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A simple border of pen sprays with a few touches of gold can be an effective, elegant frame for an illustration whether it is drawn in pen and ink, a grisaille style, or painted in color.

Ink and Gold border - raised gesso gilding, ink on vellum

Raised gesso gilding, ink on vellum (c) A. Lucas 2009

This type of border is often used in illuminated manuscripts to enhance an illustration or set it apart from blocks of text.

I use this type of border most often for my own work, particularly for a painted miniature with just a few words of text.

Here are a few examples from the British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts:

Harley 1319  f. 12 – ivy leaves, pen sprays, painting
Lansdowne 1179  f. 4v – ivy leaves, pen sprays, drawing
Yates Thompson 10  ff. 12v-13 – ivy leaves, painting

Drawing the Border

What you need:

  • pencil
  • eraser
  • graph paper about 4 square/inch (refer to the Calligraphy Resources page)
  • fine point pigment pen (Pigma Micron, Staedtler Mars Professional, etc.)
  • a gold leafing pen, gold gel pen (or something similar), or gold gouache
  • final copy paper (e.g. 90 lb Hot Press Watercolor paper)
Gold pens, gold gouache and pigment pens

Gold pens, gold gouache and pigment pens

We’ll be using just a few, simple basic shapes – a leaf and two variations of a hook:

Basic shapes - leaf and hooks

Basic shapes - leaf and hooks

The leaf is a simple oval shape with a little inked-in detail at the edges.  The hooks are similar except one terminates in an open circle, and the second one has a filled-in circle.

Step 1:

First we’ll layout the design on graph paper with pencil and then transfer it over to the final copy paper.

Draw a box about 3-5/8″ x 2-1/4″.  Draw a second box about 1/8″ inside the second box.

Step 1: Drawing the border box

Step 1: Drawing the border box

Step 2:

Draw a few stems with leaves attached around the outside border box – you can make these as simple or complex as you like!  Note that I’ve combined 3 simple leaf shapes to make a “flower” at the corners.

Step 2 - Drawing the stems with leaves

Step 2 - Drawing the stems with leaves

Step 3:

Add a few “open hook” shapes to fill in the spaces.

Step 3 - Adding open hook shapes

Step 3 - Adding open hook shapes

Step 4:

Draw a few, smaller “closed hook” pen sprays around the leaves and open hooks.

Step 4 - Drawing the closed hook pen sprays

Step 4 - Drawing the closed hook pen sprays

Step 5:

Transfer your drawing to the final copy paper.  It’s usually a good idea to complete the gold areas before inking in the lines, or just inking in all the lines except around the gold leaves – this might depend on what you are using for gold – genuine gold leaf, solvent-based gold paint, gold gouache, gold gel pen, etc.

Test your gold on a scrap of your final project paper first to determine if you should ink the lines around the gold first or ink the lines after the gold is applied.  Note that solvent-based gold paint (such as the leafing pen) might leak into the paper fibers, so it might be best to ink the lines after the gold is dry.

Step 5: Transfer to final copy paper and apply gold to leaves

Step 5: Transfer to final copy paper and apply gold to leaves

Finish inking the border adding the leaf details.

These are a couple of examples using a gold gel pen and a gold leafing pen:

Gold Gel Pen

Gold Gel Pen

The gel pen is quite easy to use and produces a nice, soft gold effect.

Krylon 18k Gold Leafing Pen

Krylon 18k Gold Leafing Pen

The gold leafing pen produces a very nice, shiny gold effect.  It’s a little more difficult to use than the gel pen because of the flat shape of the tip (which also makes it great for lettering), and the solvent wants to soak into the paper fibers but it gives a more “authentic” look of gold.

Now that your border is complete, you can paint or draw an illustration inside!

A Look Back….

The Calligraphy Pen blog had it’s first “birthday” on December 8, and I want to thank everyone for their encouragement, support and kind comments over the past year.

I hope these posts have been informative and inspirational to those who love the art of calligraphy as much as I do, just as it has been inspiring to me to watch my little calligraphy blog grow from that one, lonely view in December 2008 to over 30,000.

In the spirit of “looking back”, I recently found a “stash” of my early work.  It’s always fun to look at early work as it’s a visual documentation of one’s learning process and progress – and it’s always encouraging to see that practice really works!

