I love the idea of lettering maps, which is why it’s a concept that I return to again (and again and again) for gifts! Today, I wanted to make a special DIY birthday gift for one of my good friends, who is Brazilian. This artwork honors her roots in an eye-catching way, and I suspect she’ll love displaying it in her home in The Hague. In this article, I’ll show you how to make hand-lettered artwork like this piece.
1. Make an Outline Draft
First, search online for an outline of the country you plan to feature in your artwork. The outline should include lines that denote states or provinces. Download the outline, then use a program like Microsoft Word to resize it to fit comfortably on an 8″ x 10″ (20.3 cm x 25.4 cm) piece of paper. Then, print the outline out and use a light box (or a bright window) to trace the outline in pencil onto a piece of 8″ x 10″ watercolor paper.
2. Draft Out Your Lettering
The longest step in this project is making a draft of the lettering. While you can skip this step to save time, it’s really the only way to ensure that all your state or region names will fit harmoniously inside the outlines! First, choose which lettering style you will use. I prefer Lasso Lettering for this project because its nice and legible, with ample flourishes that give you the opportunity to fill in space.
Next, use a mechanical pencil to start filling out state outlines with their names. Be sure to extend your lettering flourishes all the way to the borders of the state outlines! Doing so will ensure that the finished artwork is recognizable from a distance.
Continue to draft out state names. Don’t worry about fitting all the letters on one line; it’s okay to break them up into parts!
If you have very tiny states, adjust the size of your lettering accordingly!
3. Add Ink or Watercolor
I wanted to put a colorful twist on this map and use Brazil’s national colors (green, blue, and yellow [I substituted gold]) to fill it in. If you choose to do this, use the national colors of the country in your own artwork. Alternate using the colors to fill in lettering for the different states. It’s best to fill in the map with a Nikko G nib and a straight pen. The medium flex of the Nikko G nib ensures crisp, precise lines!
It’s important to fill out your map with alternating colors because the color changes help to distinguish the states from one another.
Continue to “ink” over the pencil draft until all of your letters are covered.
Once your ink has dried, erase the pencil lines, and voilà! You’ve got a beautiful, personalized DIY birthday gift that’s ready to send out into the world.
A Behind the Scenes Creation Video
As I made this project, I took little video snippets so I could give you a real-life look at various steps in the process. You know I had to share a little bit of samba music, too! Please enjoy this short video compilation:
(Can’t see the video? Watch it here on YouTube!)
If you know someone who has a birthday coming up, consider using this concept for a DIY birthday gift. Everyone I have given a calligraphy or lettering map to has absolutely loved it. I suspect your friends and family will appreciate one, too! Thanks so much for reading, and have a great weekend.