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.
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.
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!
Once you finish tracing the outline, you can recycle the original printout.
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.
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!
Reference the exemplar to write out an all-uppercase version of your first city name in pencil.
Continue to write city names within your guideline rectangles, leaving about 1/16″ (1.5 mm) of vertical space between each city.
This is what California looks like with its five main cities (according to Google) drawn in.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!