Recently, a friend asked how to create a custom chalkboard-look print for framing. She wanted to make a “where we’ve lived” keepsake that has the hand-made look of chalk art without the mess. Here’s an easy way to achieve the effect if you know a little about Photoshop but are intimidated by lettering.
Create a new document in Photoshop. Mine is 1200x1200 pixels. Fill the document with dark grey. I used #1e2228 (R: 30, G: 24, B: 40). This becomes your background layer.
TMI: Keep in mind that your document should be sized appropriately for your final output. If you are making an image for the web or email, use pixel measurements and a resolution of 72. For a printed document, use inches (or centimeters) and a resolution of 300. RGB color mode is fine while you work, but printed documents may require changing the mode to CMYK as a last step. Ask your production facility or printer for details.
Copy and paste an image you want to trace, which creates a new layer. For best results, use a gif or png file with a transparent background. Resize the image as desired.
Create a new layer. This becomes your chalk outline layer. Pick a "chalk"-like brush. Mine is "Pastel on Charcoal Paper." The default size is 63, but mine is 15. Trace the image.
Hide the layer with the image you traced, and repeat steps 3 and 4 for any other shapes. You also can do this with text by typing a word, choosing a typeface, and tracing it on a layer above.
Add some freehand embellishments and hand-lettering.
For a more realistic look, "erase" some chalk: With the eraser tool selected, specify the "Dry Brush Tip Light Flow" brush and set the size to 60. Make sure the opacity is 100%. Sparingly delete areas to mimic an erased chalkboard.
Save and enjoy. To create a file to use on the web, go to File > Save for Web. Specify the desired size and format, then click Save. This generates a flat file (with no layers), ideal for web use. To create something adequate for printing or other production, flatten the file and Save As... a tif, jpg, or png. For more details of web versus print output, see "Understanding DPI, Resolution and Print v. Web Images” at Vsellis.
I waited years to finally put together my signature Lipstick font... and I am thrilled every time I get a notification that people are finding it and buying it. I have put zero effort into SEO or other measures to attract business, since I am focused on developing products and working on client projects. But how exciting! Thanks to everyone who has purchased my little typeface so far!
At the suggestion of the MyFonts review team, I am working on a revised version, which will be expanded for multi-language support and include more special characters and punctuation. Look for Lipstick to be updated in the store in March at a cost of $39; hopefully, it will soon thereafter be available for purchase at MyFonts too.
I have a lot in store for La Lettre de Luxe in the coming weeks. I can’t wait to show you all I have been working on. My head always is full of letters and design, and this site aims to share that with anyone else as crazy for typography and style as I am. Thanks for stopping by!
One of my long-term home projects is incorporating lettering throughout the space. When I stumbled upon Life as a Thrifter’s “Knock-Off Anthropologie Letters” tutorial, I decided to do something similar for my son’s room.
- Dropcloth: A broken-down cardboard box works. Cost: free.
- Lightweight wood or paper composite letters: I used Hobby Lobby 8" papier maché letters. They are surprisingly sturdy, stylish, and inexpensive. Cost: $2.50/each.
- A can of metallic spray paint: I used Krylon Premium Metallic in Original Chrome after debating between that color and Sterling Silver for way too long. Cost: $5.99.
- Aluminum foil
- Black acrylic paint: For easy cleanup, be sure to use water-soluble acrylic. I used Anita’s brand. This project requires very little paint. Cost: about $1.00.
- 1/2" paintbrush: The size isn’t too important. In a pinch, a cheapy sponge brush, paper towel, or even finger works. Cost: about $1.00.
- 3M Command strips: Cost: about $4.00 for 8.
Space the letters a couple of inches apart on the dropcloth.
Lightly spray-paint the letters. Let dry for about 10-15 minutes, depending on your climate, and spray again for better coverage. Let dry completely and repeat with the backs if desired.
Crumple up a bit of aluminum foil and scuff the painted surfaces. You can lightly scrape in one consistent direction for a brushed-metal look or go all over the place like I did for a more distressed feel.
Dry-brush a bit of black paint onto each letter. The best look is achieved by “staining” areas that normally would wear or get dirty with age--grime accumulates in corners and on edges.
Be sure to compare the letters side-by-side to maintain a consistent look.
Once dry, place the letters on a bookshelf or another home spot and walk away from them for a bit. Come back with fresh eyes and make any desired adjustments.
To hang vertically stacked like I did: Estimate the height of the sign. Level the bottommost letter and adhere to wall with 3M Command strips. Once the first character has been hung, stack and stick the rest. Voilà!
Several times a year, I open my mailbox to find a card from my friend Mayra. I don’t have to see the handwriting or read the return address to know it’s from her, because the envelopes are decorated in a unique way.
As a side note, which is relevant to this post, Mayra is the only roommate I’ve ever had. In the six-month gap between the end of a lease and a cross-country move, I moved into Mayra’s amazingly low-priced apartment situated above a Baptist church.
