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Posts Tagged ‘Margins’

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!

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One of the most commonly requested calligraphy work is lettering on pre-printed certificates, diplomas and awards.  This usually requires the calligrapher to simply add the names and dates in the appropriate spaces, although sometimes the achievement or other information needs to be customized for each individual recipient.

Tip:  Once you have reached a good skill level with your lettering, certificate work can be a great way to start making money with calligraphy.

The areas for lettering might be a blank space or sometimes indicated by a printed line.  Depending on the layout of the certificate or award, centering the recipient’s name is generally required.  Although this demonstration focuses on centering on a certificate, it can also be used for other centered works such as a poem or invitation.

What you need:

  • calligraphy pen and ink
  • a blank certificate
  • ruler
  • pencil and eraser
  • optional:  Scotch Removable Magic Tape

If you don’t have a blank certificate for practice you can download a free printable Achievement certificate from SampleWords.

Step 1:

First we’ll take a look at our pre-printed certificate:

Preprinted Certificate

Pre-printed Certificate

There are lined spaces for the name and dates, and since they are relatively generous spaces, we can center the lettering in the line spaces to give balance within the overall design.

Step 2:

Write out the recipient’s name and the dates on graph paper or practice paper.  This will also give you an opportunity to try letter size variations to determine the best fit for the space.  Generally, the letter style should be similar to the font style although, of course, there are exceptions especially if the client requests a specific style.

A simple Italic style was used for this example as a style such as Blackletter would look too heavy and formal for the character of this diploma.

Draft of Name and Dates

Draft of Name and Dates

Step 3:

Now that we have determined the letter style and size, we need to measure the lettering to determine the width and center.

Note:  The examples are shown with red lines for clarity – use a ordinary graphite pencil (HB, F or H) to mark the lines.

Measuring the Name

Measuring the Name

The name measures approximately 2″ with the center line at 1″.  Mark the beginning and end of the name with a small pencil line, and draw a vertical pencil line at the center.

Step 4:

Next, measure the width of the name line on the diploma, and mark the center line lightly with a pencil.

Marking the Line Center

Marking the Line Center

The line space is approximately 4 1/2″ with the center line at 2 1/8″.

Step 5:

At this point we could use the ruler to mark a pencil line at 1″ of either side of the line center mark (indicating the start and finish point of the name), but I sometimes prefer to cut out the name draft and tack it lightly on the line with Scotch Removable Magic Tape to have a better visual idea of how the lettering will actually look on the certificate.

Tacking the Draft on the Diploma

Tacking the Draft on the Diploma

It is easy to line up the name draft center line with the center line on the diploma, then mark the beginning and end of the name with a light pencil line.

This is also a good way to check to see if any descenders in the name will have to be adjusted as to not run over any printed text under the name line.

Step 6:

Repeat steps 3 to 5 for each date and date line, pencil in guidelines for the lettering, and you are ready to letter the final copy!

I decided to mix an ink color that closely resembles the font color on the diploma using Winsor and Newton Calligraphy Ink as the black ink looked a little heavy for the diploma.

Finished Diploma

Finished Diploma

Don’t forget to erase any pencil lines!  If possible, let the ink dry overnight to make sure the ink doesn’t smear before erasing pencil marks.

Tip:  It can be assumed that certificates, awards and diplomas will be framed or displayed in some way so it is important to use an ink that will not fade when exposed to light for long periods of time.  This will require using a dip pen and lightfast ink as fountain pen ink is fugitive and will fade over time.

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This is a simple, traditional method of determining the margins and text areas for a book or double page spread.  It does not only have to be used for books – a single page of lettering can also be combined with other elements in this format to create interesting visual effects for either formal or informal calligraphy projects.  A few examples are:

  • A quote or excerpt with illustration
  • Photo album or scrapbook project
  • Greeting cards
  • Invitations
  • And of course, books!

Although there is quite an interesting history, theories and mathematics regarding book layouts (the Canons of Page Construction), we will just use a pencil and ruler to easily create a book layout on a single paper.

What you need:

  • a piece of paper (8 1/2″ x 11″ is fine)
  • ruler
  • pencil

Step 1:

With your paper in a horizontal position, use the ruler to draw a pencil line from the top corner to the opposite bottom corner.  Repeat on the other side so you have the lines cross in the center.  Place the ruler vertically through the “x” and draw a line through the center of the paper.

Step 1: Drawing the First Lines

Step 1: Drawing the First Lines

Step 2:

From the center line at the top, draw a line to each bottom corner.  Next, from the center “x”, draw lines again to the bottom corners.

Step 2: Drawing Lines to Bottom Corners

Step 2: Drawing Lines to Bottom Corners

Step 3:

On the left side draw a vertical line from where the two lines cross to the top of the paper.

Step 3: Drawing the Left Side Vertical Line

Step 3: Drawing the Left Side Vertical Line

Step 4:

Draw a connecting line from the top of the last vertical line to the center “x” of the right side.

Step 4: Draw the Connecting Line

Step 4: Draw the Connecting Line

Step 5:

Now comes the fun part!  Set your ruler horizontally from the left center “x” of the last connecting line, and draw a line until it touches each of the first corner lines.  Turn the ruler vertically and draw lines on each side of the last lines until they touch the first bottom lines.  Last, connect the two side lines with a horizontal line at the bottom.  This “box” is the outer and top edges of the letter space.

