• “Sleepy Hollow” Skull Halloween Card Tutorial

    Today’s Halloween card tutorial taps into the holiday spirit with excerpts from Washington Irving’s The Tale of Sleepy Hollow and a time-honored Halloween color scheme! With the help of a free printable, you’ll be well on your way to making an elegant and spooky greeting that will delight your loved ones.

    "Sleepy Hollow" Skull Halloween Card Tutorial

    My goal with this skull-themed Halloween card is simple: make a playful yet refined seasonal greeting. I love a good skull motif (see: Frida Kahlo, Spooky Calligraphy Drills), so I decided to begin with a creepy cranium and take it from there! In today’s tutorial, I’ll show you how to make a card like this one.

    1. Print + Trace TPK’s Skull Outline

    To get started, download and print this skull outline.

    Skull Template
    You can print this out on any sort of printer paper; no need to get fancy!

    Next, place a 5″ x 7″ (127 mm x 178 mm) blank watercolor card over the skull outline printout, then place both the skull outline and the card on a light box. Go ahead and trace over the skull with a pencil. (No light box? No worries! You can read about economical light box alternatives in this article.)

    Tracing the Skull Outline
    I like to keep these blank watercolor cards on hand for convenience. It’s easy to DIY a blank card, though! Just cut a piece of watercolor paper to 10″ x 7″, (254 mm x 178 mm) then fold it in half. I prefer to use watercolor paper because — unlike cardstock — it responds well to a dip pen.

    Once you finish tracing, your card will look something like this:

    Pencil Skull

    2. Prep Your Skull for Calligraphy

    Now, use your pencil to make several wavy guidelines along the surface of your skull. These lines should be uneven, giving the skull a mummy-like quality.

    Calligraphy Prepped Skull
    Don’t worry too much about the neatness of these lines. Inconsistent letter heights will help certain words to stand out!

    3. Write Chilling Calligraphy

    Once you’ve drawn guidelines, look to the internet or your bookshelf to find Halloween-appropriate literature. I chose The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, which is a fun story by Washington Irving. It outlines the plight of Ichabod Crane, who falls victim to a practical joke. (I love Irving’s story because I’m a scaredy-cat, and the original tale is lighter than its later film adaptations!) When you’ve chosen your literature, use sumi ink and your favorite pen/nib combination to start writing spooky excerpts within your pencil guidelines.

    "Sleepy Hollow" Skull Halloween Card Tutorial
    Be sure to use plenty of calligraphy flourishes for this tutorial! For maximum visual impact, you want to fill in the skull as densely as possible.

    Continue to make your way down the skull with calligraphy. Don’t be afraid of awkward word splits or switching up lettering styles! Just do what you have to do to keep everything within the skull outline.

    "Sleepy Hollow" Skull Halloween Card Tutorial

    Once you’re finished with the calligraphy, your skull will look something like the photo below. Notice that the eye sockets, nose, and teeth remain untouched!

    "Sleepy Hollow" Skull Halloween Card Tutorial

    While you want the eyes and nose to be blank, the teeth do need a bit of TLC. I opted to fill each tooth in with two curved lines for an effect that has some Día de los Muertos flair.

    "Sleepy Hollow" Skull Halloween Card Tutorial

    4. Add Complementary Flourishes

    Black is the color of choice for Halloween, but this skull needs a bit more color to stand out! To that end, try using tangerine ink (or orange watercolor and the watercolor calligraphy technique) to add more standalone flourishes to the skull. Then, use your orange hue to write over select words.

    "Sleepy Hollow" Skull Halloween Card Tutorial
    I tried to focus on highlighting words that remind me of Halloween (darker, stars, Ichabod, misshapen, etc.).

    5. Erase Your Guidelines and Enjoy

    Once you’re satisfied with your skull and your ink has dried, use a good quality eraser to get rid of your pencil guidelines. Then, step back and admire your handiwork!

    "Sleepy Hollow" Skull Halloween Card Tutorial

    I’d recommend sending this off in a seasonal envelope like the one below! Slightly yellowed, vintage stamps (read about where to find them here) will put this Halloween snail mail duo over the top.

    12 Artistic Envelope Ideas | The Postman's Knock
    This flourished spider is from the Garden Edition calligraphy drills.

    I hope that you like this tutorial and that you modify it to suit your supplies and style! For example, you might try using a different piece of literature (Shakespeare’s “Song of Witches” comes to mind) or a different color scheme. Once you try your hand at this, I’d be thrilled to see your work on Instagram! (I love getting to look at tutorial interpretations.) You can tag me at @thepostmansknock.

    Thanks very much for reading, and have a wickedly wonderful weekend!


    Lindsey's Signature | The Postman's Knock