Happy Tuesday! This week, I’m excited to revisit the world of watercolor lettering – one of my favorites, for sure 🙂 When Spence and I left our previous jobs, our coworkers gifted us the book, Shadow Type, by Steven Heller and Louise Fili. The binding is already breaking on it, from obsessing over the perfectly executed lettering from back in the day. It’s high on my list of type books, without a doubt. Anyway! As I was looking through it the other day, one of the images caught my attention and I wanted to try it with watercolor. I practiced it over and over until I had a process I was happy with. This week I’m sharing that process – of how to create a debossed watercolor lettering effect.

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debossed watercolor lettering effect

Create a Debossed Watercolor Lettering Effect

Mentioned in this video:

I also mentioned a free cheat sheet (jpg) to make it easy to place shadows + highlights on your letters. Here that is:

Deboss Cheat Sheet

shadows + highlights reference

  • File type: jpg
  • Size: 564 kb
  • Minimum software version: n/a

For more watercolor lettering effects and techniques, check out my course, Brush Lettering with Watercolor!


tuesday tips

Here’s the written version of what we went over in the video:

  1. Create a watercolor wash in the color of your choice, apply to the paper and allow it to fully dry. Repeat the process 1-2 times until you have a mid-level darkness throughout.
  2. Add in a little black to your wash color to use for the first part of your shadow. Refer to the cheat sheet above and place the first shadow of your letter. Alternate between the shadow and using a white gelly roll pen for the highlights. Be sure everything is dry before moving forward.
  3. Add in a little extra black to the wash for darker shadows. Cover about half as much as the previous time to begin a manual gradient/fade for your shadow.
  4. Add in more black so your wash is very dark. Add a fine line of the black to the outermost shadow areas to complete the look with lots of contrast. Done!
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Every-Tuesday designer + founder. I help ambitious graphic designers and hand letterers level-up their skills and creativity.
Latest comment
  • What fun! Love the debossed look, Teela. Just ordered the white gel pens. Thanks for the great lesson and cheat sheet! Gotta give this a try.