Archive for the ‘tutorials’ Category

The Right Calligraphy Materials

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One of the many draws to calligraphy as a hobby is that it’s a desktop craft. It can take up as much space as a simple shoe box. Or it can take up several rooms. But the shoebox is where it starts. It’s not like skiing where you have to get the skis, and the boots and the bindings, and the pants and the jacket and the gloves and the poles and the goggles and… and… and…

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Getting into calligraphy can be as simple and cheap or as expensive and elaborate as your budget allows. There are fabulous materials in every price range. Let’s break it down into 3 price ranges, shall we? This post has been created with affiliate links, but I strongly recommend ordering through Paper & Ink Arts regardless. They have fabulous customer service and tons of amazing calligraphy-related products.

ON THE CHEAP

You really can get great materials without spending a pretty penny. But there are a couple of caveats that go with going bargain-basement. Once you understand the limitations, you can better enjoy the cheap-o supplies.

 

Ticonderoga pencils are smooth and cheap. Easy to find as well. But you have to sharpen them by hand. That’s a bit of a bummer.

The bargain nibs listed are wonderful! However, one or all may not be ideal for your particular style or touch (nibs are like boyfriends, you might not like some and that’s okay). These nibs listed are guaranteed to be easily found at most art stores and will fit your Speedball Universal Holder. The Zebra G, Nikko G and Tachikawa G are great beginner nibs, but do not fit in the universal holder. You may be able to make it sort of work, but the orientation isn’t going to give you stable results.

I use the lacquered straight holder quite frequently. It’s great, but DO NOT get wet or the wood will split. The pen is still functional after the wood has split, it’s just less comfortable.

Higgins Eternal is a great ink! The consistency right out of the bottle is easy to work with and it’s not terribly corrosive to the nibs (just a teeny bit corrosive). The bottle is prone to leaking (don’t let the bottle freeze or it definitely will leak) and the ink doesn’t work on all paper types.

You may see some feathering and bleeding with Higgins on the Hammermill paper. You can still get great practice in regardless of the feathering ink, but if you see yourself being bothered by the feathering, try a different paper (see other paper options below). The Hammermill paper is great for beginners as you can easily print out guidelines directly on top of the paper and you can buy in reams for those heaps and heaps of initial practice.

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Mid-range investment

If you’re in a spot to splurge a little more, get the mid-range materials and the bargain basement materials (like the nibs, ink and paper).

Canson Marker Layout Paper is semi-transparent and handles ink well. I like to print out my guidelines and slip them underneath the paper. It handles all inks well.

Using a mechanical pencil is convenient since you don’t have to sharpen the lead, it’s great for practicing in pencil and laying out compositions.

Peerless oblique holders are a little more expensive than the Speedball Oblique, but you can get them fitted to the larger nibs listed above. Those larger nibs are great for beginners and heavier hands, with the exception of the Leonardt Principal, it’s just a great nib to try.

The straight holder is going to be a little more water/ink resistant since it’s made with a slightly harder wood.

Sumi ink is super black, so you get nice stark lines. It takes forever to dry so I like to mix it with water, Higgins Eternal or Walnut Ink to dilute it.

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 Highish-end Investment

I say highish-end because this isn’t the highest end. If you want to go all-out, you’re getting everything on all these lists list, gold inks, a custom turned holder and on and on. The sky is truly the limit on what you can spend on calligraphy materials. But that’s a different post (here is a gift guide for splurging) for a different time. But when it comes to just starting out, these materials listed are going to get you there with the least amount of frustration. But you may notice, there’s not a huge difference price-wise between the cost of materials in the budget end and the highish-end.

Rhodia paper handles all kinds of inks. I use gridded paper because guidelines are already printed on there. The walnut ink is silky and smooth (it also ships well because it comes in crystal form that you dilute with water) and gives you just a little bit of transparency and fast drying times.

The copperplate sampler is a wide range of nibs you can try out every one and see what suits you best. The adjustable oblique will fit any of those nibs. The mahogany straight holder is made out of a hard wood (obviously) that does well for pointed pen work. It’s also gorgeous.

So there you have it. You want to get started with calligraphy? Stock up on any of these things.

Want it all done for you? Purchase the Calligraphy.org kit. And heck! While you’re at it get the calligraphy class, too. The class includes lifetime access to the content (which gets new content annually) along with 30 days of instructor feedback. And it’s not just “great job” or “awesome”. We tell you what’s working well, what you can improve and give you bonus materials to help you keep going and troubleshoot.

