D. Michele Perry is a watercolor and mixed-media fine artist and author whose art and writing explore the connection, courage, and curiosity rooted in wonder as a daily practice, the beauty of the natural world, and the power of our unfolding stories. Learn more about Michele and her work in our blog post on the making of the hand-painted planner collection. Today, Michele is sharing six easy steps to create your very own hand-painted planner. Take it away, Michele!
After collaborating with Appointed on a dream project of creating bespoke hand-painted covers, I thought there might be some of you who would like to add some whimsical fine art accents to your own planner.
One of the few things I love more than making art is sharing the joy of seeing others tap into their unique creativity and expression. You don’t need to be a professional artist to add some simple touches to turn your planner into a one-of-a-kind statement piece that showcases your story and style.
Step One: Collect Inspiration
Before getting into the details of supplies and paint, the first thing to do is decide what you want to paint and where.
If painting is new to you, keep it simple and paint a small flower or embellishment in a corner or around the foiled stamp on the front cover. If you are more comfortable with painting, create several elements on the cover or even an all-over pattern. If you aren’t comfortable painting on the cover, try painting on the inside of the cover or the first few interior pages.
My go-to sources of inspiration are the natural world and motifs from fabric and pattern design. Doing research before I ever sit down to sketch or paint helps my creations have intentional meaning and feel cohesive.
I find ideas and references online at sites like Pinterest, Unsplash, and Pixabay. I’m also endlessly inspired by flowers from my garden, plants at garden centers, favorite parks, images I’ve collected over the years, museums, children’s literature, and even product packaging.
Step 2: Sketch and Play with Ideas
Once you have an idea of what you want to paint thematically, grab a pencil and paper. If you have watercolors, colored pencils, or even crayons, this is a wonderful time to try different color combinations. Keeping the palette limited to roughly five colors helps the finished product feel cohesive and intentional.
Keep in mind the base color of your task planner when thinking about the colors you might want to paint on the cover. For example, the Sienna cover was the perfect base for the whites and neutral tones of magnolia and olive branches. But it wouldn’t have worked all that well for pink peonies.
If you aren’t sure which colors to choose, hold options up to your planner cover and see how they look. You could say this is the equivalent of holding up paint chips before you settle on a new wall color in your room.
Step Three: Practice Sketching and Decide Placement
When I paint an all-over floral pattern, I usually pick four to five primary floral elements. Then, I add smaller repetitive flowers and abstract doodles to fill in the space without becoming overwhelming. You can also use simple details like dotted lines around butterflies or dragonflies to create a sense of motion and activity. For another option, choose your favorite two or three elements and keep it simple.
Depending on what motifs you choose, keeping things minimal can create an elevated, serene result. Sometimes less really is more. And there’s no rush. Take time in between steps. If you're unsure, set it down and come back to it later with fresh eyes.
Step Four: Gather Your Supplies
For painting on the cover, you’ll need an HB #2 pencil, a Pentel Clic eraser (it’s the one brand I tested that had the least smudge factor on the bookcloth cover), a super-tiny paintbrush (I used a 3/0 sized round brush by Princeton select with synthetic bristles), acrylic paint, gold metallic paint, and matte varnish. You’ll also want to have a water jar, paper towel, and a plate for mixing your paint. Here is an easy shopping list on Amazon.
Step Five: Sketch and Paint Your Design
Take your pencil and lightly sketch the design elements on your cover. If you make a mistake, use the Pentel Clic eraser to gently erase it. When you are happy with the sketch, it’s time to paint.
Acrylic paints dry quickly, so it's best to work in one to two colors at a time. Make sure to keep your brush moist and clean as acrylic paint hardens and is almost impossible to remove from your brush after it dries.
Add in gold metallic accents as desired. They are amazing as little filler dots or centers of flowers.
Use as little paint on the brush as you can. That will help make it easier to control and create fine details. If the paint is too thick, thin it down with a very little bit of water. Just barely kiss the tip of the brush to the paint. The less paint on the brush and the lighter the pressure used when painting, the easier it will be to have a delicate touch.
If you are new to painting in acrylic, I’d recommend practicing on a piece of cardstock until you're comfortable.
Step Six: Seal Your Work
Using a matte varnish, paint a thin layer over the designs you've painted. Don’t varnish the whole cover. Just the specific places you embellished. Let it dry.
When it’s dry, take time to celebrate! If you are so inclined, snap a photo and share it on social media. Make sure to tag us with your creations @dmicheleperry and @appointedco. I am so excited to see what you will create!