Today, I wanted to come up with a birthday card concept that works for all genders and levels of familiarity. Enter the “little black dress” of calligraphy birthday cards! This card is always in style, a delight to look at, and provides excellent calligraphy practice. Read on to learn how to make it!
1. Draw Guidelines
First, grab a 5″ x 7″ (12.7 cm x 17.75 cm) blank greeting card. It can be any color you like, but I prefer dark colors like navy or black. Then, use the Little Black Dress Calligraphy Card printable and a white mechanical pencil to draw guidelines.
Once you’ve drawn your guidelines, the card will look something like this:
2. Start Writing
Once you’ve drawn your guidelines, start writing “Happy Birthday” on the guidelines in flourished Janet Style calligraphy. I’m using a Brause EF66 oblique pen and nib, but you should feel free to use your favorite nib and pen combination!
Keep on writing “Happy Birthday to You”, separating each “You” and “Happy” with a dot. Run your letters all the way to the edge of the page, then start where you left off on the next line.
Continue to write until you reach the last line from the bottom. Hopefully, your last word there is “You”, which you can conclude with a comma.
3. Write the Last Line … Without Descenders!
The last line of this card requires some thought! If your calligraphy includes descenders (parts of letters that extend down, like the tail of a “y”), the card will look unbalanced because the calligraphy extends down too far. We want the space between the top line of calligraphy and the top of the card to be roughly equal to the space between the bottom line of calligraphy and the bottom of the card. My birthday card recipient’s name is actually “Jorge Luis”, but that’s a no-go because of the “J” and the “g”. So, I went with his nickname: Coco (which I compounded with “Loco” to be playful and take up more space).
If your recipient’s name has a letter with a descender, consider writing something else. Good examples include: “Sweet Husband”, “Favorite Sister”, or “Best Coworker”. This is a good time to get creative and be a little bit funny!
4. Erase Your Pencil Guidelines
You really can’t be too careful when it comes to the drying time of Bleed Proof White ink. For that reason, it’s a good idea to let the piece sit out for at least 12 hours before attempting to erase pencil guidelines. Otherwise, you might get a smeary surprise. Once you’re certain the ink has dried, erase the pencil guidelines.
5. Write in the Card
You might wonder how to write a casual birthday message on dark paper. For projects like this one, I keep a white Gelly Roll pen around. (I like the .05 mm tip.) You can use it to write opaque white letters on any dark stock!
6. Make an Envelope
This birthday card makes the best presentation in a simple but elegant envelope. I chose to use a plain white (calligraphy-friendly) envelope with watercolor calligraphy designed to match the card. To approximate the color of that navy cardstock, I mixed Cobalt Blue Hue with Payne’s Gray from my Winsor & Newton palette.
And voilà! The “little black dress” (well, navy, in this case) of calligraphy birthday cards:
This project is so simple that I actually made two cards! I took step-by-step photos of the creation process behind one of them, which is what you read about above. Then, I filmed myself making the other one. Those who appreciate seeing tutorials in action will like this one minute long video:
Having viewing problems? Click here to watch this video on YouTube!
I hope that this concept comes in handy next time you need some birthday card inspiration! With the help of the Little Black Dress Calligraphy Card printable, it takes me a flat 20 minutes to make this card. That’s much shorter than some of the other birthday card tutorials here on the site. 🙂 Don’t hesitate to make it even if you’re not totally happy with your calligraphy skill level. I know you’ll be surprised at how good it ends up looking!