An article from my wedding blog I thought I'd share with you:
I always knew I wanted the classy elegance of hand-written calligraphy on our wedding invitations. Unfortunately, $2.00 per envelope for our 100 invitations didn't exactly fit the bill. I've spent many hours drooling over the designs of calligraphers such as Laura Hooper and Heather Victoria Held (if only I had half of her talent, just half!), wishing I could afford their exquisite services.
I've always been artistic by nature, and my handwriting is probably better than average, but it is certainly not calligraphy-caliber. Nonetheless, I couldn't bear to settle for computer-printed envelopes or even worse, sticker address labels (gasp!). So, I decided to give it a shot on my own! Here's a little sample of how my first few envelopes turned out...
Not too bad, huh? Well, I have a little confession to make.
I totally cheated!! Yes, this is my real handwriting -- but I had a little help. If you're a Food Network junkie like me, you're probably familiar with Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade tactic. She prepares elaborate meals using shortcuts and help from pre-prepared foods. That way, you think she spent all day slaving in the kitchen, but it really took her less than an hour. My extreme perfectionism meant that I couldn't possibly hand-address 100+ envelopes without some consistency and guidance. I would have wasted so much paper trying to do all 100 perfectly! So I took a hint from Ms. Lee and came up with my very own shortcut. It's very similar to my aisle tiles strategy!
Let me share with you a step-by-step guide to your own semi-homemade calligraphy:
I'm using cocoa Euroflap envelopes from envelopemall.com. Obviously, black ink wouldn't show up very well, so I bought white India Ink from the craft store. I also purchased a calligraphy pen and fine-tip nibs. I love the sharp and unexpected contrast of the white ink on dark brown paper.
Next, I set up MS Word using the mailings feature to print addresses on the size envelope I was using.
Then I entered the first recipient's address and set the font color to brown, just a few shades lighter than the envelope color. I adjusted the printer settings for my 5.25 x 7.25" envelope, and printed the address directly onto the envelope. This took a little more time and practice envelopes than I expected to get the position right, but I finally wiggled it around and got it centered.
Then, I traced over the address using my white ink and calligraphy pen. You need very good lighting for this step, because the brown ink on brown paper was difficult to see. The brown-on-brown ensures nobody will be able to see if I don't cover the printed lines exactly (except you guys, of course). It actually took two coats of ink to get the right amount of coverage, since the white ink was a little bit opaque.
While this shortcut was extremely helpful, it still required a bit of finesse while figuring out how to use the calligraphy pen and bottled ink. You need to position the pen at an angle to produce the thinner and thicker lines within the letters, and adjusting the pressure on the pen controls the amount of ink that's released from the nib. I would definitely suggest a few practice runs before you start on your envelopes.
This technique would also work well with any other ink and paper color combination, and gives that fancy hand-written feeling without the worry of crooked lines or inconsistent lettering.