Archive for March 19th, 2009

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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