weddings

The Cheats’ Guide to Calligraphy (or: How to Acquire Beautiful Penmanship In No Time At All).

calligraphy using your PC

I love receiving post, and I love to write letters, though I don’t do so nearly often enough. There’s something so rare and lovely about seeing an envelope poking out from a pile of brown bills and circulars which is obviously something fun.  This week, a few tips on how to create beautiful and accomplished-looking envelopes, invitations, gift tags or any other paper paraphernalia, using just your PC and a printer.  Whether you have a Windows PC or a Mac, your basic in-built programmes are likely to contain Powerpoint (tool of jaded office executives the world over, and hence an old friend of mine).  As well as producing mind-numbingly dull graphs and bulleted presentations, it can be surprisingly versatile; I do practically all of my crafty stuff using it, including the montages you see on the blog.

If your capability with Powerpoint extends to the point where you can open a file and create a text box, then we’re cooking and ready for the off.  If you are a Photoshop aficionado and are reading this with horror at my simplistic and antiquated ways, then please cast your eyes away from the screen and cease your tut-tutting.  Right then…

amelie calligraphy envelope

harry calligraphy envelope

george envelope

  • Choose a great font.  Either choose from the default font menu, or start with the list and resources below of mostly free-to-download fonts, and have a play until you find one you like.  Many of the sites let you type in your own words to sample the font before downloading (urbanfonts is good for this), so if you have a particular phrase or wording in mind, head there to see what it looks like in each font; with calligraphy and ‘handwriting’ fonts the letters can vary a lot.
  • Use a new text box for each line of text, so that you can move words around, rotate and position far more organically than you can within a single text box.  You can see here that I’ve used a large font for the surname and then used the green rotate icon to turn it slightly.  Having individual boxes also allowed me to overlap the ‘B’ of Brown with the ‘A’ of Amelia.  The stars here were drawn using Powerpoint’s own shapes library (create one, copy and paste until you have a small constellation).

Deconstructing DIY Calligraphy

  • For dramatic capital letters, use a text box for each letter, whack up the font size and then – using a new text box – position the rest of the word (in a much smaller font) where you want it. You can see below how for this address I used multiple font sizes:

Calligraphy font sizes

  • When you’re ready to print, cut out practice templates from inexpensive paper which are the same size as your envelopes, and print /adjust until you have it exactly positioned right, to minimise wastage or misprints.
  • For white text on a coloured background, create a large coloured square to sit behind your text onscreen before converting the text to white.  You can either print this directly onto the envelope as I did here, or onto a large self-adhesive label to then stick onto plainer envelopes. To avoid a white edge around your image when printing directly onto envelopes, select a print size slightly bigger than your envelope.
  • Don’t be afraid of mixing fonts, and adding graphics like I did for my envelope flap ‘monogram’ below, which I print onto a stash of envelopes for thank-you cards or letters;

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 14.12.03

envelope flap signature

Incidentally, I love printing things on the back of envelopes… be it a warning not to open birthday cards before the big day, a simple return address or a message; it’s all the more fun because it’s unexpected…

One Good Thing envelope flap

I could continue for hours on this topic, but in the spirit of brevity, and due to the pile of actual letters I’ve meaning to write for far too long, I will stop here for now.  Below are some of my favourites and all of the fonts I’ve used here.  All are free for personal use apart from the delicious Jacques & Gilles which cost me about $30.   I use it all the time, such as for these labels and this post, and it makes me smile.  Definitely worth it for me.

Calligraphy Fonts Sourcesheet

And finally, here are some of the things I create with calligraphy fonts;

  • Personalised stationery, particularly as presents for little people, like this
  • Monogram stickers to use as gift seals or for the back of envelopes
  • The letter from Santa which mysteriously appears in our hearth in late December
  • Invitations and gift tags
  • Labels for homemade baking and jams

signature

A Painted Romance

DIY watercolour heart

I’ve come over all romantic this week. Perhaps because the week began in Paris, city of lovers, where I had my long-awaited weekend away (more on that later), but probably because tomorrow is our wedding anniversary, and I’m inevitably feeling reflective about the last five amazing, exhilarating years.  To celebrate, we’ll be slinking off to local country-house hotel in the middle of the afternoon  ….to eat lots of cake.

A decadent Afternoon Tea beckons, and whilst it may sound somewhat less glamorous than a passionate mini-break à deux it requires no babysitters or complicated logistics, and very little schedule-juggling & budget. A couple of hours to relax, reconnect and just be, aided by a glass of champagne and enough calories to slow down Usain Bolt. I can’t wait.

