Bring Your Watercolor Paintings to Life With Embroidery!

Separately, watercolor paints and embroidery are fun. But together? That adds a whole new dimension to your work. By combining the two media, your paintings can come alive with thread — and boast a unique sculptural effect. To do this, simply stitch a piece of watercolor paper in the same way you’d sew fabric — with a few little tweaks.

Supplies You’ll Need

  • Watercolor paper (not too thick, but something that has a nice weight)
  • Watercolor paints
  • Watercolor brushes
  • Two embroidery needles
  • Awl (optional)
  • Embroidery thread
  • Embroidery scissors

Step 1: Begin Your Watercolor Painting

To begin your mixed media mashup, start with watercolor. Using your favorite watercolor paint supplies, select your subject. Look for something that has a lot of texture, or small details that would be enhanced by embroidery.

I painted a bouquet of fresh flowers. They have beautiful colors that are perfect for watercolor media. The small blooms and veins of leaves lend themselves well to fine strands of thread.

So, as you paint, use your watercolor to build the base of the image. If it’s your first time combining these techniques, go for mostly painting with some embroidery. But, be sure to leave out some details — don’t let your brush have all the fun. The simplified colors and shapes are areas to later embellish with thread.

Step 2: Select Your Favorite Thread

Once you’ve let your paint fully dry, it’s time to start on the stitching. Select a few colors of thread and a needle. Additionally, you’ll need another needle or an awl, which is a multi-use tool that’s used to punch holes into materials like paper or fabric.

Step 3: Plan Your Stitches

Here’s the big way embroidering on paper is different than fabric: You will see every little poke you make. It’s daunting to start sewing on paper because it’s so unforgiving. If you make a mistake and stitch out of place, there will always be a tiny hole in your paper. Because of this, it’s best to plan out where you’ll be stitching and the holes you’ll use.

Step 4: Play Connect the Dots!

Remember the game “connect the dots”? That’s the last step of creating paper embroidery.

Start by threading the needle and bringing it through each of the holes you made during the last step. Be delicate with your embroidery — paper doesn’t bend and stretch like fabric, so any creases or folds will show up later.

Once you become used to sewing on paper, try some of your favorite hand embroidery stitches. Personally, I love the French knot. The technique is trickier on paper, but it can definitely be done. By incorporating these stitches, you’re adding even more dimension and texture to the piece.

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