Blackletter Watercolor Techniques (Part 2 of 2)

In the previous post, we covered the all of the tools and materials you’ll need to create beautiful blackletter watercolor calligraphy.

Now it’s time to take it a step further and see what can really be done when you push the limits with these watercolor calligraphy techniques.
To get started, get your workspace set up with the following materials.

  • Watercolor inks
  • Automatic pen
  • Water vessel
  • A brush
  • Paper towels
Ideal watercolor calligraphy workspace

Color Blending

One of the coolest aspects of watercolor is how you can blend shades together to create beautiful gradients. Not to mention, it’s incredibly easy.

Abstract watercolor calligraphy by Jake Rainis

When blending colors, you’ll want to do so when your letterforms are still wet. This allows the newly applied ink to blend with the previously applied ink.

To blend colors, follow these steps:

  • Apply your stroke or letterform to the paper with one color.
  • Dip your brush into water to ensure there’s no other pigment stuck to it.
  • Dip the brush into a new color.
  • Gently dab the stroke or letterform.

The colors should race into each other and create a beautiful visual effect. If this doesn’t happen, it’s because your stroke or letterform was not wet enough.

When it comes to color blending, it’s best to work as fast as you can (without compromising quality and precision) or break your piece up into several segments.

Color Reduction

Try taking a brush that is wet with water and paint within the stroke or letterform to reactivate the watercolor. This will allow the colors to blend once again when a new pigment is applied. However, if you don’t blend the color further, it will lighten the previously applied pigment.

Reduction watercolor technique

This is a great way to create a gradient variation within your stroke or letterform. Additionally, you can do this to a dark color to lighten areas of the stroke or letterform — and then apply a lighter color.

Watercolor calligraphy by Jake Rainis

When utilizing the color reduction technique, try dabbing the stroke or letterform with a clean sheet of paper towel. This will lift excess color and leave the dabbed area with a lighter shade of the color.


Watercolor is a magical medium and because of the pigment’s water base, it’s easy to achieve some neat textural effects.

Paper Towel Blending

Blend some colors together, but use a generous amount of ink — almost to the degree that it’s pooled within the stroke or letterform.

Now take a clean paper towel and dab that color blended area. The result should be a lightened version of the blended colors with the splotchy texture of a paper towel.

Blended watercolor calligraphy by Jake Rainis

Water Splattering

This is one of my favorite effects. When your piece is finished (but still wet), splatter some water on to the composition. Then, use your brush to blend color into the water droplets.

Textured watercolor calligraphy by Jake Rainis


Salting? Yeah! My brother taught me this one. If you’ve lived in a part of the world where things freeze during the winter, you’ve probably put salt down on walking areas so people don’t slip. Salt melts ice and absorbs water, even at freezing temperatures.

You can apply this science to your watercolor calligraphy as well. Get some household table salt and sprinkle it on to a relatively thin coat of watercolor ink. Wait for the ink to dry, then gently brush the salt off. You’ll be left with a cool cauliflower-like texture.

Textured watercolor calligraphy by Jake Rainis

Video Demonstration

I was going to create a video to demonstrate the powers of watercolor calligraphy — but I must give credit where it’s due. I learned the majority of these techniques from Francesco Guerrera (AKA @fralligraphy)’s video tutorial and there’s no way I could possibly top it. Enjoy!

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