Create a Cute Plant Bookmark with Watercolor + PencilsJul 12, 2022
Making your very own bookmark can be a fun and easy project to experiment with. And today we'll do just that! This tutorial is beginner-friendly and great for kids or anyone who has limited time to paint. It's an adorable way to mark your place in a book, journal, or planner.
Hi, I'm Lisa Griffin from The Pigeon Letters Design team, an illustrator who loves adding color, joy, and positivity to the world one illustration at a time.
- #140 lb watercolor paper (I prefer hot press but cold press works too)
- Watercolor paints/pencils (your choice/preferred brand)
- The Pigeon Letters brushes: round (2 + 6) and filbert
- Graphite pencil (sketching)
- Paint palette for mixing
- Optional: ribbon or baker's twine
Prefer watching this tutorial instead?
Step 1: Sketch Out a Few Rough Ideas
I begin by sketching some ideas for my plant and container pot. This little creative warm-up will help you figure out and then organize ideas. Once I have a general idea in mind, I then sketch out a few roughs that would be the size of my bookmark. Consider how you can add personality to your design through both the expression and style of the plant pot. I also like to handwrite a short saying or silly pun to the bottom of the design.
Grab a copy of Botanical Line Drawing to continue your exploration into nature.
Step 2: Trim Paper Down to a Bookmark Size
Trim your watercolor paper to 2.5" x 8". If you have an 8 x 10" pad of watercolor paper, you can cut your paper into quarters and have 4 bookmarks ready for painting! Super easy to work this way, especially if you are painting with a friend!
I use a paper cutter to measure and trim, but you can use a craft knife or scissors too. Simple lightly mark across the top with a pencil 2.5” in width across the long (horizontal) edge of your watercolor paper.
Step 3: Sketch a Cute Plant
With your watercolor paper trimmed to size, you can lightly sketch your bookmark design on the watercolor paper. One tip is to create a square in pencil and then draw your plant container in that square to help keep your design symmetrical. Also be sure to place the container with enough room for your plant… a hanging plant would drape down toward the bottom of your bookmark edge, but a tall plant will grow up and outward toward the top.
Once you sketch your container (don’t worry about the face, will will do that later) you can add in the foliage of your plant. I like to draw my stems and add the leaves after.
Step 4: Paint Your Plant with Watercolor
For my bookmarks, I limit my color use to a few basic colors. But if you want a more colorful palette… go right ahead! For this example, I mixed a lovely spring green color for my plant. Using the Pigeon Letters Round #2 brush, I paint from top to bottom along the stems and toward the planter pot. Once done, I dilute my green watercolor paint with a little water and begin painting the leaves. I paint several leaves at a time before adding more pigment to my brush so that there is color variation between the foliage.
Optional: I like to add a little heart to each bookmark, it’s my way of sharing some art love. You can add a heart too if you like!
Step 5: Paint the Container Pot Using a Wet-on-Wet Technique
I love to experiment and play in watercolors, so for the base of the container, I thought it would be a great spot for a wet-on-wet technique. For the large area on the plant pot that will eventually highlight the facial expression, I will be painting in a terra-cotta color. I use my Pigeon Letters filbert brush for this. Dip it in clean water, and wipe some of the access on the rim of your water jar/glass. I then lightlyI wet the base of the container with a light wash. Next I use my Pigeon Letters round brush to add the terracotta pigment to this same spot. The watercolor softly mixes with the damp paper and blends in well this way. I add a little more pigment along the base of the plant pot to add some dimension and weight.
Once the watercolor has dried, you can add more details (lines, dots, shapes, etc) but leave some space to add a little face later.
Be sure to let your layout dry completely before the next step.
Step 6: Add an Expressive Face to the Plant Container Pot
Draw in your cute plant face (happy, surprised, bored, winky, etc). Use a graphite pencil, fine-tipped marker, or watercolor pencil. I like the versatility of a watercolor pencil since you can use it dry or wet it with a brush after drawing in details…. options are good when creating!
Allow to dry completely if you decide to use watercolor pencils.
Step 7: Lightly Erase the Original Pencil Marks
When the surface of your bookmark is dry, you can lightly erase the underlying pencil marks. I don't erase them completely, as I prefer seeing "the bones" of the underlying sketch. I think it adds some authenticity to the art, while giving a peek inside the creative process. Don’t erase too hard, especially if the surface is damp or your watercolor paper isn’t a heavy weight, as this could cause your paper to tear.
Step 8: Add Lettering
Add a short message, funny pun, or friend’s name to your design. I love to handwrite a short saying along the bottom, especially one that seems to match the personality of the cute plant.
Step 9 (optional): Add Ribbon or Twine
Add a colorful ribbon or piece of bakers twine to your bookmark, if you want to have it spill outside of a book or journal. Simply punch or cut a small hole aprox .75" from the top of the bookmark and thread through a piece of ribbon/twine and knot it so that it sits in place. .
And that is it! In less than 30 minutes, you can create your very own adorable bookmark to enjoy! Or place one if a book to gift to a plant-loving person in your life.
If you want more in-depth watercolor techniques and ideas on how to draw more natural subjects, be sure to get a copy of Peggy Dean's Guide to Nature Drawing & Watercolor. It is a wonderful resource to have on your book shelf.
Thank you for creating with me. I hope you had fun playing with watercolor and pencils. Be sure to tag Peggy @thepigeonletters and me @lisamgriffinart on Instagram so I can see your cute bookmarks too!
See all of Lisa’s tutorials here!
From simple sketches, to fully rendered illustrations, Lisa spends her days making art from a cozy studio in beautiful New Hampshire. Her illustrations have been featured on stationery, decor, and over 20 children’s picture books.
Lisa infuses joy and artistry into her creations, in the hopes of adding more happiness to the world one illustration at a time.
When she is not busy in the studio, Lisa enjoys yoga, reading, being outside in the sunshine, and spending time with family and friends.