 

DIY: The Lazy Girl’s Pillow Case

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My in-laws have this oxford shirting sheet set that had me thinking that I (a) need that sheet set and (b) I could probably whip up a pillow to match asap with an old oxford shirt.

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I haven’t taken the plunge for the sheet set (our kids are so gross, I’m sure it’d be stained with licorice goo or something within the first five minutes), but it’s on my radar. The pillow was a no-brainer. And took the equivalent in time to make (and photograph for this easy-peasy tutorial).

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Grab a pillow, if you have an old cover you’re replacing, use that as your guide. If I don’t have to bust out the rulers, it’s a win in my opinion. Rulers just slow these Edward-scissorhands digits down. ;)

Materials:

  • A large old Oxford shirt (I found mine at a local thrift store)
  • Pillow form
  • Old pillow cover as a template (or a ruler)
  • Oversized washers
  • Scissors/rotary cutter
  • Cutting mat
  • Sewing machine

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Be sure to wash and iron the shirt beforehand for best results.

Lay the shirt on your cutting mat. Flatten out any pleats so you get two flat layers. Pin the old pillowcase down with washers. If you don’t have an old cover to work from, Measure a 19″ square with your ruler for a standard 18″ pillow.

Place the cover off-centered over the front buttons. By placing it off-center, you have less puckering/bulging at the opening. And it looks cool.

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Cut out your square, leaving about a 1/2″ seam allowance on all sides. Eyeballing is a-okay.

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Turn right sides towards each other, pin and sew all four sides together.

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Un-do the buttons and turn right-side out. Iron out the corners.

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Place the pillow form inside, fluff and done!

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Super easy. No worries about enclosures, no hemming, nothing. This is the easiest thing you’ll do all week. Promise.

 

DIY: Having Fun with Plain Wrapping Paper

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I don’t have giant stashes of gorgeous wrapping paper. I have rolls of white, black and kraft butcher paper. And the occasional roll of gift wrap. But it doesn’t always match my mood or occasion, so here’s a fun little DIY I did to dress up my gifts this year.

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Santa doesn’t have this much creativity when it comes to his gift wrap. That would take him way too long.

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The key to this whole operation is in the marker. Some time ago Sakura sent me their Pigma Professional brush series. I use them for everything. Heck, they’re even in our brush lettering kits that I send out to all of my beginning brush students. These brushes come in 3 sizes: fine, medium and BOLD. I use the fine brush for small detailed work and little illustrations. I’ll use the medium in cases where my x-height letters are about 3/4″ tall. The bold I’ll use for everything else.

The bold brush is pretty stiff so you still get very fine hairlines even though you can get a ton of drama out of the side of the marker.

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And when mine dry out, I’ll use them on textured paper for a more organic look (like above). Want to learn how to make these easy-peasy holly berries? Watch the video below.

Supplies

  • Pigma Professional BB Brush
  • Large sheet of white or kraft paper
  • Sakura Koi red marker (optional)

I love the BB brush, but you can get similar results from even a crayola marker. Granted, if you want this kind of drama to scale, you’ll need to make smaller holly berries and leaves.

Basic jist: get a piece of paper and spread it out on the floor or table. Draw out the berries first in random clusters of 3. Then draw in the center of the leaves, coming out from the berries with a light touch. A fine line helps. Then fill in the remainder of the leaves with two mountains and meeting just beyond the tip of the center line of the leaf. Fill in any awkward blank spaces with leaves. Messy is usually better in this case.

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If you want to go for a more ornamental approach, draw out a berry grouping on cardstock. Watercolor paper is going to give your cluster more texture and depth. Punch a hole near the cluster of berries.

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With your scissors, cut around the cluster leaving a 1/4″-1/2″ border. Thread through ribbon or string and use as a decoration on your gift.

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Easy? Brainless? Awesome? Yes to all three. Happy last-minute gift-giving and wrapping!!

DIY: 3 Ways to Add Gold to Your Envelopes

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This post is sponsored by Tiny Prints. They provide excellent quality printing and amazing printing options to make your holiday cards stand out this year.

Gold is such a classic element to add to holiday greetings, but how? What materials do you use? I’ve got a little bit of experience with that and I know just the things to help you make your holiday cards a hit this year.

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Oh, and I should mention, these tips require no calligraphy experience whatsoever. Neat handwriting helps, and here’s a post to help you with that. Want to learn calligraphy? I do that, too. Sign up for my class right here. Just gonna toot my own horn a bit about the class: it’s hands-on with personal feedback from me and my co-calligrapher (Erika! She’s the raddest!).  Get supplies mailed to your door, personal attention and loads of lifetime content for less than it costs for most in-person modern workshops. Aw, yeah.