Sometimes it can be a little intimidating moving from just practicing lettering forms and painting to working on a complete, final project – but go ahead – jump right in!  Nothing should be considered a “failure” or “waste” because one can always learn not only what works, but just as important, what doesn’t work, or what might work better the next time.

Here are a couple of pages from my very first, complete illuminated manuscript book, “Legends” on genuine vellum and bound with a beautiful, thin leather:

"Legends", A. Lucas Gold/Palladium leaf on raised gesso, patent gold, shell gold, ink and dry pigments on vellum

This is also a “sneak preview” of the next border post I’m working on, so get yourself a nice, gold gel pen, gold leafing pen or a tube of gold gouache!

Once again, a big thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read the posts and comment on my little calligraphy blog!

Scatter borders are beautiful decorative elements utilizing naturalistic flowers, berries, birds, animals and insects in an illusionistic or trompe l’oeil style often painted on gold backgrounds.  The finest examples of scatter borders are found in French and Flemish manuscripts dating around the late 15th- to early 16th-Centuries.

These are just a few examples of scatter borders at the British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts:

Harley 2443  f. 2
Netherlands: Violets, strawberries and butterflies
Egerton 1147  f. 71
Netherlands: Roses, moths, fly and deer
Egerton 2125  f. 216
Netherlands: Roses, snails, butterflies and peacock on light blue background

Two excellent books on the plants used in borders are:

The Medieval Flower Book, Celia Fisher, The British Library, London 2007
Flowers in Medieval Manuscripts, Celia Fisher, University of Toronto Press, 2004

Although the books focus on the identification of plants and flowers in manuscripts, both contain wonderful detailed reproductions of scatter borders and are recommended as references for further study.

Drawing and Painting Realistic Plants

Now is the time to get a sketchbook if you don’t have one already!

If possible, draw your sketches from live specimens rather than from photographs found in books or on the internet.  Aside from copyright issues, photographs tend to flatten and distort images and your plants will look dull and lifeless unless you are familiar with compensating your drawing and painting to correct these distortions.

Here are a couple of pages from one of my rather tattered sketchbooks:

Pages from my Sketchbook

Samples pages from my sketchbook (c) 2009 A. Lucas

Sketching and drawing will also be more beneficial when it comes time to paint as you can be selective with drawing details that might be lost in a photograph alone.

Photographs can be used in conjunction with your sketches.  Taking your own photographs of specimens you have sketched will be handy references of what you have seen and will greatly assist in the realism of your work when you begin painting.

One of the key features of scatter borders is the illusion of elements scattered around the page, but painting complex elements in a realistic style will take a little skill and painting experience – there is no fast or easy method to substitute for patience and practice.

An excellent book on how to draw and paint plants for illustration is:

How to Draw Plants The techniques of botanical illustration, Keith West, Timber Place Incorporated, 2005.

Finding Elements for a Scatter Border

Scatter borders can be simple or complex depending on your design requirements.  Any type of plant, flower, berry, insect, etc. can be incorporated into the design, but consider using foliage indigenous to your location to give your borders a unique “local” flair.

Wonderful flower and insect specimens can probably be found in your own backyard or garden – you don’t have to pick them – take a few quick sketches and make notes about the color and other details.

Don’t have a garden?  Try sketching and photographing flowers in a local park (make sure you don’t pick any plants or flowers), or perhaps a greenhouse will give you permission to make sketches and take pictures (remember to ask for permission!)

Purchase an interesting flower or two from a florist.  Make your sketches while it’s still fresh, and take a few photographs from different angles.  Observe how the plant grows, what the leaves look like, colors, etc.

Any type of plant can used – don’t have any access to flowers?  I’ll bet you’ll be able to find weeds growing somewhere!  Even a humble dandelion or thistle will make an interesting and colorful border.

Or how about a trip to the grocery store to purchase seasonal fruits, berries and fresh herbs?  You can always eat your grocery store purchases after making your sketches and photographs!

Keep your eyes open and a sketchbook and camera ready and you’ll soon be able to build up a library of elements to use in your scatter borders!

Designing and Painting a Simple Scatter Border

We’ll start with one of the simplest forms – berries.  Berries are generally round, circular shapes and easy to find on common shrubs or grocery stores.  Any type of round berry will be fine especially they have a little stem attached.

In this demonstration, we’ll use simple berries with stems to scatter around a border with a gold background.

The red berries I’m using are from a common High Bush Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum) shrub as the berries are easy to find – even during the winter.

