A few nights ago, as I was patiently awaiting for some of Mr Sandman’s dust to reach my eyelids, I got struck instead with an idea that kept me awake for more than I was planning for. The next day I put the idea into practice. It’s a very simple idea. That’s the beauty of it: simple ideas are the best. A Valentine’s Day Card idea with a little twist. 

Here’s the video of my little project. This is the first video that I posted on youtube, so please bear with me while I improve my skills with this new “talent”. This is a time-lapse of my watercolor painting session.


  You probably guessed why I’m painting a heart…: Valentine’s Day is around the corner. A special greeting card for my special Valentine. It’s not an ordinary card, purchased from the store across the street. He could frame it, too… (although I don’t imagine my guy hanging hearts above his desk, but, hey, you never know).

Want to learn how I painted it? Here are the steps:

  1. Gather your materials: – watercolor paper (I used Strathmore 140lb watercolor paper; you can use any watercolor paper you prefer: Canson, Reeves, etc; I prefer thick watercolor paper, that doesn’t pill and doesn’t warp with water).  watercolors (I used Rembrandt professional watercolors, but you can use any watercolor sets from your local store. I discovered some sets with really beautiful tints, great for illustrations).  a soft brush for watercolors; – table salt (yes, the one you put in your food).

  2. Decide on a paper size to match an unfolded greeting card. I drew a fine line where the fold line would be. I did not fold the paper yet. Instead, I taped the paper to my drawing board.

  3. Draw a simple heart shape on the front right part of the greeting card, then paint it just with plain water (no colors), making sure to define the shape and the edges (this determines how sharp it will look). Tip: make sure to go over all spots and re-run the brush over the damp spots, because the paper absorbs part of the water and some of it also evaporates pretty quickly. You want your paper to stay moist for a while.

  4. Start painting. You have to work fast, to take advantage of the wet effects of the paper. Here’s the trick about this part: use several variations of red. Most watercolor sets now come with a few options: a deeper, darker red (magenta, usually), a brighter, more orange-y red (vermillion or other) and in-between versions. If you only have one option of red, then combine the red with a bit of yellow; separately, mix the red with a bit of purple. You’ll obtain modulations of red.

  You don’t have to overthink this process. Quickly dip the brush in the colors, mix them up and start putting them on the paper. You’ll start seeing how the water underneath will begin creating interesting migrating effects and the nuances will start to blend.

  5. The last part (here comes the salt!) is sprinkling salt over the work. Then wait. If you watched my last part of the video, you’ll find it kind of… boring (?) – apparently nothing happens. Just watch a little closer though: notice how the paint surface becomes speckled with tiny light colored spots, like stars? The salt attracts the water (and the color, along with it), rendering discolored areas.

  a) Salt was just sprinkled. 

  b) Salt begins to draw up the water. 

  c) Final result. Yep. Those are the salt effects. Not blood vessels. 

  That’s it. Wait for it to dry out (use a hair dryer, if needed), remove the tape, fold it and Boom! You have a Valentine’s Day greeting card – A DIY that you can be proud of. Your kid could do this. If you’re a teacher, you could play with your little students in your art class.

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  If you dare to be even more creative, grab some markers or another brush and write a beautiful text on top of the heart. My approach to this was through Photoshop. I scanned in my painting, then I applied the text digitally. Here are a few examples:

This pillow is from my Redbubble store. 

You can find this card in my Zazzle store. 

   The text I used was kindly provided to me by Alexandra Vasiliu, a gifted love poetry writer from Massachusetts. By the way, check out this love poetry book written by her. The book is fully illustrated by me: “Through the Heart’s Eyes”. (Bragging time: it makes a great Valentine’s day gift!)

Next? Turning a simple heart into a collection of hearts (a pattern)

  The process of generating a repeat pattern can be done through Photoshop or Illustrator or other image processor, or even by hand. I used Photoshop’s Offset feature. For the purpose of this post, I won’t go into the details of this process, as it would be too long and technical. I might write a separate blog post about it, in the future. If you are interested in such a post, send me your feedback in the comments. 

This simple pattern can be used on lots of Valentine’s Day gift ideas. Here are a few of mine: 

Valentine's day face mask with red hearts and flowers

  Thinking that she/he will be buried in too many hearts?… There’s hope for other kinds of gifts, without the sweetness of red hearts. Check out this post about several awesome gift baskets I’ve put together: “7 Color Coordinated Gift Basket Ideas”

Happy Valentine’s day!

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Author: Andreea Dumez

Author: Andreea Dumez

Artist in-chief

Andreea Dumez is an illustrator and surface pattern designer, helping people find their inner colors and decor ideas.

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