This post may contain affiliate links. These are products I’m using constantly. I get a little bit of a kick-back from any  purchases made through these links. Affiliate sales help feed my crafting addiction and supplies used for blog posts. So thank you for your support.

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Gold Striping

It looks like Finetec Gold is a favorite of mine. It’s looking like it’s out of stock at Paper & Ink arts – you might have luck at John Neal Bookseller or a local art supply store. I love this palette because you can add gold and shimmer to just about anything.

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Get a large hard-bound book or a block of wood that’s longer than your envelope. Place it an inch below the desired line.

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Instead of using a ruler and getting the underside all gunky from running ink, rest the bottom of your hand along the edge of the book or block and pull your arm towards you (see above). You’ll get a nice straight line without even trying hard.

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Wait for the gold to dry, then letter the address with the recipient’s name above the line and the address below. I like using the lettermate when doing print addresses. It keeps my lines straight and my leading even. If you choose to use a lettermate or something similar, you’ll want to put the gold line inside one of the lines so that the spacing is even. If you put it between two lines, the top two address lines will look inconsistently spaced. I’ll use a white gelly roll or a gold shadow gelly roll. If you’re using a white envelope, you may want to opt for the black gold or the pink gold. Here I used the lavender gold.

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Foil Gems

I’ve got a little secret in my  arsenal and I’m about to share it with you. EEP!! I’m loving this thing. I’ve had it for about a year, and it’s the perfect way to add gold sparkle to something without waiting for glitter glue to dry. I bought this cheap hot foil pen on New Egg some time ago, so it looks like it’s no longer available. The closest thing in price is the WRM keepers one. At $15 it’s totally an impulse purchase. I’ve seen them around on other sites. Just make sure that when you’re looking for yours you look for “hot foil pen”. That’s pretty much it. Scrapbooking suppliers are going to be your best bet.

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First, you’ll letter your address. I like to switch up styles with print and script.

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When you’re done, you’ll heat up the foil pen and do little dots in the negative spaces. You can do single dots or groupings of 3. If you’re doing groupings of 3, you can add little green leaves for holly! Or keep them plain. I opted to go plain.

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Justified Glitter

  • Glitter
  • Sticky thumb or double-stick tape
  • White gelly roll

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Mark up your paper with sticky thumb. You can use a glue stick for a more organic line.

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Sprinkle glitter (mix colors for a fun effect) over the envelope. This is a great activity to do in big batches in a bath tub or large casserole dish.

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With your finger, rub in the glitter so it sticks. You’ll see that glitter will settle and stop coming off. Shake off excess.

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Write out the address. If you’re doing the lettermate and a script style of penmanship, you may want to write out everything without the descending strokes (like the ‘y’, ‘g’, ‘f’, ‘z’ etc) and fill those in afterward. Add postage and you’re done!

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I’m slowly knocking out my list this week and next. So my cards will be more like New Year’s cards, but late is always better than never in my opinion!

 

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Want to learn calligraphy the right way? Check out my online calligraphy class. It includes lifetime access to materials and content (images, text, animated GIFs) and 30 days of personal instructor feedback. Because we all need help troubleshooting when starting out. ;)

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TUTORIAL: DIY Ink/Paint Holder

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I made this and shot pictures like 2-3 years ago. I just discovered it while cleaning up images on my desktop (which is a hot mess) and figured I would share. I’m sure it’s been done various other places, but I need to cross this off my list so here we go.

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I found myself wanting small jars for mixing custom ink colors in gouache (for calligraphy, but works for any aqueous media) and then tipping them over. Constantly. We replaced the flooring in my studio not long ago because of how horribly stained it got. Also, I hate carpet.

So I made this little ink tray. You may want to, too.

SUPPLIES

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Cut down your block to 12″ wide. Sand the edges so they’re smooth to the touch.

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Mark out every inch along the board with a pencil. Optional: create an indent with the tip of the screw so your bit won’t slip around as you start the process.

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Measure how deep you want the drill to go and tape it off. This will allow you to have consistent heights when you put your jars in the board.

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Drill away! Go slowly and make sure you’re in a well-ventilated area with protective glasses.

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Admire your handywork!

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Use the sticky tack to apply to the bottoms of your jars so they don’t move around. it also helps tilt the jars when the ink gets low.

This tutorial or freebie is free for personal use and should not be distributed/republished without the express consent of Melissa Esplin. I love getting shout outs from around the web, but please, link with love. You may publish 1 photo along with credit back to the original post. If you would like to use this tutorial or freebie for commercial purposes, please email me. Thanks!
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