Here is my reference photo:

High Bush Cranberry Reference Photo

High Bush Cranberry Reference Photo (c) 2009 A. Lucas

Layout

What you need:

  • graph paper
  • pencil
  • eraser
  • ruler

Painting

What you need:

  • round brushes (medium and small)
  • flat brush (1″ or 2″)
  • mixing palette
  • gouache paint (Opaque White, Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Red, Yellow Ochre, Raw Umber)
  • paper suitable for water-based media (90 lb Hot Press watercolor paper works well)
  • drafting tape

Drawing the Scatter Border

First we’ll work out the design on graph paper and then paint a practice berry.

Step 1:

On your graph paper, using a ruler and pencil, draw a 5″ x 7″ block with 1″ borders on the top, left and right sides, and a 1.5″ border at the bottom.

Border Layout with Margins

Step 2:

Now that we’ve established the area for our margins, sketch in circles for berries.  Draw a few in clumps (use the reference photo for ideas) and a few single berries to fill in the larger empty spaces inside the border.

Layout Sketch with Berries and Butterfly

Layout Sketch with Berries and Butterfly

I’ve added a butterfly in the lower corner just to make it a bit more interesting.  I found this photo of a Painted Lady butterfly I had taken last summer – one more reason to always keep that camera and sketchbook handy.

Painted Lady Reference Photo (c) 2009 A. Lucas

Remember, this is a scatter border so don’t be afraid to “scatter” the elements around the page.  Sometimes it’s helpful to cut out the various elements from your sketch paper and move them around the layout until you find an arrangement that works best for your design.

Painting the Scatter Border

First we’ll paint in the gold background, paint a practice berry, and then finish the berries on the border.

Step 1:

On your final copy (watercolor) paper, mask the inside area lines of the border with drafting tape.  Refer to the post Calligraphy Layout: Designing a Certificate for more information on how to mask areas for painting.

Step 2:

Mix up a bit of Yellow Ochre with a touch of Raw Umber for a yellowish gold color.  Use the flat brush to paint the border area.

Wait until the paint is completely dry before removing the drafting tape.

Step 3:

Transfer your layout sketch to the painted border.  Refer to the Painting a Simple Initial post for one method of transferring a drawing.

Painted Border Background with Transferred Design

Painting a Simple Berry

Before beginning to paint on the gold background, try painting a few practice berries especially if you are unfamiliar with painting or painting with gouache.  Your practice paintings can also be used a reference for the final painting.

Painting a Simple Berry Steps 1 to 5Step 1:

On a piece of watercolor paper or sketch paper, draw a circle with a stem.

Step 2:

Mix a bit of Yellow Ochre with Cadmium Red to make an orange color, and using the medium round brush, paint in the berry.

Step 3:

Clean the brush, then use Cadmium Red (not mixed) to paint around the berry as shown.  Clean the brush again, then use a little clean water to dampen the brush (don’t soak it) to soften the edges of the red into the orange.  You can also use the small brush with a bit of red to draw tiny lines to fade into the orange.

Step 4:

Mix a little Cadmium and White to make a pink color, and paint this in between the red and orange.  Use clean water (or tiny brush strokes) to blend the pink into the orange and red areas.

Step 5:

Let the berry dry and little, then use Opaque White to add a little highlight.  Use clean water to blend the edges of the highlight.

Mix a bit of Yellow Ochre with Ultramarine Blue to make a light green color, and paint a line for the stem.  Add more Ultramarine Blue to make a darker green, and paint this on the side of the light green.  Use clean water to soften the edges light and dark green.

Step 6: Adding a Shadow

Step 6:

Mix a little Raw Umber and paint a bit of a shadow under the berry.  Use clean water to soften the edges and blend into the paper.  If it looks too dark, add a little white.

Optional: Not all berries ripen at the same time, so some might have a little green.  It might be difficult to see in the photo (which is why observing the “real” plant is always best) but a few berries with a little green will be more convincing than just all red berries.

Once you have painted a few practice berries, paint the berries and stems on your border.

Final Scatter Border

We could keep adding a few more elements such as a flowers, leaves, insects, etc.  If we were adding calligraphy, remember to do the calligraphy first before painting the border.

It is much easier to correct a painting than to correct calligraphy!

It’s amazing what little treasures one finds when sorting out art supplies….

