How I Do: Creating a Page Layout for Calligraphy Projects

I had this guide almost completed a month ago and then got distracted (that seems to be a common theme with me, I have to go where the music leads). When I looked at it again I just didn’t like it. So I erased most of it. And now here we are. It’s mostly for those doing calligraphy but I think the principles are sound for any sort of art project.

This was one of my first completed projects and it felt like IT TOOK FREAKIN FOREVER.

This was one of my first completed projects and it felt like IT TOOK FREAKIN FOREVER because I was so scared of messing it up.

So you want to do a project. You can eyeball it, I do most things that way, but I now religiously lay my projects out. It takes it from “eh” to “aaaah”. I’ve condensed my process to five bullet points (you have no idea how hard that was. I am excellent at including all the details) and by the end you should feel supremely confident in your ability to use a ruler.

#1: What to create?

This is very important. It’s no good to sit down with your pencil and stare at the page, hoping for those brilliant and amazing ideas. I recommend buying a drawing notebook, like iScholar%20Composition Book, 100 Sheets, 5 x 5 Graph Ruled, 9.75 x 7.5-Inches, Black Marble Cover (11100)this one with graphing paper. It has absolutely revolutionized my drawing/word layout.

Fill it up. Tinker, erase, what-have-you, until you have a concept you can be excited about (I find this helps with momentum).

#2: Tools & Preparation

What you need will vary depending on what you’ve got in mind, but if it’s calligraphy/drawing you should have good paper and pen. I use Strathmore%20Mixed Media Paper Pad, 9 by 12-Inch, 15 SheetsStrathmore’s Mixed Media paper for most of my projects and I have Sakura%2030068 8-Piece Pigma Micron Assorted Colors 01 Ink Pen SetMicron pens and Speedball%206-Nib Calligraphy Lettering SetSpeedball calligraphy products. I also have an assortment of rulers and you absolutely must buy yourself a Acme%20C8735532 Junior T-Square Drawing Instrument, 12-Incht-square. I also recommend a good eraser like General%20Kneaded Eraser Jumbothis one.

Clear an area for yourself. Before we cleared out a studio area for me I used my kitchen table (I had to entirely close off the kitchen to make sure my kids didn’t eat on top of my projects). Have everything close to hand.

This is my desk, cleaned up with my then-current project on it.

This is my desk with my then-current project on it.

#3: Layout!

Now here’s where your vision comes into play. Do you want it centered? Off-center? Vertical rather than horizontal? Have an idea. If you’re doing calligraphy I’ve found it helpful to write out my design and cut it out so I can play around with the layout. Once you have a solid idea get your ruler out and start penciling in guidelines.

Personally I like to draw either a 1/2″ or 1″ border around my paper so if I decide to frame it everything remains visible. I then plot my design inside of that border.

Kind of like this. I decided to decorate the border on this project.

Kind of like this. I decided to decorate the border on this project.

#4: The Execution

Now you’re going to ink in your design! Make sure you relax, do a few trial runs on scrap paper. One thing I like to remember is that every mistake (well, most of them, but that’s not as helpful) can be turned into a feature. And worst case scenario you just have to start over.

Like this. I inked it in for the previous version of this guide and disliked it instantly.  I decided against doing another version.

Like this. I inked it in for the previous version of this guide and disliked it instantly. I decided against doing another version.

Remember to keep the area you’re working on centered. You don’t want your arms/hands reaching out to the side, it will slant your work.

I use paper towels to protect my work when I keep it centered.

I use paper towels to protect my work when I keep it centered.

#5: Prettify Time

Yay! You’re done! Let the ink dry, you don’t want to smudge it, and then erase any guidelines that still exist. Your work is ready to display.

One of mine.

One of mine. I despaired during the layout of this one, who knows why, it’s only five words!

If you don’t have access to Photoshop or the like (I don’t at the moment) I recommend Snapseed (not an affiliate link), a free app that I really like. Clean up your photo, make it brighter, add a border, then post away. And go do it again. You’ve got this, you can totally call yourself an artist.

P.S. Condensed Shopping List (affiliate links included here and throughout the guide … I go through a lot of art supplies! I’ll only recommend stuff I’ve used though)

(Amazon, Hobby Lobby, Michaels …)

Strathmore Mixed Media Paper

T-Square

Pencils & Pens

(I didn’t mention the pencils earlier but they’re always a good thing to have)

Eraser

Calligraphy Utensils (oh and don’t forget ink if you go with a dip pen!)

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