One thing I learned about Mayra during this time was her incredible generosity–how important it was for her to give, even when she didn’t have a lot. Each week, after depositing her paycheck, she would pay bills… then write checks to her favorite charities. Usually, the checks were just a few dollars, but her consistent contributions meant that several charities could rely on a nice little nugget from her every year.
Our apartment was littered with non-profit swag: coffee cups and tote bags, plus return-address labels and charity stickers to last a decade. At some point, perhaps aware that she would move onto a new home well before she could put a dent in her label-and-sticker stockade, Mayra started embellishing envelopes with a few stickers. This turned into a minor creative pursuit, and these days, I still get envelopes covered in stickers–sometimes seasonal, sometimes utilitarian, but always appreciated as her calling card.
Lately, I’ve been sending packages with the recipient’s last name spanning the entire envelope in script, with flourishes whose tails bleed off the sides. (I also do this for gift boxes by writing in Sharpie on Kraft paper or white boxes and adding little doodles.) People know when it’s from me, and decorating this way allows me to customize the presentation to the recipient’s taste and interests.
Here are some ideas for making your own signature look for correspondence:
- Stickers: Craft stores like Michaels and Hobby Lobby are overflowing with incredible stickers now, since scrapbooking is en vogue and printing is more accessible than it used to be. Make your own seasonal cards or decorate envelopes with a signature sticker that you like. Or, work with a designer to create and print a custom envelope seal.
- Handwriting: Experiment with different styles of handwriting–cursive, block, drawn–until you find your favorite. Make it your go-to style for special-occasion mailings like holiday cards. When you address these in bulk, you’ll be perfecting the style until it becomes natural and expected.
- Packaging: An elegant, understated way of creating a signature look for your correspondence is using a specific wrapping paper or envelope for everything. Maybe you have a signature color (ooh, Tiffany blue) or favorite motif (peacock feathers?)… Buy envelopes in different sizes or wrapping materials in bulk and consistently use them.
- Rubber stamps: Find stamps that strike a chord, and use them every time you send mail. For a one-of-kind look, work with a designer to create custom stamps and a plan for their use.
- Trends: If you’re a fashionista or otherwise inspired by seasonal changes, become the person whose correspondence is always fashion-forward: Find a source for attractive, fresh materials (like La Lettre de Luxe, for instance), and make sure you’re always stocked for the coming season. Unused stock can be stored, because we all know fashion trends are cyclical.
How do you thank someone who does something special for you? These days, most people don’t take the time to formally express their gratitude… but those who do know there are special rewards for putting pen to paper to say “thank you.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received thanks for my thank-you notes! This encourages me to continue marking occasions with meaningful sentiments.
On the receiving side, there are few things more touching than reading genuine words of gratitude from a beloved friend or respected colleague. Knowing how much a gift means to someone makes me want to be more generous and thoughtful.
If you have a hard time crafting personal notes in response to gifts or gestures of generosity, here’s a basic rundown of the components you should include.
Greeting. Use a formal opening, and be sure to use the proper spelling and title of the recipient. “Dear” is appropriate in almost every case.
- Dear Henry,
- Dear Aunt Jo,
- Dear Father Dan,
- Dear Mrs. Deidrick,
Say “thank you” and acknowledge the gift. Start with the actual words followed by a description of the gift or gesture you received.
- Thank you for…
- I am so grateful for…
- You made my day by…
- You can’t know how much I appreciate…
Give a practical example. Describe how you will use the gift or what it means to you.
- I will be reminded of you when I see it.
- I am looking forward to getting a new haircut with the Christmas money!
- The foyer finally looks complete with the artwork on display.
- I hope to set an example for someone the way you have for me.
Wrap it up. Traditional etiquette suggests that you restate your thanks, but — particularly in a short note — this seems formulaic. Instead, I suggest adding something personal that looks to your shared future; this may include an inside joke for an especially close friend. Generally, the closing should be a separate paragraph.
- I can’t wait to see you at Mom’s this summer!
- Please give my regards to the family until I see them.
- I look forward to working with you again soon.
- Semper fi, old friend.
Use a formal closing. Sometimes closings like “warm regards” can seem stuffy or corny, but a memorable letter is just the time to use a time-honored phrase as one last exclamation of your gratitude. When in doubt, “Sincerely,” works well for loved ones and acquaintances alike. Be sure to capitalize all words of a closing.
- Warm Regards,
- All My Best,
- Many Thanks,
Still stumped? That’s okay. Good letter-writing takes practice. Start by making a point to send a thank-you card every time you receive a gift from a close relative who won’t criticize your writing skills. Before long, you’ll start to compile your own useful phrases and adapt your style to the recipient (old Grandma June may like her notes a bit more formal than your fraternity brother).