• Hand-Lettered Graduation Card Tutorial

    This graduation card concept is great for any type of graduation! With its clever misspelling (“conGRADulations”), vivid hand-lettering, and personalization, it’s sure to delight any graduate.

    Graduation Card
    This graduation card features a clever spelling error.

    I live in Boulder, Colorado, which is home to the University of Colorado. That’s a blessing when it comes to the TPK Supplies Shop, which employs three part-time college students as packagers. Aiden was my very first packager, and he started working for me two years ago. In all that time, he’s made a total of five packaging mistakes, which is super impressive. He also mastered making Brause EF66 flanges for these pens, which helped me to meet the demand for them.

    This is Aiden on his first day of work in the summer of 2019.

    Last month, Aiden graduated from CU, and he’s off to the UK to pursue a postgraduate degree in Aerospace Engineering at The University of Nottingham. I’m devastated to be losing him, but very appreciative of the time and energy he has given to TPK. Of course, my way of showing him my gratitude is to make a card! Today, I’ll show you how I made Aiden’s graduation card with the hope that this concept will come in handy for you, too.

    1. Draw Pencil Guidelines

    Begin by drawing four pairs of pencil guidelines on an A7 card. The lines in each pair should be 1-1/8″ (~2.85 cm) apart, and the pairs should be separated by 1/8″ (0.3 cm) of space. There should be about 7/16″ (1.1 cm) of space between the top of the card and the top of the first guideline pair.

    Graduation Card Draft

    Once you finish drawing your guidelines, you’ll have enough space at the bottom to draw a banner. You can use the “Geometric” concept from this tutorial to do that.

    Graduation Card Draft

    2. Draw Letters

    I strongly recommend having the Circus Lettering Exemplar ($5) on hand for this tutorial. You can complete the tutorial without it by mimicking the letters in my photos. However, the exemplar will show you how to draw each letter step-by-step.

    Circus Lettering Printable Exemplar + Video Tutorial | The Postman's Knock
    You can find the Circus Lettering Exemplar here. Either print it out or open the PDF on your computer or electronic device for reference.

    Begin by drawing a centered “O” in the top guidelines. Then, draw a centered “RA” within the next guidelines. Finally, draw “LA” within the third set of guidelines.

    Drawing the letters in this order will make it easier to center your piece. We’re not tackling the last line yet, which contains a thin “I” (a letter that can make centering difficult).

    Now, flank the “O” with a “C” and an “N”. “RA” should be sandwiched between “G” and “D”. Then, draw a “U” and a “T” on either side of “LA”. Your card should now say “CONGRADULAT”.

    Finish up by drawing “IONS” on the fourth guideline. You can start by drawing the “I” just a little bit more inward than the “U” above it, then draw the “S” just a bit more inward than the “T” above it. Then, center “ON” inside the “I” and the “S”.

    3. Add White Ink

    At this point, you’ll want to get out a white gel pen such as a Sakura Gelly Roll. Use it to fill in the “GRAD” portion of the lettering on the card.

    Graduation Card
    I’m creating my lettering on cardstock, which is notorious for making dip pen ink feather out. As a result, I’ve chosen to use gel pens for this tutorial.

    Try not to color in the diamond shapes in the letters.

    4. Add Black Ink

    Now, grab a black gel pen such as Muji, and trace over your letters.

    This step may take a while! It took me about an hour to trace over all of the letters. I filmed the process in the timelapse video below just for fun:

    Once you’re finished, the card will look like the one below:

    5. Fill in the Banner

    Part of the beauty of this card is the personalization! To finish up, you’ll draft your graduate’s name in pencil inside the banner. Then, add ink to the banner. You can use any lettering or calligraphy style that appeals to you for this step. (I opted to use faux Kaitlin Style calligraphy. Remember, it’s difficult to successfully use a dip pen on cardstock!)

    Graduation Card
    If any descenders intersect the banner (like the “A” here), don’t trace over that part of the banner.

    Finish up by adding ink to the grad’s name. If you want to, you can use white ink inside the downstrokes to echo the white in “GRAD”.

    Graduation Card

    When you’re done, step back to appreciate your had work! Circus Style lettering is detailed and intricate, so you should feel especially proud of what you’ve created.

    Graduation Card

    A Shortcut

    As I created this graduation card, I pondered ways to make the lettering process go faster. Drafting out all the letters in pencil and centering them takes a lot of time, and I devised a way to delete that step: a traceable template.

    Graduation Card Traceable Template
    You can find this traceable card template (and four others) here.

    With that in mind, I used Circus Lettering to make five traceable A7 card templates, including today’s graduation card. Just print the card template out, place it on a light box, and put a light-colored blank card on top. Then, use your pen to trace the letters … no pencil draft or centering required. Easy-peasy!

    You can find traceable card templates as part of the Circus Lettering Exemplar bundle. Whether you opt to use the shortcut method or you decide to hand-draft everything, I hope you enjoy the project!


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