Postcards & Passports

How to Paint Your Own Travel Cards

If you’re like me, you’re dreaming of traveling again soon. I just can’t get enough of exploring new cities, parks, and beautiful scenery. But right now, I’m more or less stuck at home. Probably just like you. So what can we do to make the best of time at home, and still be engaged in something travel-related? You can paint your own travel cards!

Whether you’re painting what you’ve already seen — or painting where you really want to go, it can be very relaxing. You can use your travel photos for some inspo…or do a quick search on Instagram for ideas, too. You can paint icons like the Eiffel Tower and the Rome Colisseum, or something more whimsical like surfboards and sandals at the beach or a vintage suitcase.

Why watercolor painting?

I like watercolor painting because it’s supposed to be just a representation of what you’re painting. You can get away with some very simple art, and people will still know what you’ve painted. They’ll totally get the idea!

And I’ve found a way to simplify watercolor painting by combining watercolor paint with ink outlines. It’s almost as simple as coloring in a coloring book.

How do you find designs to paint?

The easiest way is to google silhouette designs, as in “simple silhouette Eiffel Tower” or “silhouette mountains”. Then select “images” to see all the different images you can choose from.


You can also use your own photos. You could even go to Instagram for inspiration. After a quick search on Instagram, I found these two photos I wanted to try to paint:

Remember, you’re not going to paint them exactly. You just want to give a simple rendition of them…

Supplies needed to paint your own travel cards

Feel free to use whatever you already have on hand, but I will share with you my preferences and provide links for these products on Amazon, because that’s where I buy mine. If you make any purchases, I will receive a small commission, but it won’t cost you any more. 

You’ll also need a pencil and a paper cutter.

1. Make a line sketch

On a plain piece of paper, just play around with some ideas. Draw a simple line sketch of what you see. Or just draw whatever comes into your head. When you decide you like it, do it again on a piece of watercolor paper.

I like to cut my pieces of watercolor paper a little smaller than a card and then mount them on colored cards, so they appear to be framed. My cards are 5 1/2″ x 4 1/4″ (half of a 8 1/2″ x 11″ piece of paper folded in half)

2. Outline over your pencil sketch

After completing your pencil sketch lightly on the watercolor paper, go over the outline with a waterproof black ink pen.

One thing I learned the hard way was that you don’t necessarily want to outline everything in your picture in black ink. In the following picture, I should not have outlined the sun. Oh well.

After the ink is dry (5-10 minutes), you can use the eraser on your pencil to erase any stray pencil lines that might be showing.

3. Add paint when ink is dry

Now you can add paint. Add water first and then paint if you want the paint to “bleed” into your shapes. Use less water and more paint if you prefer your painting to be more opaque. If you end up with too much water on your paper, dry your brush and then use it to “wick” some of the water back off of the paper.

If you want multiple colors to blend into each other, like for a sunset sky, paint with water first, add “stripes” of color, and then blend with the brush between stripes of color. Here is a simple tutorial for beginning watercolor painting.

I usually begin with the lightest colors and work towards the darker ones. With watercolor paint, it is nearly impossible to add lighter colors on top of dark ones.

It is good to leave a few small unpainted areas that will appear white when the paint is dry. It looks more natural and appears as if you have added highlights.

Remember that you can paint your own travel cards, but you are not limited to travel-related pictures. Have fun with some whimsical flowers, leaves, or other images as you practice your painting skills.

4. Mount your finished paintings on cards

I use rubber cement glue for mounting because it dries without lumps. But a glue stick also works pretty well. Add an envelope, and now you have a finished card that anyone would enjoy receiving. Feel free to add messages or greetings to your cards, too.

5. Paint your own travel cards

Most of all it is important to remember that art is individual and unique to you as the creator. You should not compare your art to my work, or to anyone else’s. Keep practicing and learning as you go, and just have fun painting your own cards. They make great souvenirs of your travels…or representations of the places on your Bucket List. Your friends and family will appreciate receiving them, too!

If you like making cards, you might also enjoy “Using Travel Photos to Make Cards & Books” or “Travel Crafts You Can Make“.

paint your own travel cards

paint your own travel cards



9 thoughts on “How to Paint Your Own Travel Cards

  1. Heather Young

    Those are SO fun!! I love watercolor painting because, like you said, it’s easy to create something simple that is recognizable and beautiful! I typically paint first and then add the ink outlines on top once the paint dries.

    1. Tami Post author

      I used to do the painting first as well, thinking that painting after outlining would smear the black lines. But it actually works either way.

  2. Carrie Ann

    I love these! I haven’t done watercolors in ages, and this is making me want to go looking for my old palette 🙂 This would be great to do as gifts for past travel companions, too.

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