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Creative Planning with Watercolor

I am so excited to begin this series of watercolor planning. I want to encourage you to try it too! I’ll share a few easy-to-find and inexpensive materials to get you started. I’m working on adding Plan With Me videos each week, so be sure to check out the playlist below!


Creative Planning with Watercolors

Be bold! You won’t mess up, I promise. And if you do – just use your other planner this week!



I’ve been using my Happy Planner for my watercolors, but I can’t wait to experiment in my other planners, too! The Happy Planner pages are very thick and take the watercolor well with very little bleed through. I do get a few little speckled dark spots on the backs of the pages, but these don’t phase me. Though, I tend not to be too delicate with my planners.

In the past, I’ve used watercolors in sketch books, composition notebooks, and journals. If you don’t mind a little wrinkling or you have a spare journal to test out, give this a shot! Watercolor and decorative bullet journaling are a match made in heaven. The great thing about using a journal, too, is that you can skip pages if the paper gets too wet to use the back.


Gesso (optional)

If you are worried about bleed-through and shadowing from the paint, you could try a clear artist’s gesso. I haven’t used this yet, but I’m excited to experiment with it. The planners that I’ve seen that have used gesso get very vibrant results! The great thing about clear gesso is that you can still see the boxes on the page, and your planner is still fully functional. I’ll report back here with more info soon πŸ™‚


I started by using very inexpensive paints – just my kids’ old Crayolas! I’ve since invested in a slightly more expensive and colorful palette by Sargent Art after a recommendation from a friend who shared a beautiful spread with me.

If you prefer watercolor or gouache tubes of paint – which is great for mixing colors or for a very rich and dense application – I would highly recommend Windsor & Newton watercolors and gouache. I’ve bought this set (or a variation) several times over the last twenty years or so. They are my favorite!


If you’re not familar with the difference between watercolor and gouache, see this linkΒ from Felt Magnet.


The brushes I use are from this Artist’s Loft set. I prefer a synthetic brush, but there are many brushes to choose from if you’d rather paint with a camel, for example. If you’re just starting out, one tip I always use: take the watercolor brush that comes with the set and chuck it directly in the trash. I usually choose an all purpose brush set with a variety of shapes and sizes – but not too large because we’re planning in a reasonably small area.


Be brave. Be bold. Open that planner and go to town!


Tips for using gesso on paper

If you can’t remove the pages from your planner, place another piece of paper or paper towel behind the pages you’re gessoing to prevent the gesso from gluing pages together along the side. Brush it on, back and forth in one direction with a medium to large brush. Finish with a light touch so that you don’t have any lumps or bumps from brushstrokes. Make sure your page is COMPLETELY dry before starting to paint.

Tips for applying watercolor

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes! Practice on plain paper first if you are nervous. That way, you’ll get a feel for how much water to use to get the look you like. The more water, the more transparent your color will be. However, be careful not to add so much that you’re soaking through the paper.

Wet on wet: For a beautiful washed look apply water to the paper and paint your color on with a wet brush. Colors will blend and bleed together. This can create some really beautiful effects.

Wet on dry: I prefer to just apply the watercolor directly to the paper. I like the vibrancy of color and a more opaque look. With this type of application, you’ll see the brush strokes even after the watercolor has dried, giving your planner a textured and interesting appearance.

Layering color: Try layering washes of different colors or draw over your paint with a liner brush. Let your page dry and layer on more color or fine lined lettering or decoration.


Washi, Stickers, and Doodling

Don’t leave all your favorite planning supplies behind! Watercolor planners still look fantastic with all of your favorite supplies. I use a lot of stickers and washi to keep my planner functional. After all, it still is a planner and not just a sketch book!

Creative Planning with
Watercolor Playlist

Watch the playlist on YouTube.


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