One of my very favorite things to illustrate is lace, and I use it on everything: envelopes, artwork for my house, gift tags — you get the idea. I love drawing lace because it always ends up looking amazing, and it can be created if you follow a few (okay, several) simple steps. Today, I’m demystifying this intricate-looking artistic subject by teaching you how to draw lace. If you think you can’t do it, I beg to differ! All you need to do is retrieve the writing instrument you most enjoy working with, and follow the steps outlined in this post. You will be very proud of the result!
While I am rocking an oblique dip pen and ink in this tutorial, you can employ the use of virtually any pen to draw lace. Ballpoint, gel pen, marker … they’ll all give you good results! The important thing, really, is to use whatever you’re comfortable with; that will make the experience all the more enjoyable.
Once you choose a pen (and ink, if applicable; I’m using Winsor & Newton Sepia), you’ll want to select a surface to draw on. I love a good ol’ lace motif on envelope art, so I’ve chosen an A7 envelope from Paper Source (the color is “Pool”). You don’t have to draw your lace on an envelope, of course; any blank piece of paper will work.
Begin by drawing two identical “hills” on your envelope.
Next, draw a parallel line to the left of your original “hill” lines. Fill in the space between the original line and the new line with a series of horizontal lines.
Once your first two lines have been filled in with the little horizontal lines, take a pencil and lightly draw another parallel line about 1/3″ (~0.85 cm) to the right of the original line you drew. Use your pencil to draw in little marks 1/2″ (~1.3 cm) apart from each other; these marks will be used as guides in the next step. Make the marks in the order of the numbers shown below (don’t write numbers on your envelope; this is something I have done solely for the benefit of this tutorial)! Start by drawing a mark in the center of the left “hill”, then the center of the right “hill”. Next, draw another mark about 1/2″ (~1.3 cm) to the left of your first mark. Continue drawing marks in intervals of 1/2″ until your envelope looks like the one below.
When all your marks are drawn, take your pen and draw ovals around every mark.
Draw ovals around the ovals you just made; I like to keep the edges of this batch of ovals a bit shaky.
Fill in the space between your first set of ovals and your second set of ovals with tiny circles that connect to each other. The circles shouldn’t be perfect, so try to draw them with a shaky hand.
At this point, you’ll want to draw little, connected “U”s around each and every filled-in oval. Here’s a photo of what that will look like …
… And here’s a little video showing you how to make those “U” shapes:
Once you have made all your “U”s, draw a circle that connects to the ends of all the “U”s. Then, draw a bigger circle around the circle you just made, as shown in the photo below.
Next, you’ll want to fill in the space between the circles you just drew. If you’re using a dip pen and ink, you can actually dip a brush directly in your ink and fill the circle in that way; this technique isn’t required, but it is a time-saver. If you’re using any other writing utensil (e.g. a ballpoint pen), you’ll use your pen to fill in the space
Continue on with this process, connecting your circles to each other as you go.
When you finish, you’ll notice that you have some unused space on either side of the shapes you just made; five shapes aren’t enough to completely fill up the space on the hills.
The solution to this is to draw in a continuance of the pattern on the top and bottom of the envelope. You should be fine just drawing a quick, partial circle that connects to the others. At this point, you should also draw a series of shaky squares in the formerly unused space to the right of the point between the two hills. You may wonder why I keep telling you to draw shaky shapes; it’s because lace rarely has perfect shapes. The small threads that make up lace are always a little bit wavy, which means shapes like squares and circles follow suit!
Now, you’ll draw wispy lines to the right of each of the filled-in circles to represent fringe.
This is my favorite step because this action makes the illustration start to actually look like lace!
When you finish drawing your fringe, paint or draw two filled-in ovals in the middle of each “hill”. The right side of each oval should be about 1/2″ (~1.3 cm) away from the line that is closest to it.
Draw little “U” shapes around the ovals, then draw a circle connecting the ends of the “U”s. Once you’ve done that, make a flower outline with 8 petals as shown in the photo below.
Fill in those flowers, then use a pencil to draw a guideline that passes (approximately) through the middle of the flowers and runs parallel to the line closest to the flowers. Then, draw or paint another oval 1/2″ (~1.3 cm) under the point where the two hills meet.
Repeat the flower-drawing process with the oval you just made.
Next, add partial flowers to the top and bottom of the envelope. Then, draw in circles at the halfway point between each flower. Make sure the circles are on the pencil guideline you drew!
Draw your little “U”s around those circles, and connect the ends of the “U”s with a circle.
Make a smaller flower form around the circles you just drew. Since these flower forms are smaller, you might consider giving them only seven petals.
Now, connect all your flowers near the top with two lines that run parallel to your hills.
Draw two more lines parallel to the lines you just drew.
Fill in the negative space between each pair of lines with small horizontal lines.
Connect the pairs of lines you just drew with one another (and the original set of lines) with shaky squares like the ones you made to fill in the negative space between the circles.
You’re almost done! Draw leaf shapes and diamond shapes as shown below. I drew six leaves coming from the left side of the envelope, six leaves that are connected to flowers, and four diamond shapes. You’ll want to fill in the leaves with either horizontal lines or ink; but make sure the diamonds are left blank.
Now, draw a series of very close-together, thin diagonal lines as shown in the picture below. I am using a crow quill pen to get a superfine stroke, but you can use the writing instrument you’ve been using all along and a gentle touch.
Once your lines are all drawn, cross all of them in order to make tiny squares. Again, a shaky stroke is best in order to mimic real lace. Make sure you don’t draw in the center of your diamonds, flowers, or leaves!
When all your lines have been criss-crossed, you’re finished!
In the case of mail art, you can pair the lace motif with virtually any calligraphy style or lettering style; there’s not much the lace won’t complement!
I love the look of Kaitlin Style calligraphy juxtaposed with the lace. Lace is so elegant, and the flowy, anything-goes calligraphy style makes the envelope art less serious.
However, sometimes it’s nice to run with the super-elegant vibe of the lace. In that case, you may want to write in a style like the Janet as I have done below. (On another note, Halo Pink Gold Lumiere ink looks amazing on dark-colored envelopes!)
Now, I’m not going to lie and tell you that drawing lace will only take a couple of seconds … it is, as you probably surmised, a relatively involved process. If you do this tutorial, I would recommend milking the fruit of your labor for all it’s worth: stick that baby in your scanner, and print the design out for use on other projects! For example, you can see how I cut out bits from a copy of my envelope to make pretty, artistic gift tags. I just cut around the lace and glued it on!
You could also glue a copy of the motif onto subsequent envelope art endeavors, bookmarks, sketchbooks, place cards … anything, really!
I hope that you do try out learning how to draw lace using this tutorial; honestly, you’ll be delighted at how great your results are! Lace is just one of those things that seems impossible to illustrate until you realize that it’s really just a series of lines and shapes. In short: you’ve got this. It’s a wonderfully zen endeavor if you find yourself with some downtime this weekend!
Thank you very much for reading, and have a good day!