How to Paint a Valentine's Day Card (With a Secret Message)

01
of 09
What You Need to Paint This Valentine's Day Card

Painting a Valentine's Card
Will you leave your love note unpainted and easy to read, or paint over it to turn it into a secret message?. Photo © 2010 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

The design of this Valentine's card is straightforward, so it's easy to paint. (Fast too, if you've left painting your Valentine's card to the day before!) What makes it special is the love note you write on the heart, which you can then turn into a "secret message" by painting over it.

You will need:

  • A printout of this heart stencil
  • A craft knife or pair of scissors to cut out the stencil
  • A stiff piece of card, watercolor paper, or multi-media paper for the card. (The size it wants to be depends on the size of envelope you're going to use or make, remembering you're going to fold the paper in half)
  • Three different red paints (or any three colors you like). If you're making a last-minute card, use fast-drying acrylics, watercolors, or gouache, rather than slow-drying acrylics or oil paints.
  • A paint brush
  • A pen with waterproof ink
  • A pencil and an eraser
  • Some glue (optional if you're using acrylic paints)

So let's get started painting the Valentine's card.

First step is to cut out the stencil...

02
of 09
Get the Card and Stencil Ready

Painting a Valentine's Card
Photo © 2010 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

Fold the piece of paper you're going to paint your Valentine's card on in half. It doesn't matter whether you fold it so the card stands like a tent (as in the photo) or a book. Run a fingernail along the edge to give a crisp fold.

If the paper is very stiff paper and threatens to fold with a wrinkled edge rather than a sharp fold, dip a brush into clean water and run this along where the fold will be to dampen the paper. This should make the fibers in the paper more flexible and willing to bend. Don't soak the paper till it's dripping wet; it wants to be damp, not wet.

Print out this heart stencil onto a sheet of ordinary computer paper (it doesn't need to be anything fancy or thick). Select the heart that's the right size for your card, and cut out that one. You want the cut edge to be clean (not jagged) as you're going to use both pieces of the stencil.

If you're using a pair of scissors without a sharp point to poke through the paper to start cutting, fold over the stencil on a straight bit, then make a short cut. This then gives you a hole to put the scissors through to continue cutting. (You can see where I've folded my stencil on the bottom left of the heart.)

Remember to keep both pieces of the stencil as you're going to use both. Now to write your secret message....

03
of 09
Add Your Secret Message to Your Valentine

Painting a Valentine's Card
Photo © 2010 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

This is the step where you need a pen with water-proof or permanent ink. If you use a water-soluble ink, it'll smudge when you paint over it.

Place the stencil (the piece with the heart cut out) over your card. In this demo I've placed it in the center, but it works just fine if you position it closer to one side. If your heart is broken, you might even have it going off an edge...

Take a pencil and lightly draw along the outline of the heart. Then write your love message inside the heart in whatever size and way you wish. Don't destroy the stencil, you'll need it later. (You can hold the stencil in place while you write your message, but with a pencil outline you don't have to worry about the stencil slipping as you do the word.)

In this demo I've written Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 ("Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?") around and around in the shape of the heart. You'll find other love poems on About.com's Poetry and Shakespeare sites. And all sorts of love quotes on the Quotations site.

Once you've written your message, leave it for a couple of minutes to ensure the ink has completely dried. Then take an eraser and rub out the pencil line. Now we're ready to start painting...

04
of 09
Start Painting

Painting a Valentine's Card
Photo © 2010 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

First you're going to paint the background to the heart on your Valentine's card. Place the heart cut out from your stencil over your writing to protect it from the paint. Then dip your paintbrush into your first red (in the photo it's cadmium red deep) and paint around the heart.

Hold the heart in place with your hand as you're painting. Place the brush on the cutout paper heart and move it out onto card, rather than putting your brush on the card and painting onto the heart. This helps stop paint getting in under the edge of the stencil.

Once you've painted all the way around the heart, it's time to add a second red to the rest of the background...

05
of 09
Add a Second Color

Painting a Valentine's Card
Photo © 2010 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

Paint a second color from where the first stopped, out to the edge of the card. Here I've used permanent rose, a transparent pinkish red. Once you've painted the whole area, lift the cutout paper heart protecting your words.

In this demo I've used two different reds to paint around the heart. You could, of course, use only one, or you could use colors besides red.

If you want your message to read easily, you could stop painting at this stage and send your Valentine's card as it is now. If you want to hide your message or if some paint has accidentally got in under the stencil onto the words, then the next step is to paint the heart...

06
of 09
Hide Your Love Letter

Painting a Valentine's Card
Photo © 2010 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

To hide your words under a layer of paint, take the stencil with the heart cut out and place it over your card. Then take your third red paint and paint over the words. If you want your words to be easy to read, use a transparent pigment. If you want to hide your words completely, use a thick, opaque paint. (I've used cadmium red medium, which is an opaque pigment but I've spread it fairly thinly so the words are readable if you read closely.)

Paint by placing the brush on the stencil and moving it into the heart; this helps prevent paint getting under the stencil and messing up the heart shape. When you've painted the whole heart, lift the stencil. Depending on how carefully you placed your stencil, you might have a thin white outline on the heart in places. Either reposition the stencil and paint this in, or paint it carefully freehand.

That's your Valentine's card just about painted. Sit back while it dries completely and decide whether you want to add a glaze or not...

07
of 09
A Final Glaze (or Not)

Painting a Valentine's Card
Photo © 2010 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

If you think the three reds on your card are clashing with one another a bit, or don't feel unified, consider painting a glaze over the whole card. In the photo, the card at the bottom has a glaze of cadmium red medium over it, the card at the top doesn't.

Next step, sticking the heart on the inside of your card...

08
of 09
Stick the Heart on the Inside

Painting a Valentine's Card
Photo © 2010 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

On the inside of your card, consider sticking down the heart shape from the stencil. Depending on how its painted edges look, it can be quite beautiful. If you're using acrylic paint and can't find any glue, a little paint will stick it down.

In line with the Valentine's tradition is to write your name underneath the stamp on the envelope, you might write your name underneath the heart before you stick it down.

About all that's left is to seal it with a kiss...

09
of 09
The Final Card

Painting a Valentine's Card
Photo © 2010 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc.

Leave your card to dry completely while you clean your paint brushes. Put it in an envelope, seal it with a kiss, and it's ready for the love in your life. Happy Valentine's Day!