Creating a Tunnel Book in Watercolor

What a Fun Project!

In the Garden-Design by Kelly Hoernig-Painted by Annie Glacken

I recently took a great online class on how to make a tunnel book at Jeanne Oliver Designs and taught by Kelly Hoernig who is a wonderful instructor. I highly recommend it and the price is only $48. If you are interested, you can see the trailer and sign up for the course here. I loved this class but since it was taught using acrylic paint, I had to tweak the process in order to make it work for watercolor. Jeanne was gracious enough to give me permission to share here. These designs were provided in the class.

The Process

Since I would be working with transparent watercolors and didn’t want to use gesso, I needed to keep the whites of the paper preserved where I would later paint flowers, leaves, and butterflies. This meant that I had to do my steps differently then if I were using gesso and acrylic as taught in the original class. I could not paint the background first because I wanted to save the whites. Instead, I needed my designs transferred first. This meant that I had to figure out which pages went on the back of other pages once it was cut and folded. So I made a “road map” on paper I could follow when transferring the patterns which were provided in the class.The arrows point to the top of the finished page so I knew which way to trace the patterns.

Using a  lightbox and following my “road map”, I transferred the patterns onto both the front and the back of 140lb. Cold Press Arches watercolor paper with a HB pencil. I also carried over the design from a right hand page over to what would be its corresponding left hand page. This part was not on the pattern so I made it up.

Next, I painted frisket in all of the areas where there would be flowers, leaves, and butterflies in order to preserve the white paper for painting later. After this dried, I was ready to paint the background.

For the background, I mixed a HUGE puddle of green.  I mixed using Quinacridone Gold and Phthalo Green Blue shade. Then I wet the entire paper and started painting in the green.  I wasn’t picky about how I applied the paint, I just wanted to get the entire surface covered before any part of the paint began to dry. Once the sheen began to leave, I spattered water, green paint, and gold paint into the semi-dry wash. This gave me a wonderful texture. When it was dry, I stenciled on some butterflies on the pages that didn’t have any pattern. Next, I repeated the process on the back side. In this photo you can see the painted background with the frisket removed and the whites preserved. The color is a little off in this picture since I photographed it at night.

Next, I separated the three pages and began to paint the designs on the front and back of each one. Hint: I had cut the first tunnel and painted it, but decided that it would be better to paint them all first to minimize buckling that might occur if they were cut first. Using artistic license, I painted it a little differently than the colors suggested in the class.

After the painting was completely finished, I cut out the “tunnels” with an Xacto knife and small scissors. It was my first time using an Xacto knife and I nicked myself twice! Ouch! At least I didn’t lose a finger!

I wanted to preserve the finished pages and give them a little added bulk before sewing them together. I sprayed each page with Krylon clear matte finish to set the watercolor and let it dry. Then I put a coat of Matte Modge Podge on the front and back of each page.This gave it a slightly heavier weight. I let this dry overnight.

To assemble, I first punched three holes in the fold of each page using an awl.Then I sewed the pages together.

In the Garden-Design by Kelly Hoernig-Painted by Annie Glacken

The following photos show the layout of each page when assembled.

Creating this tunnel book was such an interesting and fun experience. I enjoyed every step of the process and look forward to creating a tunnel book using my own designs in the future.

If you are interested in another tunnel book class, Kelly has another one available here.

Wouldn’t this make a wonderful gift? What do you think?









18 Replies to “Creating a Tunnel Book in Watercolor”

  1. Thank you Annie, This looks like a great course and at home too! Keep them coming….

    • Thank you Laurence. I think I will give it to my granddaughter when she is older!

    • THank you Kelly for the compliment and thank you for a wonderful class. I enjoyed it very much and learned a lot. I am looking forward to making my own tunnel book design in the future. Hopefully you will offer a class in designing your own tunnel book soon!

    • Yes, Robin, that was quite a challenge to figure out. But it will be nice to have for future projects. Thanks for the compliment!

  2. This turned out great, Annie! I love your vibrant color choices. It was quite a feat to plan both the steps for using watercolor and for placing which images where! I hope Kelly offers another course in developing tunnel books. The creative possibilities would be limitless!

    • Thank you Susan! I am really happy with the way it turned out too! I hope Kelly offers a class on how to design your own. Thanks for the comment.