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Calligraphy Yourself

Tips and Advice for Invitation "Do-it-Yourselfers"


OK, let's get ready!

Gather all the materials you will need:

1) your envelopes
2) pen, pencil, ink, and eraser
3) paper towels or cloth rag
4) address list
5) ruler
6) guide insert
7) shoe box
8) lettering examples/books
9) wax, seal, ribbon
10) saucer of water

I suggest using a fountain rather than a dip pen, especially for beginners. My favorite is my old Osmiroid pen which are very hard to find nowadays. Dip pens require not only fine motor skills but manual flow control of the ink. It takes skill and practice to become a proficient dip pen scriber.
Schaeffer is an acceptable and affordable brand. Its nibs are not as fine as some of the more expensive brands. Schaeffer fountain pens require a cartridge which fit only Schaeffer pens but they are widely available. Secondly, if you want a custom ink color such as periwinkle it will have to be mixed and loaded with a refillable cartridge which works like a hypodermic needle. A plunger pulled up from the top draws the ink into the cartridge. Most craft and art stores carry them as well as some department stores.

Fountain pens also employ ink cartridges that are simply snapped into the pen. The sets usually come with some of these cartridges. Most modern and inexpensive fountain pens use this type of cartridge. The Manuscript brand sets also include a converter (plunger style) for use of bottled (or for hand-mixed colors) ink as seen in this set:

NEVER use india ink in a fountain pen. And, only ever use cold water to clean your pen. Warm or hot water can warp the pen tines.
Fountain pens sometimes need to be coaxed to begin the ink flow. Make sure the flow is free before you put the pen to the envelope. This can be done by either gently poking a wad of tissue paper until you see the ink spot or by dipping the nib into distilled (pre-boiled) water and blotting it onto a paper towel or rag.

Use a white, very soft eraser like the Sanford Magic Rub Eraser seen here.

Colored erasers like the ones on pencils can leave a color on the envelope and are sometimes so harsh that they can damage the finish of your paper. I also recommend the use of a mechanical pencil (0.7 mm lead) because it creates a very fine, clear line. Draw your guide lines very lightly so they are just visible and they will be easier to erase. Use only light pressure so you will not leave an impression. Lines drawn with too much pressure can be impossible to fully erase.

An old shoe box or a plastic box works well to keep materials together and prevents them from rolling off the table.
An insert guide is a thin, white cardboard card that has measured black lines on it which you insert into the envelope. A card can be made from a shirt box, cereal box, you get the idea.
When the card is inserted you can see the lines through the envelope. Make your insert about 1/2" short of the same width of the envelope so that it will be easy to insert. If you are concerned about the slant of your letters, also make vertical lines on your insert every 1/4" or so. It helps you achieve uniformity in your slanting.
OH no! My envelopes are lined! I can't see the lines thru the paper! Well, there is a solution! This is going to necessitate pencil-drawn lines. I know, I know, what a pain! Here's a tip:
Take ONE envelope and draw the 3 lines, lightly with a pencil making the middle line centered horizontally on the envelope. The other lines should be equally spaced. In other words, if there is 1/4" between the first and second line, then the space between the second and third lines should also be 1/4". The line for the zip would be down another 1/4" from the third line.
Next, take 8-10 envelopes and place the penciled envelope on top of them, making a neat stack. All of the envelopes should be facing the same way. Fan them. (Make the pile wider by spreading them out slightly from each other)
Put the pile of fanned envelopes down and redraw the lines over the first envelope onto the others. Reverse for the other side. Now you have 8-10 envelopes with small lines on each side of each to prevent re-measuring each one.
Another method is to make 4 cards, each one a different height. The tallest card in back and on top of it, the 1/4" shorter card, etc. Place all 4 cards on the envelope. Draw the top line first and remove the tall card. Repeat for the next three lines.

There are countless books available from which you can choose a lettering style. It is common to use the same lettering type as on the invitation. However, many invitation scripts are very elaborate and difficult for the beginner. I suggest you borrow or purchase a book by Margaret Shepherd titled "Learn Calligraphy" It is very popular and widely available.

You can purchase it here from Amazon.com


The Setting

You'll need to prepare your work place on a stable desk or table. Some people like to work on an inclined plane. These are available in art stores or if you are handy, you can make your own. Make sure the surface is glass-like smooth. Find a position that is comfortable for you.

Adequate lighting is a must. If the light source casts shadows this may cause a problem by preventing you from seeing the entire line which you have drawn or have inserted into your envelope and can be quite irritating. I would not suggest attempting to address your envelopes in the company of small children or affectionate cats or dogs who are likely to "visit" you! For you multi-taskers, please don't. Even experienced calligraphers don't try this.

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The Start

Wash your hands and dry them thoroughly each time you pick up your pen! If ink gets on your hands remove it promptly as it can bleed and stain your envelopes. A small amount of baking soda paste rubbed on the skin will help remove the ink. For deeper stains I use a bleaching powder like Comet or Bon Ami and perhaps a nail brush. A pumice stone is used for the huge hand stains.
Get the "feel" of the pen by practicing. If you are attempting your own calligraphy you probably feel that you have attractive penmanship. The best advice I can give you is to remember that them pen is more responsive than a ball-point pen and the ink is more "wet". Keep your hand moving with rhythm. Make the letters very fluid. The grace of that fluidity is more aestetically pleasing than the exact copying of the letters.

Ever notice that your handwriting differs from one day to the next, even slightly? That is why I always finish an entire envelope before I take a break. You loose the fluidity between all the letters and lines if you break in-between.

After you complete an envelope, place it down flat and leave it to air dry for at least 4 to 5 minutes. If you put another envelope on top of it it can smudge and bleed onto the top envelope. I have recently learned about water-resisting each envelope by spraying it (after the ink is dry) with Krylon workable fixatif.
This product may also be necessary to pen certain types of paper which either absorb the ink creating a cloudy effect or repel the ink. Paper qualities vary and some are very pourous. This will cause instant bleeding and make your letters foggy. The spray will eliminate or improve upon your success in this instance.

Do not smoke, eat or drink at your work place and for goodness sake, wipe down and dry the table or desk first!

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Sealing Wax Stamps

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Stamping & Stuffing Envelopes

Stamping & Stuffing Envelopes sounds a lot easier than it truly is. Here are some tips in getting your envelopes postal-ready.

Place each of the envelope contents into small piles in the order in which they will be assembled then placed into the outer envelope. If all the peices are not yet ready, wait until they are. The less you handle your envelopes the better condition they will stay in.
If you have everything ready, take one from each pile and assemble it then place it into the envelope. Stamp it and seal it. Put it in one of four piles immediately; 1) Internationally addressed, 2) Out-of State, 3) Intrastate or 4) Local.
Sealing the envelopes (outers only!) is made easier with the use of a sponge brush sold for painting trimwork. Keep the sponge damp not wet. A wet sponge will cause a mess!
When you have stuffed, sealed and stamped all of the envelopes and they are in piles of about 20 maximum each, seal them with either big zip-lock bags or cellophane or plastic wrap. Keep them in a sturdy box. The box should not allow the invitations to move around much inside of it. Use newspaper or tissue paper for boxes that are too big.
When you are ready to mail them do NOT use a mailbox! Assure their safety by taking them to the post office in person.
Unwrap them at the window or counter.
Use a tall glass of room temperature water and tweezers to affix your stamps if they of the glue type. Then gently blot with a paper towel.

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Good Luck! If I can help you, or if I have helped you, drop me a note!


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