Step 5: Drawing the Outer Text Box Lines

Step 5: Drawing the Outer Text Box Lines

Step 6:

Turn the ruler vertically and draw a line from the center of the left “x” and top of the “box” line to the bottom of the “box” line.  Repeat on the other side.  This is the inner margin (or “gutter”) for the text area.

Step 6: Completed Layout

Step 6: Completed Layout

Step 7:

The layout is now complete – if we remove all the lines except the ones indicating the text area we have the layout for a book or double page spread.

Step 7: Book Layout

Step 7: Book Layout (Recto and Verso)

Note:  The right side of the page is called recto, the left side is called verso.

Now that we have our lettering area, we can put in some calligraphy!

Layout with Calligraphy

Layout with Calligraphy

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Practicing letters can be fun and increase your skills, but eventually you will want to apply those skills to a finished work of calligraphy.

There are no specific rules regarding calligraphy page layouts; however when deciding how to arrange lettering on a page, it is helpful to understand and apply Design Elements and Principles that can make even a few words look visually interesting and convey meaning – even a simple alphabet can become a visual expression.

A couple of excellent examples of how a few words and phrases can be turned into works of art by applying basic Design Elements and Principles are the works of artists/calligraphers Alice Young and Martin Jackson.

The basics of formatting a simple page layout can be a great starting point whether you are lettering a couple of lines for a quote, a certificate, a book, or whatever words capture your interest.  The following layout can be found in most calligraphy “how to” books – the single page example is based on the layout in Pen Lettering by Ann Camp.

Simple page layout

The layout is based on the “roots” of calligraphy found in medieval manuscripts or books.  The proportions and margin calculations provide a simple method of obtaining balance to a lettering project.  Generally, we want the following margin proportions (although there are minor variations):

  • 2 units for the top margin
  • 3 units for the left and right margins (some sources use 2 or 2 1/2 units)
  • 4 units for the bottom margin

A unit can be any measurement – in inches, centimeters, etc. – depending on the scale of the work and how much space you decide you need around the lettering.  I prefer rather generous margins around lettering as margins that are too small give a “cramped” look to the overall page.

Sample Page Layout with 1/2" Units

Sample Page Layout with 1/2" Units

A few points to consider when creating a project:

  • length of the text and weight (thickness) of the lettering
  • do you want to include a border, drawing or other illustrations?
  • standard sized paper (e.g. 8 x 10, 11 x 14) or any size?
  • type and quality paper (paper won’t “yellow” over time)?
  • is the finished work to be framed?

Single Page

What you need:

  • a quote or a few lines of lettering
  • pencil
  • ruler
  • paper for the finished work
  • scrap paper

Step 1:

Write out your text on graph paper or guidelines to determine the style and size of lettering you want, and how you want to break up the lines.

The quote I am using for this example is one of my favorites from author James Herriot:

Sample Text

Sample Text

The rough draft was executed using a Rotring Calligraphy Art Pen (1.9 mm) on generated guidelines from Scribblers.  I decided to use a compressed Italic letter style for the main text and a slanted variation for the author’s name.

Tip: If you use a quote, don’t forget to include and acknowledge the author.

Step 2:

Now that we have an idea of the space required for the text, we can calculate the size of the margins.  First, measure the length and width of the lettering.  The example measures approximately 4″ x 3″.

Text Size

Text Size

Step 3:

As the quote is fairly short and does not require huge margins, I chose 1/2″ as my basic unit:

  • 2 units x 1/2″ = 1″ top margin
  • 3 units x 1/2″ = 1 1/2″ left and right margins
  • 4 units x 1/2″ = 2″ bottom margin

Adding the margins around the lettering:

Unit Margin Measures

Unit Margin Measures

The final paper size I would need for this quote is 6″ x 7″.  All that is left to do is pencil in the guidelines and complete the lettering!

Tip:  If your finished project is going to be framed, add at least an extra 1/4″ or 1/2″ around all the sides – your framer will thank you!  It is much easier to trim a little extra off a page for framing than to try fitting a mat and frame around a work with tiny margins!

When we have a fixed size of paper for our project, it is easy to determine the space available for lettering, and we can make necessary adjustments to the letter size and weight by changing the nib size, break up the lines differently, or do something creative.

Let’s assume that we want to letter our project on a piece of 8″ x 10″ paper.  Since our quote measures 4″ x 3″, we can adjust the units to accommodate the larger sized paper and increase the measurement to 1″:

  • 2 units x 1″ = 2″ top margin
  • 2 units x 1″ = 2″ left and right margins (note that this unit was adjusted)
  • 4 units x 1″ = 4″ bottom margin
8 x 10 Layout

8 x 10 Layout

This calculation gives us about 4″ x 4″ lettering space which give us an extra inch vertically.  If we want to fill the extra space, we could re-position the quote in the vertical center, try a larger letter size, re-adjust the line breaks, or include a graphic.

Layout Quote with Graphic

Layout Quote with Graphic

In this example I’ve moved the author’s name to the bottom and included a little pen-drawn cat.  Now that the draft is finished and the margins are established, it’s ready for guidelines and the final lettering.

Tip: Always sign and date your work, especially if you are just beginning with calligraphy as it is a way to track your progress and you will be amazed at how quickly you improve with practice!

Remember that this simple, single page layout is just a starting point for your calligraphy projects.  Look at the works of other calligraphers and take note of the paper size, letter size, lettering position and how using other elements such as drawings, painting, color, lights and darks all work together to create unity and balance.

Be creative and don’t be afraid to experiment!

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