Broke-Ass Tag: place cards


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.

Special thanks again to Molly and her team at Macmillan Publishers! Be sure to pick up her new book ASAP! (Grab it on Amazon right here.) SEE HOW PRETTY! 

  • 6/16

    Having a natural eye for aesthetics makes planning a wedding an excruciating labor of love. Every detail is carefully researched, curated or crafted with extreme care. Maybe if you’re lucky, you have a super helpful fam or crew of bffs, but let’s face it, occasionally it’s just you, up against the wall, making the crucial decisions. But if you’re opting for traditional wedding invites, do us a favor. Save yourself countless hours of web perusing and check out Minted first.

    Wedding invitations are like a movie preview for your wedding – and you’d be surprised what a certain typeface can say about your impending nuptials.The invite immediately communicates the level of formality and suggested dress code for your event, whether it says it explicitly or not. For example, this invitation with cascading flower petals and fancy cursive font says your wedding will be a sophisticated and utterly memorable affair, but probably not something you should wear sandals to…

    …while this adorable invite with an antique mason jar and fireflies lets your guests know they can leave the tux at home, relax, and prepare to have a great time.

    No matter what shape your celebration takes, there’s a corresponding invite on Minted. With their expansive network of talented designers, and countless color options, you’re sure to find a design that fits in with your wedding vision. Earth lovin’ brides will delight in knowing that you can get your choice of design printed on 100% recycled paper!But of course, the paperie party doesn’t stop with wedding invites. Minted has just launched a lovely new line of  wedding programs, place cards, and menus! To celebrate, they’re offering 15% off on all orders until July 1st with discount code: WEDDAY15.

    If you’re not already totally in love with Minted, then prepare to be seriously woo-ed, because they’re gonna give one lucky BAB reader a $100 gift card! All you have to do to enter is trot on over to their site and let us know which design is your absolute fave in the comments! For an extra entry, tweet @Minted or like them on facebook!