Sunday, June 16, 2013

A baby gift, for Fathers Day

This project creates a hand-lettered gift for a new father or mother. But you can celebrate on any occasion with a baby's name in calligraphy. The steps I followed provide a useful guide if you would like to try something like it.  

I like to use the letters themselves to make a shape on the page, so I decided to have the baby’s vital statistics form an oval frame around the name.  While you can draw your own oval with a loop of string and two pins, I just used an old reliable oval template from my drafting days to make a 3 x 3.5 cm oval, and then enlarged it on my copier.  If the baby's name looks better horizontally, just turn it the long way. 

• A quick pencil draft shows how the letters fit my idea. I spelled out several of the numbers to give myself more text to work with.  When using letters in a circle or oval, I like to help the reader by separating them into two halves so as to keep them right-side up.  

More pencil drafts = better design.  
I tweaked the layout by raising the name .2 cm (such things matter!), and added arrows reminding myself where to shrink or stretch the smaller lettering. 

Then I laid the oval guideline over the draft on a light table and pencilled a more accurate layout.  No light table?  Lots of calligraphers happily hold two sheets of paper up to a sun-lit window to make them translucent.  

I tried a few letters with the ink and pen I intended to use, as a dress rehearsal.  My first try, gold and purple, made it look too much like royalty, so I tried it in a Dr P H Martin green and Speedball gold, which I like much better.  The trial letters alerted me to guard against the possibility of ink blots.   

NOW I was ready to letter in ink.  Choosing my favorite paper, I laid a 7” x 9” * piece of Arches Satine over the final draft and went to work.  →

Although this may seem like a lot of steps, it produces a thoroughly worked-out design that lets you concentrate all your attention on how you shape your letters, not where you put them.  
Plus there are no pencil marks to erase from the front of the finished art, leaving the paper surface untouched.  

Your design, by the way, will improve if you can “sleep on it” at some point in this process.  It’s amazing how much more clearly you see and think after half a day away.    

*Standard paper sizes make for quick and easy framing, a relief to young parents with too many details to look after in their lives.  Or you can present it in a temporary frame and let them get it framed at their leisure--after the baby graduates from college!     


  1. What a novel idea! It's a winner and the end product is worth preserving to show the baby later on. I love it! I was just trying to think up online baby gift ideas when I stumbled upon your link and this other very useful link:

  2. I'm so glad this is useful. I've done versions of this for many babies. Thinking back to my own new-parent days, I think you should present it in a frame already so it can go right up on the wall. There is enough to remember to do in those first months. Years.