• Gift-Worthy State Lettering Map Tutorial

    If you’re looking for a DIY gift idea or you just want to make something cool this weekend, try a state lettering map! You’ll need a pencil, a dip pen, and sumi ink to get started. Then, just customize the instructions in this tutorial to suit your chosen state or country.

    California State Artwork

    For some people, giving original art as a gift feels a bit juvenile … like you’re a kindergartener presenting something to Mom to hang on the fridge. Let me tell you, though, that this state lettering map is not your typical DIY art! It’s a no-fail, eye-catching project that anyone with a special connection to a certain state — or country — will absolutely adore. I’m going to show you how I made this California map, then I hope that you’ll take these instructions and tailor them to a place that means something to you!

    1. Print Out a State or Country Outline

    First, find an outline of your chosen state (or country) in a size that’s appropriate for the piece of paper you plan to work on. I found my California outline at Wikimedia Commons, where there are all sorts of other outlines as well! Once you’ve found your outline, print it out.

    Printed Outline
    I printed out a state outline thats an appropriate size for my beloved Shinola sketchbook, which is 8″ wide by 9.25″ tall.

    2. Trace!

    Now, you’re going to trace over the printed outline with a pencil. To accomplish that in my sketchbook, I simply slipped the outline paper underneath. I could see the state outline through the page, so tracing was simple!

    Drawing an Outline
    You can’t see the outline under this page in this photo, but I could see it in real life! The tracing process is exactly the same as in the Botanical Letter Tutorial. If you can’t see through your paper, use a light box or a bright window to help!

    Once you finish tracing the outline, you can recycle the original printout.

    Outline of California
    Try to center the outline the very best you can in respect to your project paper!

    3. Make a State Lettering Map Draft

    If you’ve created a TPK tutorial before, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of drafts! Yes, a draft adds time to a project, but it also guarantees a favorable result, which saves time in the long run. So, first, pull up a Google Map of the state or country that you’re making. Notice which cities Google Maps deems to be the “biggies”, then draw guideline rectangles at the approximate locations of those cities to write their names in.

    California State Outline
    California is a fairly narrow state and my “biggie” city names are long, so my guideline rectangles extend horizontally from border to border. If you have a larger state or shorter city names, you’ll need to adjust your rectangle sizes accordingly!

    Then, pull up the “Lasso Lettering” Exemplar. You can either print it out, or just keep it open on your PDF reader (as I did for this project). You’ll need this exemplar to use as a reference as you write out all-uppercase city names!

    Lasso Lettering Exemplar | The Postman's Knock
    “Lasso Lettering” is the perfect fit for this project: legible, embellished, and artistic.

    Reference the exemplar to write out an all-uppercase version of your first city name in pencil.

    "Sacramento" in Lasso Lettering
    I recommend using uppercase letters because they fill up space more effectively than lowercase letters!

    Continue to write city names within your guideline rectangles, leaving about 1/16″ (1.5 mm) of vertical space between each city.

    Pencil draft progress
    Don’t worry if your hand smudges the pencil draft a bit! You’ll go over the draft with ink in the next step, and any smudges will ultimately be erased.

    This is what California looks like with its five main cities (according to Google) drawn in.

    Pencil draft

    Once you’ve reached this step, it’s time to really play! Use your Google map as a guideline to build lettering around the main cities — and, of course, always stay within your main state outline! Don’t forget to start with guideline rectangles, which you can orient vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. Try to draw in cities roughly where they appear on the map, and make it a point to include any cities or towns that mean something to you!

    Working on the pencil draft
    Experiment with size! It’s okay to make some city or town names large and others quite small.

    Once the pencil outline is finished, you should be able to recognize it from a distance as your chosen state! That’s how close together the city names should be.

    Pencil Draft
    Give yourself plenty of time to make a draft! This draft took me about three hours to put together.

    4. Add Ink!

    Now, you’ll want to go over your pencil draft with ink. If you want to, you can use a gel pen such as Muji! However, it’s best to use sumi ink, a straight pen, and a Nikko G nib if possible. I say this because sumi ink dries a vibrant jet black and has a fantastic sheen! Creating your state lettering map using this winning combination can help to make the artwork even more display-worthy.

    Adding Ink
    If you’re right-handed, start from the upper left and write your way down. Lefties should start at the upper right and work downward from there! This strategic inking process reduces the risk of smudging.

    Once you finish “inking”, wait at least five minutes for the ink to dry, then erase all your pencil guidelines. And that’s it! You’ve completed the tutorial and made a super cool state lettering map.

    The finished project!

    Giving Your State Lettering Map as a Gift

    If you plan to give your state lettering map to someone as a gift, be sure to make your artwork on a conventional size of paper such as 8″ x 10″. Then, you can DIY a frame (and a mat, if you’d like) or purchase a frame at a local store! Wrap it up, and you’ve got an original handmade gift that’s guaranteed to delight.

    Framed California State Art
    If you love California but don’t have the time to make your own state lettering art, you can purchase an art print!

    One suggestion that I have for you regarding this project is to vary the lettering based on the state you’re depicting! I love Lasso Lettering for California, but if I were to do Texas, for example, I’d use Circus Lettering. For Louisiana, I’d use Flytrap. You know the general feel of any state or country that your artwork focuses on, so make sure that your lettering style reflects that!

    I hope that you enjoyed this state lettering map tutorial! If the project appeals to you, give it a try. It makes for such a great gift, especially if the state or country that you choose has a recognizable/interesting outline! If you have any questions, please let me know. Otherwise, thanks so much for reading, and have a great weekend!


    Lindsey's Signature | The Postman's Knock