How to Draw Illuminated Letters

Updated April 17, 2017

Before the invention of the printing press, scholars wrote all books by hand. These books were often decorated with elaborate illustrations, known as illumination, and were highly prized by collectors. Illuminated letters remain popular today and are used as logos, on stationery, or for personal monograms. Drawing illuminated letters is a fun and educational craft project for children and adults.

Draw a square on a piece paper using a pencil. Press lightly and use the ruler as a guide. Make a large square if you plan to have a very detailed letter; make a smaller one for a simpler design.

Select a design or theme for your letter, such as floral, plant elements or Celtic patterns. Look at online galleries of ancient, illuminated letters if you need inspiration (see resources). Or, use elements that have personal meaning, such as sports paraphernalia, for a modern twist.

Draw the letter of your choice in the box. Bold capital letters work well and allow for ample detail. Experiment with different fonts and letter styles to change the overall effect.

Add details to the letter and the background. Be sure not to press too hard with your pencil so you can completely erase any unwanted lines. Illuminated letters are traditionally ornate, so don't be afraid to add lots of detail.

Erase any stray lines. Go over the pencil lines with the black pen to create your outline when you're satisfied with the design. Gently erase the entire letter again to remove any pencil marks once the ink is dry.

Add colour to your letter with the pens or markers. Colour in the whole letter for a bold look, or just a few sections for bold pops of colour. Sign your letter and display it once it is completely dry.

Things You'll Need

  • Pencil
  • Paper
  • Ruler
  • Eraser
  • Black ink pen
  • Coloured pens or markers
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About the Author

Based in Dallas, Erin Sawyer has been writing since 2003 and began her writing career at her college newspaper. She has written articles on video games and geek culture for her personal blog and is currently pursuing an Associate of Applied Science in computer programming. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Dallas.