Hand Lettering - Part III: Watercolour

Products 07/02/2018

Extrasmooth Recycling watercolour

In cooperation with Jennifer from styleslettering.de

Having explored alternative lettering techniques using smooth and rough Metapaper papers in our previous two blog posts, this latest posting examines the topic of watercolour. (You can find the links for part I and part II at the end of this entry.)

Lettering and watercolour drawing go hand in hand. No matter whether lettering, illustrating or creating backgrounds, all lettering lovers will eventually pick up a brush and watercolour paint.

Watercolour painting uses non-opaque watercolour paint. The colours are based on pigment and water-soluble binders and come in a variety of different colours and styles. In general watercolour painting utilises specialist watercolour papers for painting – papers which are extra-thick and water-absorbent. To meet these properties in terms of thickness, today I am testing the following papers:


ROUGH White 240 gsm
ROUGH 240gsm is the thinnest of the papers tested but this did not seem to present any problems because despite the watery colour the paper does not curl too much. The colour is quickly absorbed by the paper. In my case, the lighter shades of green are a little pale though the colour of the dark planets is very beautiful. The blue shimmering colour also comes out very well and creates an attractive finish.

Pro and con
+ Paper hardly curls
+ Dark colours show their intensity
+ Shimmering or pearly colours shine beautifully and spread well on the paper

- Bright colours come out paler

EXTRAROUGH White 430 gsm
EXTRAROUGH is nice and firm and only slightly wavy despite the water. For this illustration I used the "wet in wet" technique. The paper is firstly wet with water before the “wet” colour is applied. This is done to allow beautiful gradients to be created. Unfortunately the paper did not perform so well with this technique as the sheet dries too quickly so the colours do not blind together. The paper is better suited to techniques using less water.

Pro and con
+ Paper doesn't curl very much
+ Intensive paint application (without much water)

- Wet in wet technique works poorly because the paper dries quickly

EXTRASMOOTH Recycling White 350 gsm
My favourite in this test is the EXTRASMOOTH Recycling 350 gsm. The colour pick-up is somewhat paler but the gradients are better. I applied a lot of paint before then painting over with water. I was also able to apply golden watercolour paint opaquely. When dry the colour also retained a glint and shimmered beautifully. The paper also only displayed a small amount of curl.

Pro and con
+ Gradients and "wet in wet" technique can be painted on paper
+ Paper shows minimal curl
+ Shimmering and pearly colours have a nice finish

- Colours can soak into the sheet and can show more pale


Thicker Metapaper papers can definitely be used for watercolour drawing. The watery colours and application of water does cause the paper to curl slightly – though even watercolour papers sometimes curl! Metapaper papers perform relatively well but cannot match classic watercolour paper performance in aspects such as respecting gradients and "wet in wet" techniques as Metapaper papers, as mentioned when writing about hand lettering, are not produced primarily for these applications but rather for commercial and graphic print.

More entries in the Lettering series:
Hand lettering - Part I: Smooth Surfaces
Hand Lettering - Part II: Rough surfaces


About the Author:
I'm Jennifer and I've been hand lettering for more than two years. I love pens, paper and letters. Very often I let myself be inspired on Instagram and try out new letterings. By now, I am running a hand lettering blog (styleslettering.de) and I am particularly active on Instagram (@kmlr.design).

Photography: Styleslettering.de

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