Easy Monochromatic Calligraphy Painting

I was invited over to a friend’s house for iftar, and I wanted to take a small gift with me, since it was the first time she invited me over to her home (and my parents always do that.) But I didn’t want to run out to the store to get something and decided to make something instead.  Now, two of my friends (they’re sisters!) are going to study abroad for a semester, and I wanted to give them something they could put up in their dorm rooms.

Introducing: Easy Monochromatic Calligraphy Painting

Easy Calligraphy Painting

This is a fun, easy, and fast DIY calligraphy painting!  I’ve found it a great gift to give.  The two occasions I’ve given these kinds of paintings to friends for are as a house-warming/thanks for inviting me over gift or as a going away gift.

By no means am I a painter, and this painting takes basic painting skills.  If I can do it and make it look this good, anyone can do it!  Since I already had some of the things (like paintbrushes), I’m going to estimate these costing me under $4/painting (and I tried to add the amount of spray adhesive and varnish in, too.)

Skill Level/Difficulty: Easy

Age Range: 9+

Cost: $-$$ out of $$$$

Time: 25 minutes-1 hour

What You’ll Need:

  • Canvas, the one I used is 7 by 14, but I’ve done this one on a 11 by 14 in the past (Walmart)
  • 1 acrylic paint color and white (Walmart)
  • Paintbrushes (I used 4)
  • Varnish (mine is in a spray can and is a high gloss finish, Walmart)
  • Stencil, optional
  • Spray adhesive, optional (“Easy Tak” from Michael’s, but Walmart might have it)

Instructions:

  1. Plan out your painting, either by sketching it on a piece of paper or by looking at your canvas.  Decide on what words you want on your painting and where they will go.  Choose the color of your painting.
  2.  Prepare your work space and get the things you’ll need.  Begin the painting by painting the background.  I only use one paint color, and then add white as I keep going down the canvas to make the background have a gradient.  You will have to use your judgment on how much paint you’ll need as you go, and I always add one drop of white paint to the paint pile I’m using.  That way, going from dark to light (and top to bottom) of the canvas is easy, and I have a better control over the change of the color and the gradient looks smoother. Use a large paintbrush to paint a base coat with moderate coverage.  Once the coat is nearly dry, paint another coat with heavier coverage, this coat will give body to the painting.  Finally, I use a medium-sized, dry paintbrush to go back and add the finishing touches to make the background look streaky.  Add some of lighter accents to the darker area, and add some darker accents to the lighter section, and this is when using one color really comes to the rescue.  I like the streaky look, and I have found it to be forgiving when doing a gradient background like this, especially if there are some imperfections in how the gradient has been painted (which is always true for me).  I find that using a dry/clean paintbrush with a tiny bit of paint works the best for the last stage of painting.
    Paintbrushes

    Paintbrushes

    To get the seafoam color, I had to mix the paint myself (which isn't the best idea.) For the green one, I just used the green.

    To get the seafoam color, I had to mix the paint myself (which isn’t the best idea, just in case you underestimate the amount of paint you need, and then can’t mix the same color again.) For the green one, I just used the green.

Base Coat

Base Coat

Final Background

Final Background

3. Next, you’ll do the calligraphy part.  If you have a similar skill level to me, then you will most likely be hesitant to sketch straight on your canvas, or even trust yourself to create a nice-looking word or two!  This is when the stencil comes in handy 🙂 I go onto the computer, find something I like or create something myself.  I print it out on a piece of paper, grab a thick plastic sheet (I use old tab-dividers for binders), and trace the design onto the plastic.  I always tape up the paper and divider up to a window in the day time where I can easily see the outline.  Then, take an Exacto knife and start cutting away.  I have been making stencils for a long time, so just be careful on choosing the design and make sure it’s something that can be looked at as a silhouette, and figure out how to cut it.

"Allah" Stencil

“Allah” Stencil

Once you’ve got your stencil, the great thing is that you can use it over and over again!  Line up your stencil where you want it, and then here’s where the spray adhesive comes in.  Take your stencil outside and lightly spray the back of it with the spray adhesive.  Take a piece of scratch paper, and press your stencil down on it, just to take away any of the glue clumps that might ruin  your painting!  If you’ve missed a spot on your stencil and it isn’t sticking, then you can respray and make sure to blot off the glue on the scratch paper again.  The stencil should retain some stickiness, and then place the stencil onto the canvas and make sure it’s staying down.

Spray Adhesive for Stencil

Spray Adhesive for Stencil

4. It’s time to paint inside the stencil!  If you took your time to make a clean stencil with a thick enough plastic, and you used the spray adhesive, you should be fine just painting directly inside the stencil without tracing it.  If you’d rather trace it and then paint it, feel free to do so. But painting inside the stencil is so much faster and easier.  You may choose to hold down the stencil to keep the paint from bleeding outside/underneath it.  I ended up doing three coats of white.  I like using a thinner brush for this to keep me from globbing paint around everywhere and it results in a neater finish with less noticeable brush strokes.

Hold Down the Stencil

Hold Down the Stencil

Stencil Position, One Coat

Final Painted Stencil

So, once you let the paint dry inside the stencil, you can take it off.  You might see there is still a bit of bleeding out, but that will be covered up with the outlining!

Removed Stencil

Removed Stencil, Messy

Close-Up of Messy Stencil

Close-Up of Messy Stencil

5. Outline your calligraphy using a thin brush. This isn’t the thinnest brush in the set I have, and I like the slightly thicker one better because it gives me a thicker line and results in an outline that is consistently around the same thickness.  The outlining doesn’t have to be perfect, and the background’s streaky aesthetic lends itself to some imperfections in outlining.  I load my brush frequently, just so that it looks substantial and I don’t have to come back and add another coat (which would make it look really messy). And you can add your signature 🙂

Outlining Close-Up

Outlining Close-Up

Completed Outline

Completed Outline

6. The last thing you need to do is finish it with varnish once the paint has dried completely.  This is a step you don’t want to skip because the varnish seals the paint, helping it keep its color.  The varnish I use has a “high gloss” finish, and I love the look of it. Varnish is also meant to be done outside, just to keep the air in your home un-toxic.

Varnish

Varnish

And that’s it! I hope you try this out in time for Eid, and it could also be an idea for a painting party!

Finished Calligraphy Paintings

Here are some pictures showing the same process for the green one.

Green Background 1

Green Background Base

Final Green Background

Final Green Background

Green Calligraphy Stencil

Green Calligraphy Stencil

Green with Varnish

Green with Varnish

And I made one more for their other sister!

And I made one more for their other sister!

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