How to design an illuminated letter

Written by dotty ilean
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An illuminated letter is a large letter surrounded by colourful embellishments and golden accents. Originally, they were used for sacred texts, such as the Bible and the Book of the Dead, and were created by special scribes. Now, illuminated letters can be created by anyone of any age. Designing an illuminated letter can be an art project, a tool for teaching people about illuminated letters or just a leisurely activity.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Coloured pencils
  • Black marker
  • Gold marker

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  1. 1

    Draw the letter of your choice on a blank sheet of paper with a pencil. Draw the letter so that it large enough to stand out, but make sure there is room on the paper for your embellishments, or any text you wish to include.

  2. 2

    Choose a theme for your embellishments. Common themes include plants and vines, animals and mythical images. Trace the embellishments around the letter with a pencil. Erase and redraw any mistakes, until you feel the images are satisfactory.

  3. 3

    Add colour to your illuminated letter. Trace over both your letter outline and the embellishments with a black marker. Use brightly coloured pencils to make the illuminated letter stand out. Colour in the background, as well.

  4. 4

    Use a gold marker to colour to add in gold accents. For example, if using an animal theme, colour in the eyes and tail with gold. If using a plant and vine theme, include a golden flower. Experiment with different golden accents.

Tips and warnings

  • The art materials used to draw an illuminated letter are changeable. Use paints, crayons or coloured markers if you do not wish to use coloured pencils. When substituting, make sure you also choose a paper that is appropriate. For example, if you are using paints on your illuminated letter, the paper needs to be thicker than if you are using coloured pencils. Test your art materials on the paper before beginning to ensure that the colours do not bleed.

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