Since I prefer to use dip pens more often than calligraphy fountain pens, these two little gems had migrated over to my “Art Supply Overflow” storage box.

I expect both these items are now obsolete, but still great calligraphy tools:

Pelikan Graphos

Primarily targeted for engineering and drafting, the Pelikan Graphos pens and nibs were available in a wide range of styles to accommodate lettering, drawing and sketching.

Pelikan Graphos Pen Set

Pelikan Graphos Pen Set

It’s been so long I don’t remember exactly what originally was included with this set as it has a variety of nib styles ranging from straight cut (“T” series), oblique cut (“N” and “Z” series), ruling nib (?) (“A” series) and what looks like a sketching nib (“S” series).

Variety of Pelikan Graphos Nibs

Variety of Pelikan Graphos Nibs

The pen holders are designed to easily slip the nibs onto the front of the shank and have a “hole” in back for loading ink.  As I’m guessing the original Pelikan tube ink has gone the way of the dinosaur, ink can loaded by removing the plastic insert reservoir and loading directly with a dropper instead of through the “hole.”

The nibs produce very sharp, crisp letters (“T”, “N”, “Z”) and the sketching nib is flexible enough for drawing.

While the ink cartridge is quite short and will not hold a lot of ink, and the nib must be removed from the pen before attaching the pen cap (I suspect this is by design), the overall quality is worth grabbing up a pen holder and a few straight/oblique cut nibs if the opportunity presents itself.

If you enjoy a well-designed nib and don’t mind a little extra maintenance work, the Pelikan Graphos pen might be found treasure.

A review of this pen (in Spanish) can be found at the estilograficas.net website.

Reform Calligraphy Pens

This set was given to me as a gift so I’m not sure where or when they were originally purchased.

Reform Calligraphy Fountain Pens

Reform Calligraphy Fountain Pens

The nib sizes included are 1.1, 1.5, 1.9 and 2.3 – suitable for most calligraphy lettering projects.  Each nib contains two vent holes and are marked with the nib size, “Italic Reform” and “Germany.”  Nibs can also be unscrewed from the pen holder if necessary for cleaning or replacement.

The most interesting feature of this pen is the piston filling system – no ink cartridges or converters required!  Simply turn the piston forwards, dip the pen nib into the ink, and turn the piston back to the starting position.  No mess, no fuss!  The clear “window” section shows how much ink is left so you don’t run out in the middle of letter.

The nibs produce very clean lines, the pen is comfortable to hold and handles very smoothly.  The pen caps contain a seal and are screwed onto the pen barrel to keep the ink from drying out.

The “Instructions” paper lists Calligraphy, Lettering and Sketch pens.  I have not seen the Lettering or Sketch pens, but I would love to try the “Extra Fine Sketch Pen” if one turns up somewhere.

A very nice addition for a Calligraphy Fountain Pen “collection” if you happen to find one or better yet, find an entire set!

Spiral borders can be an interesting enhancement for lettering, particularly certificates.  They can be a little tricky especially at the corners, so this is one method of laying out a spiral design that wraps continuously around the border area.

What you need:

  • graph paper (about 4 squares to the inch or refer to the Calligraphy Resources page)
  • tracing paper
  • pencil and eraser

If you have not drawn a spiral design for a border, refer to the Calligraphy Design: Simple Drawn and Painted Borders post.

Step 1:

Draw the basic spiral shape about 3 squares high and 5 squares wide.

Starting Spiral Shape

Starting Spiral Shape

Step 2:

Starting at the bottom of the border, copy the shape onto tracing paper, then transfer the shapes in a row flipping the tracing paper to alternate the design.

Design Traced for the Bottom Row

Design Traced for the Bottom Row

The length of the row can be whatever size fits your design requirement, just make sure the last spiral transferred curves inside as shown.

Step 3:

Working up the right side of the border, rotate the tracing paper and continue transferring the spiral alternating the design and ending with the last spiral curved inside.

Border Up Right Side

Border Up Right Side

Step 4:

Continue along the top and down the left side, making sure the corner spirals are turned inside.  Flip and rotate the tracing paper as needed to continue the alternating design.

Spiral Border Outline Showing Corners

Spiral Border Outline Showing Corners

Step 5:

Now that the outline is complete, add in the details and the design is ready to be transferred onto watercolor paper for painting.

Full Border Ready for Painting

Full Border Ready for Painting

The size of the spirals and lengths of the borders can easily be adjusted or scaled to match any design requirements.  This border was drafted for a paper size of 8 1/2″ x 11″.