DIY watercolour moonMy anniversary card to Mr B will be homemade – of course- and I’ve been dabbling with my watercolour paintbox, creating the images above and below and mostly just playing with colours and shapes, adding text to those I like…

home is where the heart is

In each case I’ve painted a simple shape in a single colour with a loaded, wet paintbrush, so that the paint pools into interesting patterns as it dries.  For those inspired to give it a go, there’s more detail below.

You are my sunshine

I used the same technique to make fun menus when we had friends over for dinner last weekend, painting watery stripes of colour in complementary shades, which blended at the edges as they settled and dried…

painted menus

I decorated the table with garden flowers in a similar palette, and sprayed this log white as a centrepiece.  Tiny tea-light candles in little porcelain cups completed the picture…

Paint palette tablescape

If you love the watercolour effect but would rather cheat than labour away at your own (and I applaud you for this; hurrah for short-cuts..), you can find PDF downloads of my images and the painted menu backdrop at the bottom.  If you’re feeling artistic, whip out your paintbox and read on…

make me smile

More

You’ve got mail!

As a child, especially during school holidays when life seemed to move a little slower and distractions were fewer, I would feverishly anticipate the arrival of the daily post.  At the rattling of the letterbox I would race, in the manner of a small eager dog (but with less drooling), to scoop up whatever lay on the mat, riffling through it eagerly.  I probably only received letters about 3 times a year (birthdays, Christmastime, and an annual Child Savings Account update), but that didn’t stop me anticipating the kind of ill-defined thrills that only mail could bring.  Possibly a national television network inviting me onto the Saturday night talent show, having scouted me covertly in the school play.  Or maybe the Cadbury’s Chocolate Company announcing I had been selected at random to test all their new products, would I mind?  It was a triumph of optimism over experience, but my enthusiasm didn’t dim for many years, lasting probably until around the time that the Student Loan Company began writing to me with some frequency about our longstanding and very one-sided relationship.

In a world where the daily post tends to simply bring brown envelopes and bills, with the loveliest messages and news often coming via Email, Harry and I have taken it upon ourselves this week to briefly reignite the joy of a letter, and have set about making a series of jolly envelope liners to slip inside otherwise plain envelopes, as a breakfast-time surprise to our unsuspecting relatives. It seemed like a fun accompaniment to the mailing of a periodic pack of family summer photos, but it also works really well for events where you’re making homemade invites or announcements – I’ve printed a couple of my favourite wedding photos to add to envelopes to send to Mr B. at some point (we do live together, I hasten to add; I shall have to leave them romantically on his pillow and hope that Harry doesn’t jump on them first…).  Ideas and simple tutorial below for making your own template.



Head-shots shout a real ‘hello!” when the envelope is opened, but busier pics too can look very effective, like this one of us sheltering from a classic English summer

This retro shot of Harry at 6 months discovering one of life’s great pleasures – food – is one of my all-time faves

Play around with envelope colour once you’ve chosen your photo; white envelopes frame photos well but brightly coloured tonal ones like this can make them look even more vibrant

These two liners (above and below) were made from simple b&w photocopies of our wedding photos, but still look good.  I edged the one above with washi tape (from Cavallini).  The one below will bring a tear to my husband’s eye upon opening; of laughter, that is, as he recalls dropping me moments after this shot was taken…

Making an envelope liner template:

Choose a sheet of thin perspex or vellum and lay it over the top of the envelope you want to use.  Draw around the outline of the envelope flap, about 1cm inside the flap itself (follow the lower line of the gummed edge for this; you want to leave this clear when you add your insert). Make sure the bottom edge of the perspex goes at least an inch below the bottom of the lowest point of the envelope (A), and then draw a dotted line where the edge of the envelope runs (B); this will be really useful when lining up your photos later and choosing where to position them.

Cut around the outside of your shape; voila, you now have a reusable template which you can position over photos.  Slip it inside your envelope to check it fits properly, then let’s begin!  Choose the photos you want to use, and make a rough printout first in draft or greyscale, to help with sizing.  Place your template over the top to work out what you’ll see when you crop and use the photo, and what details you’ll lose; I had a great photo of Harry eating an ice-cream, but the ice-cream itself was lost in the final crop and it just looked very peculiar.

Print out your final photo onto high-quality inkjet paper (don’t use photo paper; it will crack or fold badly when you seal the envelope shut), then place your template over, draw around it in pencil and cut out.  Slip into the envelope and apply use a gluestick to apply adhesive to the triangular section; stick it to the inner flap (you don’t need to stick the bottom half of the insert down; it’ll stay flat).  Score lightly across the fold and  ta-da!! you have a very cool envelope liner.  If you’re making lots of these, use a colour photocopier to make copies – the quality might be slightly less good but no-one’s going to notice that.  Now you just need to work out what you’re going to put in them…..