• Next Level Illuminated Letter Tutorial

    Ready to level up from the Cheater’s Illuminated Letter Tutorial? I’ve got a new and intricate alphabet printable for you today, a glamorous color scheme, and a few key tips. Give this project a try the next time you’ve got a couple of hours to devote to creativity!

    Next Level Illuminated Letter Tutorial

    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:

    Supplies for the Next Level Illuminated Letter Tutorial

    1. Straight pen with Nikko G nib
    2. Letter of your choice from the Next Level Illuminated Alphabet PDF (click here to download; it’s free!)
    3. Pencil (I prefer a mechanical pencil for this project)
    4. Finetec Arabic Gold watercolor
    5. Size 0 paintbrush
    6. 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!

    5.25" square piece of handmade paper
    I prefer to use handmade paper for this project because it has a luxurious look and feel. Fabulous Fancy Pants and Indian Cotton Paper Co. are two of my favorite handmade paper companies!

    2. Trace

    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.

    Using a Lightbox to Trace the Illuminated Letter
    If you don’t have a light box, you could use your laptop computer or your iPad as a DIY light box! Just open the PDF document and place your project paper directly on top of the bright screen. You should be able to see the letter through the paper well enough to trace it.

    The finished pencil draft should look something like the letter pictured below:

    Pencil Outline of an Illuminated Letter
    If you’re using handmade paper, draw carefully! Pencil lines don’t erase well from the irregular surface, unfortunately.

    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).

    Adding Finetec Gold to an Intricate Letter
    Reference the original letter template as you paint! For a lot of the letters, it’s easy to figure out where to put the gold. Others — like the “U” — may prove to be a bit more tricky.

    Once you’re finished, allow the gold ink to dry. It should only take a couple of minutes!

    Finetec Gold on an Illuminated Letter
    You’ll know that your gold watercolor has dried when you can see the texture of the paper through the watercolor. Can you tell that the right side of this “D” wasn’t dry when I took this photo?

    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.

    Adding Sepia Ink to a Letter
    I chose to use sepia ink for this tutorial because it has a nice, subtle look. It’s a dark ink, but not as dramatic as black. It helps the project to look a bit vintage!

    Keep going until you’ve filled in all the solid parts of your letter.

    Adding Sepia Ink to a Letter | The Postman's Knoc

    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.

    Sepia Ink on an Illuminated Letter
    I love how the sepia ink dries on this paper! If you look closely, you can observe individual brush strokes.

    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!

    Tracing Over the Illuminated Letter
    Trace over your pencil lines carefully; it’s difficult to erase pencil lines on handmade paper. Best to simply cover them with ink!

    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!

    The result of the Next Level Illuminated Letter Tutorial!

    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.

    Decorated Alphabets and Initials
    I love this book! It’s so inspiring, and all of its alphabets are copyright-free, allowing me to share Ames’ alphabet with you today.

    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.

    Next Level Illuminated Letter Tutorial

    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!


    Lindsey's Signature | The Postman's Knock