Try to leave at least a 1/2″ or more from the outside edge of the border to the edge of paper.  It is better to scale the border and leave some white space to give a bit of additional space for framing!

Zoomorphic initials are fascinating drawings and paintings of animals, hybrids and fantastical beasts shaped to create letters in manuscripts.  Although the most arguably famous examples are found in the Book of Kells, zoomorphic initials decorate illuminated manuscripts from many regions, countries and periods in art history.

Reference examples in this demonstration are from the British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts – for more examples enter “zoomorphic” in the search box.

A cursory look at manuscript zoomorphic initials reveals an astonishing range of styles and techniques that can be loosely grouped into three categories:

In this demonstration, we’ll construct and draw a very simple full zoomorphic dragon initial “C”.

Zoomorphic Initial C

Zoomorphic Initial C

Manuscript Zoomorphic “Dragon” References:

What you need:

  • graph paper
  • pencil and eraser
  • tracing paper
  • fine and medium point markers (e.g. Sakura Pigma Micron, Staedtler Pigment Liner)
  • paper suitable for pen and ink drawing

Step 1:

First we’ll use the graph paper and pencil to work out the basic outline and then transfer the design onto drawing paper to ink in the details.

Draw a “C” on the graph paper.

Step 1: Drawing a Letter "C"

Step 1: Drawing a Letter “C”

Step 2:

Draw lines around the center “C” line – this will be the dragon “body”.

Step 2: Drawing the Dragon Body Lines

Step 2: Drawing the Dragon Body Lines

Step 3:

Sketch in a large oval at the top for the dragon head, a smaller oval for the tail, and a large oval down the side for a wing and foot.

Step 3: Sketching in Head, Tail and Wing

Step 3: Sketching in Head, Tail and Wing

Step 4:

Draw shapes for the head, tail, wing and foot.

Step 4: Drawing Head, Tail, Wing and Foot

Step 4: Drawing Head, Tail, Wing and Foot

Tip: Use the graph squares to help the draw the shapes by following the lines in the example.

Step 5:

Erase the construction lines, then add a few scallops to the bottom of the wings and extend the lines.

Step 6: Wing Lines

Step 5: Wing Lines

We now have a basic outline to copy onto tracing paper and transfer to the drawing paper.

Basic Outline

Basic Zoomorphic “C” Outline

Step 6:

You can either ink in the outline first, or do that as the last step.  These steps do not necessarily have to be done in order – whatever fits your drawing style.

Starting at the back of the head, ink in the body to the end of the tail leaving a border on each side.

Step 6: Inking the Body

Step 6: Inking the Body

Step 7:

Add as many or as few details to head, wing and foot as you prefer – I’ve added a few details lines to the head and wings, claws to the toes, and a few head details including teeth:

Step 7: Adding Detail Lines

Step 7: Adding Detail Lines

Step 8:

Use the fine marker to add dots in the border area, and we’re done!

Once you have drawn out a basic structure, try experimenting with various details, patterns and colors to recreate a particular style, draw inspiration from manuscripts, or create something completely unique!

Basic Structure Modified to a "Celtic" Style

Basic Structure Modified to a Simple “Celtic” Style

One of the most fascinating aspects of illuminated manuscripts is the range and diversity of the borders.  Elements can include stylized and naturalistic foliate drawings, (flowers, ivy, leaves, buds), geometric shapes and pen sprays often growing from border bars anchored to illuminated initials.

This demonstration will look at a few basic structures and incorporate various common elements found in manuscripts to create simple borders with added layers of complexity as a starting point to either creating your own designs or researching manuscripts to recreate “authentic” styles.

The border designs in this demonstration are a simple Symmetrical Border, a Repeating Spiral Border and a Border Bar with Ivy.

I have also included references to a few manuscripts from the British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts for each design to give you an idea of the use, range and diversity of the elements.

Drawing Borders

What you need:

  • graph paper (refer to Calligraphy Resources page)
  • pencil, eraser
  • pointed pen nib and ink or fine point marker (e.g. Sakura Pigma Micron, Staedtler Pigment Liner)
  • tracing paper

We’ll start by working out basic structures on graph paper, but consider drawing these borders free hand to give a more dynamic, less mechanical look to your designs.

