Today we’ve got a special DIY treat from author and master calligrapher/designer Molly Suber Thorpe of Plurabelle Calligraphy, whose gorgeous new book, Modern Calligraphy, is available now wherever books are sold! If you love the look of calligraphy, but can’t quite justify the price tag, Molly’s book teaches you everything you need to know to make your wedding invitations and wedding pretties look profesh. We had a chance to preview a copy of Modern Calligraphy, and it is a bargain at twice the price! Here’s an easy DIY project from Molly’s book that’s fun to try even if your calligraphy skills are at (what can generously be described as) a beginner level. Take it away, Molly!
These beautiful place cards will make a statement on any table. Each card has a unique watercolor wash background flecked with contrasting acrylic paint, and the possible color combinations of watercolor and calligraphy are endless. This project can be made over and over again and adapted to any occasion, whether it’s a wedding reception, holiday dinner, or birthday party.
- Level: Beginner
- Yield: 75 place cards
- Time: 8 hours (including drying time)
- Budget: $65.00
- 90 3.5×6-inch pieces pieces of heavy watercolor paper cut
- Pan of assorted watercolors
- 1 tbsp acrylic paint in an accent color for splattering
- 2 tbsp table salt
- Ink, watercolor or gouache of your choice for the calligraphy
- 1-inch-wide artist tape
- Wide paint brush
- Small paint brush for watercoloring
- Dish of water
- Paper towels
- Bone folder
- Calligraphy nib and holder
- Old toothbrush
1. Apply a strip of artist tape across the full width of each watercolor paper card, starting 1 inch up from the bottom short edge. Press the tape down firmly, especially along the edges, so that no watercolor will be able to seep underneath. There should now be 1 inch of paper exposed below the tape and 4 inches exposed above it.
2. Using the large paint brush, brush both the front and back of each card with water, then pat dry with a paper towel. (This prevents the paper fibers from expanding unevenly and warping.) Since there are so many cards, I recommend painting about twelve at a time so your workspace doesn’t get too cluttered.
3. Using the smaller paint brush, paint the cards with an abstract watercolor design in the colors of your choice. (I normally combine two to four watercolor shades per card, but play around with what you like best.) Don’t let this step scare you! This should be liberating because there is no wrong way to do it. You can fill up the entire paper with paint or leave portions of it unpainted. You can overlap the colors or keep them from touching. You can paint uneven blobs or perfect pinstripes or streaks fanning out in circles like fireworks. You can use light, similar shades for an elegant, understated look, or bright, contrasting ones for a bold, festive effect. Each card can be different – if you use the same colors, they will tie together in a series.
4. If your paper is soaking wet, blot off excess watercolor with a folded paper towel. Then sprinkle the cards with a pinch of table salt. The salt crystals create a unique pattern by absorbing the wet color they land on, producing slightly lighter spots when you brush off the salt later (see step 6).
5. With the old toothbrush, splatter acrylic paint randomly over the card. Choose a color that will really stand out from the background colors you chose. I really like using gold to add some sparkle. Lay flat and let dry.
6. Brush off the salt and carefully peel off the tape. If the cards aren’t flat (which can happen in humid weather), press them between a stack of books overnight.
7. Fold the cards in half and make a sharp crease with a bone folder.
8. Use ink, watercolor, or gouache to calligraph the guests’ names in the blank strip on each card. If you’re nervous about messing up, just practice each name on scrap paper a few times until you’re comfortable. Let dry completely.