Tips & Tricks

The Society for Calligraphy & Handwriting (SCH) gives these tips and tricks to help further interest in calligraphy and related art forms.

Demo by Carrie Imai

Submitted by Lisa Tsang. Carrie Imai demonstrating her Imai-talics.

Nib Holder

Submitted by Lisa Tsang. This trip was given to us by Reggie Ezell, who got the idea from one of his students (but I don’t remember which one) and shared it with us.  To help keep all your nibs organized, simply cut down corrugated cardboard and make this convenient holder.  You can label your nibs so that it’s easier to find.  I place my EF66’s pointed pen side down to protect them.  And I can separate all my Mitchell nibs from my Speedball nibs.  It really works well!

I have an additional tip to post to the cardboard nib holder that I sent earlier.  In actual use, the cardboard on the nib holder can separate and loosen the nibs.  If that happens, you can reinforce and strengthen the cardboard by applying a thin layer of Golden Matte Medium to the area that has pulled away to re-glue it.  Use an acrylic brush to work the matte medium into the grooves of the cardboard.  Also, a rubber band applied to the area right where the nibs slide in will help to keep the cardboard from pulling apart.  Here are the photos to help you visualize the repair.

Paper Pop-ups

Submitted by Nan Robkin.

1.    Use heavier paper or cardstock for popups. Cardstock labeled 65 pound is good.
2.    Make a sketch of your design first, then make a full-scale model.
3.    Index cards (5×8 inches is a good size) are good for experimenting and making models.
4.    Be sure your pop-up element is not going to stick out from the card when card is folded; if it does, you can add a bigger backing to compensate.

View more in Tips for Making Paper Pop-ups (includes links to many helpful sites).


Submitted by Lisa Tsang. I created Weave for my Fatbook group’s new theme for Fall.  I tried out these high flow acrylics from Golden. On the bottle, there is a code (with the paint color over 3 diagonal lines) where you can tell how translucent a paint color is.  See the difference between the dark blue and the other colors?  The set I tested came with 3 sizes of paint markers that is easy to fill.  But the cap needs to be placed back firmly or the color dries up.

The Kokeshi Doll

Submitted by Lisa Tsang. The Kokeshi doll was done by cutting the design with an #11 Xacto blade and backing it with various washi and chiyogami papers. Lisa thanks Carl Rohr and Sachi Tanimoto, for teaching her the brush lettering/prismatic letter techniques and Senga-Japanese art of cutting paper.

Holiday Sugar Cookie

tips-tricks-47Submitted by Lisa Tsang. I start with a basic sugar cookie recipe or you can use the cookie mix from Costco.  For the icing, see recipe below.  After the cookies have cooled, I spread on a thin layer of the icing and let that dry completely.  Then you are ready to paint!  The Wilton food colors work well, I’ve been using those for years.  Have a variety of brushes to do different effects.  A detail brush is essential, fan brush works well for texturing, a flat for lettering, and a wide for laying washes of color.  Don’t limit yourself to letters, you can paint other things as well.  The most important thing is to enjoy the cookies with friends and family and EAT them!

Icing for Painted Sugar Cookies

3 boxes (3 lbs) powdered sugar
2 egg whites
¼ tsp cream of tartar
Lemon juice from 1-2 lemons
Tiny dash of nutmeg (optional)
Milk to correct consistency

This keeps for weeks if refrigerated.

Brush or Pen Holder

Pen HolderSubmitted by Lisa Tsang. Basically, the construction is very simple. Take a piece of fabric (size may vary depending on the style of pen holder you want to end up with) and fold up one end half way and pin. Stitch pockets along the length of the fabric, back stitching on the ends, add a ribbon on one side as your tie. Voila!

Lisa sometimes serges the edges of the fabric but you can leave a raw edge if you want. Be artistic.

Traveling Watercolor Set

Suggested by a salesperson at Daniel Smith. Use an Altoid tin or something similar and put small containers or water bottle caps inside. To stabilize the caps use Sculpy polymer clay to hold in the wells.  Then add mineral based paint colors. See below for other custom palette containers.

Thrift Store Finds

Submitted by Lisa Tsang.  Check the local thrift stores for items to alter.

Create a Collage

Lisa TsangSubmitted by Lisa Tsang. This is a great way to recycle your practice sheets and add decorative elements to your projects, giving them a special touch!

Use Modge Podge with a sponge brush to apply the papers.  This works particularly well when you have surfaces that are uneven or too rough to letter directly on.  You can emboss on top of the dried artwork.  In our class, we collaged on unfinished wood frames.  But there’s no reason why you couldn’t decoupage onto other surfaces, such as fabric (fabric paper, see our upcoming workshop), glass or leather (handbags).  Give it a try!

Experiments with Multex

MultexSubmitted by Lisa Tsang. Multex has 2 surfaces, a shiny side and a matte side, and is translucent.  You can add paint, color pencils, markers, watercolors, acrylic and gouache.  Fabric paints and inks work as well.

MultexLisa tried a whole range of markers on the matte surface and everything worked except for  the pebeo SetaSkrib+ markers which seemed to resist.  The Marvy DecoColor and Painters Calligraphy pens took a long time to dry.  Her favorite markers on Multex were Copic, Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens, Marvy Fabric Brush Markers, Pigma Micron Pens, Zig, Permaopaque, and Sharpies.  Prismacolors worked well except they dry out over time.

MultextYou can stitch on this material as well.  So versatile.  There is a lot of potential for art here.  In her sample, she painted the matte surface with some pearlescent pigments and allowed to dry, then layered some muslin, batting, and free motioned on the matte surface.  Try free-motion writing.

For more instruction, check out the Zen Quilting Workbook by Pat Ferguson inspired by Zentangle.

Pseudo Illumination

tips-tricks-29Submitted by Lisa Tsang. This experiment in pseudo illumination was inspired by SCH’s “Letter a Week” for the accordion book project but Lisa did not have Instacol in the studio and decided to try using Golden tar gel as a base for gold leafing.  She stamped the letters F-A-L (from Serendipitiy Stamps) as a starting point.  Her neighbor, who works at a photo studio, brought over a bunch of salvaged foil from heat stamping for me to play with.

Lisa used the tip of a fine embossing tool to apply the tar gel instead of a 000 fine brush, which made clean up easy (although she didn’t have as much control in application as the brush).  It took about 45 minutes for the tar gel to set up enough to be ready for the foil application.  When dried, the tar gel flattens slightly but you can build up another layer to make it more raised.  Then the fun part was embellishing the letters; A (colored pencils), L (Winsor Newton watercolors), F (Pigma markers and Derwent watercolor pencils)!


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