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