Friday, June 22, 2012

Mini Tutorial for Lettering on a Photo Mat

I recently lettered a poem onto a photo mat and though it's something I've done many times before, this time I documented the process a little so I could do a tutorial on it.

As the picture below shows, I do this in three stages.

The lowest layer shows the poem printed out from my computer in the approximate layout that I want and in the approximate size I want.

The next layer shows it lettered on paper with the same pen and ink I will then use for the finished mat.

The top layer is the finished mat.

I type in the words of the text on the computer and try to pick a font that will take up approximately the same space as my lettering. This part is not critical, but it is helpful. Once you commit to the final lettering on the mat, there is no turning back, so I try to take out all of the surprises that I can.

Then using the pen and ink I plan to use for the project, I letter the quote on graph paper or copy paper the size of the mat.

I measure the center of the mat and draw a light pencil line on it. I measure the lines of lettering and adjust spacing. I draw the guidelines lightly onto the mat. I now letter the text, holding the practice paper directly under the good paper, trying to match them, space-wise, as well as possible.

Let the mat dry for an hour or so, or overnight before erasing the lines with a soft white eraser.

Here are some detail photos of the mat in progress.

These make wonderful gifts


  1. Great idea, thanks for the tips!

  2. What ink/gouache do you use? Do you find that the mats bleed? If so, do you use fixative first? Just wondering. Usually it's a ONE TIME SHOT and you gotta get it right the first time with no experimenting to see what words.. Just wondering...

  3. Answered you privately, Trish - simply because I was not on this page when I received your comment. I used Moon Palace Sumi ink. Sometimes I do spray the mat with fixative before any ruling of lines. If you spray afterward, the pencil lines will remain...not good!