You can use creative hacks daily to make life easier and more beautiful! In this article, I’ll share some of my favorite art + calligraphy shortcuts with you. I’m sure that you have some of your own tips and tricks, and I’d love to hear them in the comments!
Sometimes, people correlate “real” art with doing things in a time-consuming way. I disagree with this philosophy and rejoice in creative hacks: shortcuts that help you to achieve the effects you want with less time and less trouble! Today, I’d like to share ten of my favorite creative hacks. Hopefully you can employ at least a couple of these for your next project. After all, the easier a project is, the more likely you are to give it a try!
1. Use a Pencil Sharpener to Make a Nice Chalk Tip
If you have incorporated chalkboards into your home decor, you probably want to outfit them with artistic lettering and illustrations. Unfortunately, that’s difficult to achieve with the blunt ends of chalk. What’s an artist to do? Sharpen the chalk!
Buy a simple sharpener at the store that has two holes: one small and one large. Once you get home, you can put the chalk in the larger hole in order to sharpen it. The sharpened tip will allow you to draw precise lines and maintain control over your strokes!
2. Use a Lightbox and Notebook Paper to Write in Cards
No matter how hard you try, it’s fairly impossible to freehand write perfectly straight messages in cards. My lettering always creeps upward or slopes downward! If you have the same problem, try putting your card against a piece of notebook paper on a light box. You’ll be able to write a perfectly straight message every time without having to draw any pencil guidelines.
Note that you can also use a light box to make quick work of writing a calligraphy quote or a passage. Find instructions for doing that here!
3. Use the Procreate App to Make Easy Illustration Drafts
I love to use the Procreate app on my iPad (along with an Apple pencil) in order to make quick and accurate drafts. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy the analog illustration process more than anything. However, kicking things off with Procreate gives me a time-saving boost because I can make my draft in digital layers and easily identify if things aren’t going as I’d planned. For example, check out how I used Procreate to make the watercolor house portrait below:
On another note, I’ve also found Procreate to be helpful when it comes to experimenting with home design and paint colors. When we were remodeling our kitchen, I leaned heavily on Procreate to explain to the contractor (and myself!) exactly what it was that I envisioned.
I know that a lot of people feel intimidated by Procreate. However, it’s very similar to drawing or writing in real life. You open the app, where you’re greeted by a blank canvas. Then, you can use a variety of brushes and colors to make your art or practice calligraphy! For a wealth of beginner Procreate tutorials, click the button below:
4. Keep Your Favorite Lettering/Calligraphy Exemplars at Hand
Day after day, you’re pelted with information coming from your phone, your computer, the television, and other people. Considering the volume of things we have to remember, it’s a miracle that we retain anything! So, you shouldn’t feel guilty if you can’t remember every character of your favorite calligraphy or lettering alphabets. Make (or print) exemplars of the alphabets you like to use, and keep them close. That way, when you’re ready to letter on an envelope or a bullet journal, you have an exemplar ready to reference.
For a long time, I refused to purchase a paper cutter because — well, why spend $50 (or whatever) on a paper cutter when I have a perfectly good $5 set of scissors that could get the job done? After I bought my paper cutter, though, I found myself using it for everything! Shipping labels, cards, invitations, artwork to hang in my home, mats for DIY framing … my paper cutter has more than paid for itself. It makes clean, quick cuts that scissors just can’t replicate.
6. Repurpose an Old Book into a Sketchbook
I love sketchbook journals because I think that they can benefit anyone. You can try out new art and lettering techniques in a sketchbook, explore thoughts, and glue down mementos. While you can invest in a blank book that’s specifically intended for art (I recommend this sketchbook), the truth is that you can make a sketchbook out of anything. Keep an eye out at thrift stores for a book that has a size you appreciate, or just pull one off of the shelf at home! It doesn’t really matter what the book is about: you’ll cover its pages with color, illustrations, lettering, and decoupaged graphics anyway.
Envelopes are cheap, so this creative hack won’t necessarily save you money. It will, however, pave the way for some pretty amazing mail art! Any time you come across a piece of paper that appeals to you, save it. When you’ve got the time and the motivation, you can use that paper to make an envelope! You can find all sizes of different envelope templates in The Letter Writer’s Complete Resource.
8. Repurpose Old Nibs Into Ink Splatter Generators
If you can’t stand the thought of throwing kaput nibs into the trash, keep them on deck for making ink spatters! All you need to create ink spatters on any piece of calligraphy is an old nib, an upcycled business card, and ink. Flick the nib against the business card, and you’ll be able to generate some well-placed ink spatters.
9. Scour Thrift Stores and Garage Sales for Art Supplies
Art supplies tend to be expensive, but take heart! There are many people who decide to take up artistic endeavors, then they let their aspirations fall by the wayside. Those people usually end up donating their supplies to a thrift shop or selling them at garage sales. My mom was an avid garage-saler when I was little, which meant that all of my art supplies were second hand. I still have and use many of them, from sketchbooks to watercolor palettes to brushes and colored pencils. Having access to a lot of tools, regardless of their quality, encouraged me to experiment.
If you live in a city, do some Googling. If you’re lucky, you might just live near an art supplies thrift store. We have one here in Boulder called Art Parts Creative Reuse Center. I am a frequent customer (and sometimes a donor, too)!
10. Write or Paint With Anything That Stains
Many people think that you have to create calligraphy with ink, and you have to make paintings with paint. Au contraire! You can create calligraphy with coffee (or wine, or tea, or beet juice — the list goes on), and the same goes for painting, too. If you’ve got a thin liquid on hand that promises to stain any cloth it comes in contact with, consider using that liquid to create art.
As a side note, I consider my watercolor palettes to be excellent calligraphy inks. When I’m traveling, I always bring my calligraphy pen and nibs — but never any inks. Instead, I pack a watercolor palette, and I’m happy as a clam. In this article, you can check out some watercolor calligraphy envelopes I made while enjoying some creative “me time” at a coffee shop.
So, there you have it: my ten favorite “creative hacks”! I’m curious to hear from you: what creative hacks do you have up your sleeve? Everyone has tips and tricks that make art creation easier, neater, or more enjoyable! I’d love to hear your input in the comments — I’m always looking for new ideas. 🙂
Thanks very much for reading TPK, and I hope that you are enjoying the end of 2023 to the fullest!