I recently answered an unusual request to create a hand-lettered message from Santa Claus. I know, you’d expect this in November or December, right? Me too. But the client had their reasons and provided the text. I used calligraphy pens with red and green inks, and a sprinkling of silver stamped snowflakes on a heavy cream-colored paper with a green deckle edge to enhance the old style Christmas mood. I used to do a fair bit of calligraphy when I was in high school and even college but most of my typography and lettering projects are done on the computer now with points and vectors rather than pens and brushes.
I was a little apprehensive about how much time it would take me to complete the project given my rusty skills. I decided that a little digital preparation would not be amiss so I picked out a typeface reminiscent of Uncial script and set the type on the computer adjusting size, kerning, line spacing and justification exactly as I wanted it. I then printed this out and taped it to the back of the heavy paper and used the lightbox to letter directly over my computer-derived draft. It wasn’t tracing as I still drew the individual letters just as I would have if I didn’t have the guide underneath. But having the word placement and line spacing all worked out freed me to concentrate on the rhythm of the letterforms. It worked so well it almost felt like cheating. I doubt anyone but another graphic designer familiar with the particular typeface I used would possibly guess that I used a computer in the process. The final letter is hand-inked on classic paper stock, just as we might imagine Santa would write it himself.