Dreamy Chalk Lettering at Wonderpens

Posted by Sarah Shin on

As a kid, I would’ve LOVED the chance to scribble over a clean, large chalkboard bigger than my body! As an adult, I’m pretty blessed to get paid to do such things ;) Especially when the spaces are as beautiful as the Wonderpens shop. Their chalkboard spans across the large part of their shop and I had the honour of being the first scribble upon it :)

So… I’m still learning how to share my process. It takes a lot of forethought to document and capture the steps of creating something but for now - for this chalk piece - I thought I could at least share some of the photos I took that day. Baby steps guys!!

The first step of any calligraphy work is drafting out the piece. This is the hardest part, and it takes many iterations for something to “feel right,” with the right layout, composition, and spacing. I wanted to do a Maya Angelou quote (it was for Valentine’s day!) and fitting the words on a long board was my biggest challenge. Typically I’d be writing on a 4x3 or 16x9 ratio but this canvas was long and skinny :) After some scribbles on paper (I would share some sketch book photos with you if I knew where those papers were! Probably on the back of some napkins…), I do a mock up on my iPad Pro using Procreate (lifechanging app, we can talk about that later). Below is what it looks like: one on a grid layout, and the second inverted (so I can see what it would look like as a chalk piece!). I asked Liz from Wonderpens to take a photo of the board for me, and I Photoshopped this rough piece on the photo for her to get a glimpse of what it would look like.

This is a Photoshopped version of my rough work, for the client (and myself!) to get an idea of how it would look.

One the day of, I come equipped with comfy sneakers, a handful of ol’ school chalk (legit), a pencil sharpener, and some old cloths/rags/towels. I like to keep a dry one and a wet one for easy erasing and drying. I make TONS of mistakes and have to readjust and pivot as I go.

As you can see in the photo, I have my iPad out with my Photoshopped image for reference. I do a very light pass at writing out the words. This part takes the most care and attention. I’m constantly erasing, readjusting letters, spacing, words, to make sure everything feels and looks even. I must’ve stepped down from that ladder at least 15 times to get the whole quote written on the wall!

The most time-consuming part comes after perfecting the layout. I start filling in the words! This is the “faux calligraphy” part of chalk lettering. I go into every single letter and start drawing out the thick lines that a nib with pressure would otherwise create. I had a little studio assistant ;)

I would say this is where I’m doing tons of sharpening… I use a regular… school… sharpener… but use the larger hole! Haha. Sorry this is not a very technical explanation. Honestly this is just what works for me. I love using traditional chalk (more than chalk pencils and chalk markers) and I find just grinding it down in any old sharpener works for me. There’s probably a waaaay more sophisticated solution but I can live with this heh (but please comment below if you have other hacks lol…).

I was really happy with this final piece. I love how it flows across the long banner and I especially love how playful and romantic it looks (for this specific quote!). I added in the leaves as a final touch (I like to use leaves to balance things out at the end haha - my not-so-secret). This piece took 2 hours, 1 cup of coffee, 1 awesome playlist, and 4 pieces of chalk. Unfortunately, 5-6 pieces of chalk were harmed in the making of this wall art (…slipped from my hand, dropped from the ladder, shattered heaps…).

Lettering Process

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