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Archive for April 5th, 2009

Lettering with gouache can be an easy way to add a bit of color to your lettering projects.  Color inks are readily available but can sometimes be a little thin or transparent.  If you are looking for a more solid color, gouache is a nice alternative to ink and works well with a dip pen.

What you need:

  • dip pen and nib
  • tube of gouache (any color)
  • palette for mixing the paint
  • small bowl of clean water
  • small round brush for loading the pen
  • paper suitable for water-based media

A discussion of gouache, brushes and palettes can be found at the Calligraphy: Correcting Mistakes post.

Step 1: Any size and style of nib will do – I’m using a 3mm Brause nib with the reservoir on top.  Make sure the nib is clean if you have used it with ink, especially under the reservoir.  Since we are using gouache mixed with water, ink bits might dissolve and get mixed up with the gouache.

Step 2: Squeeze out a bit of your gouache color onto the palette, add a bit of clean water and mix with the brush until the paint is fairly “loose.”  Gouache dries quickly so we need to add enough water to keep it flowing from nib but not so much that the color is thin or runny.

Mixing Gouache

Mixing Gouache

Step 3: Load the brush with paint, then use the brush to swipe it across the nib reservoir to load the pen.

Loading the Pen Reservoir

Loading the Pen Reservoir

Add enough paint to fill from about 1/2 to 3/4 of the reservoir.

Loaded Pen Reservoir

Loaded Pen Reservoir

Tip:  You can also use a brush to load your pen with ink.

Step 4: Try a few short test strokes to get the paint flowing from the nib, then working quickly, try a few letters.

Gouache Letters

Gouache Letters

If you have a lot of lettering to do, make sure to clean the nib and reservoir if the gouache is beginning to dry before reloading the pen.

Lettering with gouache takes a bit of practice as it dries more quickly than calligraphy ink.  Familiarity with dip pen techniques using ink will help with gouache.  If you are having problems with dip pens, refer to the Troubleshooting a Calligraphy Dip Pen post.

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