These designs use very simple shapes that are easy to draw.  If you don’t think you can draw, practice the shapes a few times – you might be surprised at how well you can draw!

Basic Shapes

The basic shapes to construct the borders are lines, circle, diamond, oval, hook and a squiggle:

Basic Shapes

Line, Circle, Diamond, Oval, Hook and Squiggle

We will also be using a simple flower, acanthus leaf and ivy:

Flower Construction

Flower Construction

Acanthus Construction

Acanthus Construction

Ivy Construction

Ivy Construction

Symmetrical Border

A very simple design containing a primary element (e.g. flower, leaf, etc.), a secondary element and pen sprays.

Manuscript References:

Lansdowne 851 f.54v
Yates Thompson 52 f.23v
Stowe 23  f. 62

Step 1:

On graph paper, draw a line for the center line.  Draw alternating long (first) and short (second) branches evenly spaced from the center line.  It might be easier to turn the paper vertically, and use the graph squares to help create symmetrical lines.

Step 1: Main Stem and Branches

Step 1: Main Stem and Branches

Step 2:

Draw diamond shapes for leaves on the ends of the long branches, and circles for berries on the ends of the short branches.  Try to make the leaves follow the direction of the stem.

Step 2: Leaves and Berries

Step 2: Leaves and Berries

Step 3:

Draw the hook shape (pen sprays) between the branches a little shorter than the berry branches, and following the same direction.

Step 3: Pen Sprays

Step 3: Pen Sprays

Step 4:

Above the berry circles, draw two short lines and finish with a squiggle stroke.

Step 4: Berry Pen Sprays

Step 4: Berry Pen Sprays

And we’re done!  Now we can transfer the design for painting or just add a few details.

Finished Border

Finished Border

We can make a variety of borders by simply changing the elements and pen sprays.  The border below uses the same structure and substitutes flowers for leaves, oval-shaped leaves for the berries, and berries for the hooks:

Border with Flowers and Leaves

Border with Flowers and Leaves

We could keep adding details such a pen sprays:

Border Variation with Pen Sprays

Border Variation with Pen Sprays

Of course, borders do not have to be straight – try adding some curves or have the borders “grow” from an object:

Border Variation

Border Variation

Repeating Spiral Border

A simple design that is easy to repeat around a page.

Manuscript References:

Harley 24 f.1
Harley 44 f.2
Harley 2966 ff.27v-28 – Symmetrical and Spiral Borders

Step 1:

First we’ll use the graph paper to plot out a spiral shape.

Step 1: Plotting a Spiral Shape

Step 1: Plotting a Spiral Shape

Step 2:

Connect the “dots” by drawing a curved line through each point.  Draw an acanthus leaf at the end of the inside line.

Step 2: Spiral with Acanthus Leaf

Step 2: Spiral with Acanthus Leaf

Step 3:

Trace the design on tracing paper, then flip it and copy it:

Step 3: Repeating the Design

Step 3: Repeating the Design

Step 4:

Now we can start building elements starting with a few evenly spaced nodes – these are simply a “curved” variation of the ivy shape:

Step 4: Adding Nodes

Step 4: Adding Nodes

Step 5:

We can continue adding elements such as berries and pen spray hooks:

Step 5: Adding Berries and Pen Sprays

Step 5: Adding Berries and Pen Sprays

Step 6:

Add a few details such as lines from the berries, and we’re done!

Step 6: Finished Repeating Spiral

Step 6: Finished Repeating Spiral

Border Bar with Ivy

Ivy vines and leaves are generally attached to border bars and initials.  These can be very simple or quite complex and often are combined with other elements and design styles.

Manuscript References:

Harley 2899 f. 34v – spiral design
Egerton 3035  f. 38 – alternating style
Egerton 3037  f.193 – simple symmetrical

Step 1:

Draw parallel lines about one graph square apart for a border bar.  Draw a second smaller width line outside the bar for the main vine line.

Step 1: First Lines

Step 1: First Lines

Step 2:

Draw a wavy line at the top and bottom extending the smaller vine lines.

Step 2: Extending Vine Lines

Step 2: Extending Vine Lines

Step 3:

At the bottom and top of the first outside line, draw a few scalloped shapes and connect to the inside lines of the extended vine lines.

Step 3: Extending Outer Lines

Step 3: Extending Outer Lines

Step 4:

Add a second vine at the center of the bar attached to the outside vine.

