Last month, I wrote The Cheater’s Illuminated Letter Tutorial, which is a fun project that anyone — with the help of a little bit of patience and precision — can create. I was pleased to see that TPK readers took on the challenge beautifully! Several illuminated letters popped up on Instagram, and a few beauties made their way into my email inbox. The enthusiasm for the first illuminated letters tutorial prompted me to create today’s tutorial. This one is intricate, so it will require a bit of a time investment, for sure! The jaw-dropping payoff, however, will make your efforts more than worth it.
1. Gather Your Supplies
To make this illuminated letter tutorial, you’ll need the supplies pictured below:
- Straight pen with Nikko G nib
- Letter of your choice from the Next Level Illuminated Alphabet PDF (click here to download; it’s free!)
- Pencil (I prefer a mechanical pencil for this project)
- Finetec Arabic Gold watercolor
- Size 0 paintbrush
- Sepia Bombay Ink
You’ll also need a 5.25″ x 5.25″ piece of paper. I like to use handmade cotton rag paper, but a piece of watercolor paper will work, too!
Once you’ve printed out the Next Level Illuminated Alphabet PDF, cut out the letter you want to create. Then, place your handmade paper on top of the letter, and put both pieces of paper on a light box. Use a pencil to trace the intricate letter onto your paper.
The finished pencil draft should look something like the letter pictured below:
3. Add Gold Watercolor to Your Illuminated Letter
In TPK’s previous illuminated letter tutorial, we added violet ink first, then gold watercolor second. Today, we are adding gold watercolor first because we need to outline it with sepia ink. This part may prove tricky because you need to figure out exactly which areas in your letter will be gold! I chose to fill in all the white spaces within the letter as shown on my original template (from the PDF).
Once you’re finished, allow the gold ink to dry. It should only take a couple of minutes!
4. Fill in the Letter with Ink
Once the gold watercolor has dried, use your paintbrush and sepia ink to fill in the large, solid parts of the letter.
Keep going until you’ve filled in all the solid parts of your letter.
As a side note, I chose to use ink versus watercolor for this project because ink works nicely to stain the paper. Instead of sitting on the surface of the paper, like the pigments in watercolor do, the ink really sinks in! If you don’t have ink, however, you should feel free to experiment with watercolors.
5. Add the Finishing Touches with a Dip Pen
Now, use your dip pen and sepia ink to trace over all the small, ornate pencil strokes and lines. It’s important to use a medium-flex nib like the Nikko G for this part of the illuminated letter tutorial because you’re shooting for a consistent stroke width!
Once you have traced over the pencil draft, you’re finished with the project! Admire it by rotating it back and forth in front of a light source. You’ll be amazed at how the gold watercolor sparkles! If you wish to display your illuminated letter in your home, I suggest a floating frame. The deckled edge of handmade paper looks so beautiful inside!
About Today’s Illuminated Letters
I found the intricate alphabet for today’s tutorial in my trusty Decorative Alphabets and Initials book. The alphabet (“Initial Letters”) was created by Daniel T. Ames of New York in 1879. If you have the book, you can find this particular alphabet on page 100.
To make the printable PDF for this tutorial, I scanned in letters and enlarged them to fit a 5.25″ x 5.25″ project. The letters in the PDF are larger than they are meant to be, so you may notice some blurriness! Unlike the alphabet in the first illuminated letter tutorial, which is missing the “X” and the “Z”, this one is complete.
I hope that you enjoy making today’s tutorial! Remember to give yourself several hours to complete it. Even though the tutorial starts with shortcut tracing, you’ll find yourself devoting a chunk of time to meticulously filling in the letter and adding tiny details! That’s not a bad thing; as the mother to a vivacious toddler, I certainly appreciated the opportunity to make a relaxing project like this one. I suspect you’ll feel the same way!
Thanks for reading, and have a fantastic weekend!