When I was a little girl, my mom was all about watching Martha Stewart Living. I can still remember gaping at the television, wondering why Martha was spending so much time making a wreath that would only be relevant for two months, tops. Yet, now that I’m older, I get it: we make things like wreaths (and DIY menu cards) to make people feel special and welcome in our home. In this tutorial, you’ll learn two ways to make a DIY menu card; one will take more time, and one will take less time. Both only require basic materials and any skill level of calligraphy!
The “Long Way”
This menu exudes elegance with its golden, modern script! Its creation is simple, but the calligraphy will take a bit of time, especially if you are writing out more than a few menus. To make it, start with a 5″x7″ (127 mm x 177.8 mm) piece of black card stock; you can cut it out from a large piece of paper, as I have done here. (You can purchase card stock at any office supply or arts and crafts store.)
Next, plan out your menu on a scrap piece of paper. Take note of how many lines there are! In my menu, I’ve got nine lines:
- Split Pea Soup
- Crusty Baguette
- Thyme Roasted Turkey
- Cornbread Stuffing
- Caramelized Sweet Potatoes
- French Green Beans
- Chocolate Lava Cake
- Homemade Ice Cream
Here’s where some math comes in! Take out a piece of lined notebook paper; you’ll be using it to help you draw guidelines on your menu paper. The first thing you’ll do is partition off two lines for the “Menu” title. Then, you’ll skip a space (as shown in green in the photo below; it’s not a bad idea for you to highlight in marker just like I have done). Next, allocate a line for the first item on your menu (“soup”). If the first item will be accompanied by something — like my soup will be accompanied by bread — then skip a space and allocate one line for the second item. Then, draw another green line, and start on your entrée courses. The idea, basically, is to skip lines between all of the dishes, but only draw green (marker) guidelines to separate groups of dishes, e.g. appetizer, entrée, dessert. If you’re confused by this description, take a good look at the photo: it provides a good visual explanation!
Once you’ve drawn guidelines on the notebook paper, it’s time to place your black card stock on top. Rotate it as shown in the photo below. You’ll want to make sure that you center your rotated card stock by using the very top and very bottom guidelines on your notebook paper as references. Once the card stock is centered, use a ruler and a soapstone pencil to draw top and bottom horizontal guidelines using your notebook page as a guide.
Next, tape down two corners of your menu to ensure it stays affixed to the notebook paper. This is an optional step, but I do it because I like to make sure my menu doesn’t move around and mess up my guideline-drawing endeavors!
Use your soapstone pencil to draw guidelines above and below all the green (marker) guidelines you drew on the notebook paper.
At this point, your card stock is ready to write on! If you are planning on calligraphing in gold (as I am), you should prepare your Finetec paint by moistening it with water; I am using Arabic Gold. If you’re not familiar with Finetec, I recommend reading Instant Gold Ink: How to Use the Finetec Palette. (Not comfortable using Finetec? Dr. Ph. Martin’s Iridescent Ink in “Copperplate Gold” would make a formidable substitute!)
When your Finetec is all ready to go, it’s time to write! I am using Kaitlin Style calligraphy here for two reasons:
- I like the look of it, of course.
- Kaitlin Style takes less time (and fewer pencil guidelines) than all the other Learn Calligraphy for a Latté styles.
The reason I love making diagonal menus is this: no centering! If you were making a standard DIY menu card with perfectly horizontal guidelines, centering would be a big deal. However, writing diagonally is great because you can justify your words to the left, and everything is guaranteed to look great. (For more information on diagonal calligraphy, you can read the Envelope Calligraphy Spacing Tips and Techniques post.)
You may be wondering why I didn’t have you draw guidelines in between individual dishes in a group (e.g. “Thyme Roasted Turkey” and “Cornbread Stuffing”). That’s because, ideally, the dishes in each group should be very close together vertically. If you don’t draw guidelines between all the words in the group, it’s easier to achieve that spontaneous, bunched-together look. Don’t worry if your calligraphy is all over the place; as long as it stays within the group guidelines, your finished menu will look great!
Once you’re finished writing, allow your ink to dry.
Then, use an eraser to get rid of any guidelines. Remember to be gentle! It’s easy to wrinkle the paper if you get a little aggressive with this step.
And voilà! A beautiful, professional-looking Kaitlin Style DIY menu card that’s ready to rock your holiday (or wedding, or just-because) table!
If you read the tutorial above and found yourself thinking, “OK, that’s pretty, but … no way,” then this shortcut for DIY menu cards is going to be a great solution! First, draw a 5″x7″ (127 mm x 177.8 mm) rectangle on a white piece of paper. Cut ~1/4″ (~6-7 mm) around the rectangle your drew.
Next, use a pencil to draw diagonal lines; you’re welcome to use these printable guidelines, which are pictured below. I am only planning on writing on the bottom half of the paper, so that’s where I made my guidelines.
You can use these guidelines to make any of the LCfaL styles (with the exception of Kaitlin, which doesn’t need such orderly guidelines). I have chosen to write using Amy Style calligraphy because I like its bouncy, modern look.
When you finish calligraphing your words, you can make simple flourishes in between the lines to visually fill in the gaps.
Once the ink is dry, erase the pencil guidelines you drew.
At this point, you’ll want to use a copying machine or a scanner/printer to make a copy of your calligraphy on a piece of card stock. No Photoshop skills required; you’re just making a straight-up copy! You can make as many copies as you want, which is why this is a great shortcut for large dinner parties!
Cut out your menu along the guidelines, making sure you cut along the inside of the lines so they are not visible in the final piece. At that point, you can also cut out a contrasting piece of paper that is 1/4″ (6.35 mm) larger than your card stock copy on all sides. (Honestly, I generally use a paper cutter to do projects like this because it’s much faster than scissors.)
At this point, you can put glue or double-stick tape along all the edges of the menu in order to affix it to the larger paper you cut out.
Center your card stock copy on the larger piece of paper and press to activate the adhesive.
Next, use a small banner from the Hand-Drawn Banner Printable, and follow the steps in the DIY Holiday Card + Artistic Envelope Tutorial to shade it using watercolor. Write “Menu” on the left side, and the date of your dinner party on the right side. You can then make numerous copies of the calligraphed banner to put on all your menus, or you can hand-calligraph several banners.
Glue the banner on your menu, and you’re finished!
Of course, a much faster way to do “The Shortcut” would be to calligraph a full menu (not leaving any space at the top), then make copies of it on card stock — no backing or banners required! You can keep that in mind if you’re really pressed for time. Otherwise, “The Shortcut” variation is a great way to make impressive DIY menu cards without having to hand-calligraph all of them!
I hope you enjoyed learning how to create these menus; and, while they are not strictly necessary for any meal, I encourage you to try out a dinner with them. The menu cards will add a degree of elegance without being stuffy, and they’re guaranteed to complement any tablescape.
Thanks very much for reading, and enjoy your weekend!