Step 4: Drawing Center Vine

Step 4: Drawing Center Vine

Step 5:

Draw alternating stems and leaves attached to the vines.

Step 5: Drawing Stems and Ivy

Step 5: Drawing Stems and Ivy

Step 6:

Draw section lines around the center vines and to separate scallops at the top and bottom.

Step 6: Adding Section Lines

Step 6: Adding Section Lines

We can continue adding a few details such as pen sprays on the ivy and vines, and the design is ready to be transferred for painting.

Finished Ivy Border

Finished Ivy Border

Painting Borders

Borders are usually (but not always!) painted and they are very easy and fun!   What you do depends on your design requirements whether it is a simple touch of color, elaborate layers with detailed white designs, incorporating gold leaf, grisaille, etc.

These are just a few simple suggestions using a limited palette of colors that are easy to paint.  Try substituting the Yellow Ochre with a metallic gold artist paint or metallic gold gel pen!

What you need:

  • round brush (medium and small)
  • mixing palette
  • gouache paint (Opaque White, Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Red, Yellow Ochre, Raw Umber)
  • paper suitable for water-based media
  • pointed pen nib and ink or fine point marker (e.g. Sakura Pigma Micron, Staedtler Pigment Liner)
  • ink

Optional:

  • Metallic gold paint or gel pen

Start by using tracing paper and a pencil or another method to copy a design on to the painting paper.  After you having finished painting, you can outline the design using a pointed nib with ink or a fine point marker.  Try to make the lines thin and not too heavy or it will look too “cartoonish”.

If the black outline looks too dark, thin out the ink so it is a gray tone, or mix a bit of brown gouache such as Raw Umber for the outlines.

Sample Symmetrical and Repeating Borders

These borders generally follow the same steps when painting:

Step 1:

Paint any areas you want in “gold” first – either with Yellow Ochre or a metallic gold paint.

Step 2:

Paint the flat areas of color (e.g. red, blue).  If you are mixing a color such as green (Yellow Ochre with a bit of Ultramarine Blue), mix enough to paint all the flat areas so the color is consistent.

Step 3:

Use Opaque White to paint details in the flat colors once the paint is dry.

Step 4:

When the paint and paper are completely dry, outline the design if desired, and add in the pen sprays.

These are just a few suggestions and variations:

Sample Flower Border

Sample Flower Border

Sample Alternating Design

Sample Flower Variation

Sample Spiral Repeated

Sample Spiral Repeated

We could also use one color and paint a monochromatic design for a grisaille effect:

Sample Grisaille Style

Sample Grisaille Style

Sample Bar and Ivy Border

Step 1:

Mix up a bit of Yellow Ochre and paint center section, top and bottom scalloped areas on the bar.  You can also add a bit of Raw Umber and paint a few darker strokes to make it look like gold.  Paint a few ivy leaves around the border with the same color.

Step 1: Painting Gold

Step 1: Painting Gold

Step 2:

Bar and vine colors generally alternate, so we will use Ultramarine Blue and Cadmium Red to paint the top of the bar red, the bottom blue, and switch the colors for the vine.  Note that the vine color changes about halfway at the center gold section.  Paint the remainder of the ivy leaves alternating red and blue.

Step 2: Painting Blue and Red

Step 2: Painting Blue and Red

Step 3:

Mix up Opaque White, and paint a line down the center of the vines.  You might want to mask out the areas as discussed in the Calligraphy Layout: Designing a Certificate post.

Tip: Another method of painting straight lines without masking is to use short, connecting strokes rather than trying to paint one long, straight line.

Step 3: Vine Center Lines

Step 3: Vine Center Lines

Step 4

Using a small brush and Opaque White, add details to the border bars by painting straight lines in geometric shapes on the red bar, and curved line shapes on the blue bar.  You can paint these as simple or as complex as you like – try adding a few white dots in the shapes, painting double lines, etc.  Paint a few highlights on the edges of the blue and red ivy leaves.

Step 4: Painting Bar Design and Ivy Highlights

Step 4: Painting Bar Designs and Ivy Highlights

When the paint and paper are completely dry, outline the design with a thin line of black ink or brown gouache and finish up other details such as pen sprays.

Sample Bar and Ivy Border

Sample Bar and Ivy Border

These are just a few simple suggestions to get you started – try different structures, colors and elements with variations.  Study manuscripts to recreate an authentic border to match a particular letter style, or create something completely contemporary!

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