make your first letter.

Sometimes the pen doesn't lay down a juicy enough amount of ink (see the photo to the left) and the watercolour paper sucks up your letter. If so, you can go back in while the area is still damp and just press your pen into the letter area to allow more ink to flood in.

Dampen your pointed brush in water and blot it on paper towel.

I droppered the Gamma Green Magic Color onto the pointed brush and touched the brush to the wet letter where I wanted the new colour. If the letter has dried out, the new ink will not blend or spread, but remain in an unattractive dab!

I should have waited until this letter dried out a little bit more before I dropped in the colour! It would have blended better.

Here you can see the Gamma Green blending into the Lagoon Blue and spreading. You can tip your page to encourage spreading. Mind you, this letter was a bit too juicy around the bowl of the D to attempt that.....

If you have too much ink in your letter, there is a solution. Just like when you paint with watercolours, you can twirl a tissue or paper towel into a fine point and go into the puddle to suck out excess colour and moisture.

Dampen your other pointed brush, blot, then dropper the Delta Violet onto the brush. Touch your brush to the part of the letter where you want the new colour.

(Not bad for a photo where I was holding the camera upside down so I could press the button and looking through the view screen and drop in Delta Violet colour!)

You can see the colour spreading, but in retrospect, I wish I had diluted the Delta Violet as it overpowered the Lagoon Blue. Once again, I could have waited till the base colour dried a bit more.

Keep in the back of your mind that, just like in watercolour painting, some colours move better than others. You may get a nicer effect using a different combination of colours or diluting the ones you're working with.


Here is another letter (sorry it's a bit out of focus - another left handed upside down photo). I had diluted the Delta Violet by this time and it was blending much more subtly than before.

Here is the completed word, still wet.

Timing is very important for this technique and only a bit of practice will allow you achieve the results you want. Any rhythm you might normally have when you are lettering goes out the window as you must blend each letter when it's wet. Sometimes if I'm particularly bold, I'll get a couple done at a time. Stopping to take photos is not recommended!! The letterforms and spacing go down the tube!

This is a great technique! Try it!

You can use just one blending colour or more than 2 - it's up to you!

Calligrapher Thomas Hoyer, who lettered Suzanne to the left, colour blends with brilliant Ecoline Inks! See more of his artwork in the SeptOctNov 2007 byhand Newsletter.


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© 2007
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