When I draft my quotes in the past, I would use the widely popular Rhodia grid pads to draft them out before transferring them onto the actual piece. Drafting is an important stage as it is where I plan and layout the whole design before I use it to work on the actual piece. This includes making sure the whole quote is centralized, sketching out each word while keeping to a consistent x-height and slant, and of course, adding in the flourishes to make the piece more interesting while also ensuring the design looks balanced as a whole. With so many considerations in the drafting stage, I needed a guide sheet that allows me to do all of the above altogether but I have not been able to find any so far. So I thought, why not create my own? And I did. It works great for me so I decided to share it with others like yourself who are facing the same issues too.
Firstly, these are the criteria I look for in a guide sheet for drafting quotes:
A small space to quickly jot down the quote
A centre line to centralise the quote
Grid lines equal to the x-height, with a marker for every 5 units of measurement
Multiple slant lines - to ensure a consistent slant for every letter and word
Grid lines must not be too distracting
Grid must be able to fit the actual paper used for final artwork - my final piece is usually on an A5 size paper or smaller (eg. 5x7", A6 or 4x6")
With the above criteria I wanted, I designed my own Calligraphy Guide Sheet available for free here. Before you jump straight into using them, do read on below to see how I use them in drafting my quotes and why each criteria is important and necessary in every step along the way.
To start off, the whole drafting stage is done in pencil as it allows me to make changes easily.
Step #1 Jot down quote on the top right corner
This step is to make it convenient for myself to refer to the full quote without having to memorise it or refer somewhere else like your phone. It is always there on the paper for easy reference.
This is also where I visually split the quote into different lines, (roughly) centralise each line of words, and lastly, identify and indicate areas of possible flourishes above or below each letter (ie. the ascenders, descenders and cross-bars for the letter 't'). I do this by indicating with a dash above or below the letter with an ascender or descender respectively.
Step #2 Draft out quote without any ascenders, descenders and t cross-bars
This is the step where we draft out the quote in actual size. In this step, I focus mainly on keeping each letter consistent in terms of x-height and slant using the grid lines and slant lines provided. At the same time, with reference to the quote jotted down in step #1, I write out the full quote split into different lines while ensuring that each line is centralised using the centre line and grid. I do this by making sure each line is of equal distance to the left and right of the centre line. This step can take quite a while with a lot of erasing and penciling in to ensure each line is centralised as accurately as possible.
Tip: I would suggest using a light hand with your pencil so that it is easy to erase and does not leave a mark.
Step #3 Add in flourishes
This is the most fun step of all because this is where I play with flourishes for letters with ascenders, descenders and 't' cross-bars. I try out different types of flourishes here to see which works best in balancing the quote without overwhelming it. As the flourishes make the design more complex-looking, it is important that the grid and slant lines are not too distracting yet serves it's purpose at the same time.
Once I am satisfied with the draft design of the whole quote with the flourishes, I move on to transfer it to the actual piece in Step #4.
Step #4 Transfer draft onto actual piece
There are two methods I use to transfer the draft onto the actual piece:
1. By using a lightpad, or
2. By using tracing paper
I will explain each method in more detail further below. But first, let me show you how I set up my draft quote and actual piece for the transfer.
Pretending the tracing paper in the photo on the right is the actual A5 paper used for the final piece, I place it on top of the guide sheet with my draft. Using the grid lines as a guide, I adjust the paper so that it is centred to the draft quote. To centralise it horizontally, I do this by making sure the paper is equal distance left and right to the center line. Then, to centralise it vertically, I check that the spacing above and below my quote is roughly equal. (refer to picture on the right) As long as the quote looks centralised on the actual piece, we are good to go.
From here, we use either of the two methods mentioned above to transfer the draft onto the actual piece.
Method 1: Using a lightpad and directly calligraph onto the actual piece
This is the most straightforward and fuss-free method that I use most of the time. I basically set up my lightpad with the draft quote and my intended paper for the final piece as explained above. With the lightpad turned on, it casts the draft quote through the paper so that I can work directly on it. I basically 'trace' the draft quote with my calligraphy dip pen but of course, applying pressure on the downstrokes as how you would use a calligraphy pen.
Tip: If you are not able to see the pencil draft clearly through the paper on the lightpad, go over the draft again with a pencil to darken it. Also, tape down your paper onto the guide sheet to prevent it from moving around when working on the final piece.
Method 2: Using tracing paper to transfer a pencil draft
If you have used a tracing paper to transfer designs before, you should know how it works. It is a much more tedious method but it works just as well.
onto the paper.
Firstly, trace out the quote onto the tracing paper itself. Then, flip the tracing paper to the back and trace over the quote again on it's flip side. Now, the quote is penciled in on the front and back side of the tracing paper. Flip it back again so that the quote is facing up correctly. Align this tracing paper onto the actual paper and trace over the quote again one more time. This will transfer the quote on the flip side onto the actual paper. I can now calligraph my quote directly onto my paper without needing a lightpad as the draft is already on the actual paper itself. Lastly, remember to erase away any of the pencil draft at the end.
Tip: Tape down your tracing paper with your actual paper together when transferring.
The above two methods work well for different situations. For method 1, it works best when the actual paper used is white in colour so that the light can pass through the paper easily and I can see the draft quote clearly. However, it does not work very well with coloured paper as the light from the lightpad does not come through well enough to see the draft clearly. In such cases, I then use method 2 as it works all the time regardless of paper colour and it does not require any special equipment.
With that, this is how I use my guide sheets to draft out my quotes and transfer it onto the actual piece for the final artwork such as in the picture above, featuring my Calligraphy Floral Frame. This post explains all the steps I take to design a custom quote from start to finish. If you are someone that is in need of an all-in-one guide sheet for drafting quotes, please feel free to use ours by getting them HERE. We also have Calligraphy Practice Sheets here which are designed for practicing your calligraphy.
I am sharing this with all of you as a free resource because I find it useful for a calligrapher like myself. I just ask that you use them for personal and/or non-profit use only. I sincerely hope this helps you in designing your quotes as much as it helps me.
If you have any questions, feedback or suggestions on the guide sheets, do leave us a comment below or drop me an email. I would really appreciate it. Thank you and I hope you enjoy using my Calligraphy Guide Sheets!
With lots of love,
The Letter V Stationer