For the past month, we’ve had a friend staying with us who lived in Boulder for eight years — and she still loves it. After our friend’s graduation in 2019, she went back to her home country of Kuwait, but she’s been dreaming of Boulder ever since. Her Colorado visit comes to an end today, and I wanted to give her something special to remind her of her beloved city. Enter this calligraphy city map! It’s simple, eye-catching, and elegant: an excellent little gift. Here’s how to make it:
1. Gather Your Supplies
In order to make this map, you’ll need a few key supplies. You can find a list with links below this photo.
- Light Box (to read about light boxes and light box alternatives, see this article)
- Iron gall ink
- Gold watercolor (plus a #2-ish paintbrush to brush the watercolor onto your nib)
- Straight pen fitted with a Nikko G nib
- Optional: Brause EF66 nib + oblique pen
- Piece of watercolor paper (I cut mine to size 8″ x 10″, but you can make any size you want)
- Printout of a map of your city (I ran a Google Image Search for “Boulder CO city map”)*
*Your printout should fit within the bounds of your watercolor paper. If you need to resize the map image that you find online, you can use a program like Microsoft Word or Google Docs to do that.
2. Trace Streets
First, place your watercolor paper over the city map printout. Put both pieces of paper on your light box, then use your straight pen, Nikko G nib, and iron gall ink to trace over the streets.
Once you’re finished, your map should look something like this:
3. Make a Calligraphy and Lettering Draft
Once your ink has dried (it won’t take long), use a pencil to make a draft of the calligraphy and lettering that you want to include on the map. I used small Sans Serif lettering to denote street names, then I used Kaitlin Style calligraphy to write out general areas and a couple of landmarks.
Pencil drafts are a bit tedious to create if you’re in a hurry, but you’ll be glad that you took the time to make one. A pencil draft ensures that you end up with a balanced layout that you’re happy with!
4. Trace Over Your Work With Ink
Now, use your iron gall ink and your favorite calligraphy nib/pen combination to trace over your calligraphy. (For now, leave the street names alone.) You can use your Nikko G nib and straight pen again for this step, but I prefer the more sumptuous stroke contrast of the Brause EF66 nib.
Then, trace over the block lettered street names with gold watercolor and a Nikko G nib.
5. Erase and Enjoy!
Your gold watercolor should only take a couple of minutes to dry. Once it does, you can use a good eraser to get rid of any pencil draft lines.
Now, you can sit back and appreciate the lovely result of your efforts:
I like this project because it’s quick and versatile. I’m all about making an intricate watercolor map over a several day period, but sometimes a person realistically only has an hour or two to dedicate to a project. In that case, this simple calligraphy city map is a great option. If you end up making one of these, I’d love to see — tag me on Instagram (@thepostmansknock), or share via email (email@example.com). It’s always rewarding for me to see that a TPK tutorial has sparked inspiration!