Sharing all about brush lettering on canvas using acrylic paint, water and a brush for this brush stroke-y effect I used for my living room art.
I made this large canvas for my living room years ago for a living room makeover. I hustled to get it done – a last minute DIY that I wasn’t sure would work out how I’d envisioned. It did… and more than 4 years later I still get SO many questions about this piece- I’m excited to answer them today!
If you’ve followed me for anytime at all- you’ll know that I LOVE brush lettering. So much so, that I teach a full course on it. But the questions I get about this project aren’t usually about HOW to brush letter- but how to get the ink and brush effect with paint on a canvas. So I’m going to focus on that!
But first… a little bit about brush lettering! Brush lettering is a type of hand lettering that’s traditionally done with a brush, but now more often than not with a brush marker. The lettering features a heavier downstroke (thicker line) and thinner upstroke. This is achieved through the pressure and angle of your brush as you letter.
If you’re new to lettering- I find the biggest ‘ah-ha’ moment for me was changing my thinking about lettering from writing to drawing letters. Pick your brush up as often as you need! If you want more information on HOW to brush letter- I’d love to invite you to join my brush lettering e-course! Find out more about it right here :)
OK, so for this project, you’ll just need a canvas (I buy the affordable ones from Michaels, HomeSense or Jysk whenever I see them on sale), acrylic paint, water, and a round paint brush.
The paint I’ve used here is a multi surface acrylic craft paint from Deco-Art. I used this on my entry mat as well and it’s held up really well. This art is going to go in my bathroom to covers some shelves built into the wall so I wanted it to hold up to moisture and being touched lots (hoping to put it on hinges).
I find brush lettering easiest to do with a round brush. I used a size 4 for this piece. This brush is one of my favourites and it came with a kids set of paints… so I guess I’m saying you don’t need a fancy brush ;)
Start by sketching out your design. I used pencil and sketched this in my sketch book then directly on to my canvas, lightly in pencil. You can easily erase pencil lines once your paint dries. If you want to trace a font or stencil your lettering, you could do that too.
Once you have your design on your canvas, it’s time to get painting! Mix you paint with a little bit of water in a small cup or ramekin. Add just a little bit of water at a time until you get a consistency you’re happy with. Test out the consistency on a piece of scrap paper. You want the acrylic to be be thick enough that it holds pigment and will leave voids (unlike watercolour where the fill is smooth) but with enough water that you can paint a downstroke the length you desire without having to reload your brush with more paint. Play on scrap paper, practicing your strokes until you’re happy with the consistency, then get painting your lettering on canvas!
A few things I have found helpful as I paint my lettering on canvas. The first is to again consider painting letters a separate art from writing. Pick up your paint brush, friend! I can’t emphasize this enough. Anywhere your stroke changes direction or crosses over another stroke is a great place to pick up and reload your brush or reposition your hand/grip. Just make sure not to pick up halfway through a downstroke. It will be hard to match the natural voids that happen in those downstrokes- they are better to be left continuous and add more paint after the fact if your brush is running low.
I also find that I prefer to paint downward strokes. You’ll see in the video, I start out lettering as I normally do, but partway through I realize my upstrokes are so shaky on the bumpy canvas. I painted these in downward motions after that. I know what brush lettering looks like so for me to do that was easy to maintain the shapes- thin upstrokes and thick downstrokes, even while painting in a downward motion for all strokes.
Alright- that’s really it! I end the video with a little pep talk on creativity. If you are new to lettering (even if you’re not!) it’s a great clip where I share how I criticize my own work and how we can work on our mindset to embrace those flaws in our work.
I may frame this out like the one from over my fireplace- or I might leave it as is until I remodel my bathroom. I have a great simple tutorial on framing canvases coming up in the next couple of weeks- can’t wait to share you!