There are a few questions I get asked so frequently I thought it would be a good idea to address those here on the blog. One of those questions is, “How do you keep your lines so straight?”
First, let’s be honest…
When I freehand a design like you see in a lot of my Instagram timelapse videos, the lines aren’t perfectly straight. The fast speed of the videos is very forgiving, so you hardly notice all of my imperfections.
For the most part, though, I am able to achieve somewhat straight lines, and I think that mostly just comes with lots and lots of practice and developing a second-hand nature for writing in a straight line without a guide. (Get help learning and practicing lettering & calligraphy with my lettering kit at handletteredtruth.etsy.com)
However, when I am sketching out a design that I intend to use for a print or a sign, I do want to be more precise with my lines, so I prefer to use a guide. In comes my secret weapon…
As shown in the picture above, I use two sheets of Rhodia Grid paper in the size you will find at the above link. Two sheets fit perfectly within the lit up screen area of the light box also linked above. I line them up perfectly and then use washi tape to secure them to my light box. I use washi tape because it is easy to remove. (Also pictured: Sakura Koi Coloring Brush Pen — one of my top favorites!)
Once I have my sheets neatly secured to my light box, I can then use regular computer paper or (whatever kind of paper you prefer to use for sketching), turn on my light box, and place my blank sheet right over the graph paper so the lines show through and keep my writing nice and straight. If I need to secure my blank sheet so it’s not moving around and throwing my lines off, I will secure that also with washi tape for easy removal. (I LOVE @raindropwashishop for adorable washi designs not sold in stores, and because I love to shop small and support other makers and creatives.)
This is the method I use for sketching out a design that I want to use for prints or for my wooden signs. If it’s a design for a wood sign, I will then take my sketch and tape it to my wood piece and use carbon paper to trace my sketch onto my sign, and then paint it either using regular acrylic paints or acrylic paint markers. One of these days I hope to put up a full tutorial via the blog or YouTube, but for now I hope this quick explanation helps.
Of course, you could always skip the light box and just use the grid paper to sketch your designs. The process I use helps cut back on paper, which I love because Rhodia grid paper can start to get costly if you’re having to buy it all the time.
Some things I love about the light box:
- It has a rechargeable battery, so you can used it while it is plugged in or unplug it and take it with you wherever you want to work, since it is portable.
- The light is dimmable so you can customize the intensity of the light per your preference.
- It has a ruler on the screen for any of your measuring needs.
- It is thin and lightweight.
- It has pads on the bottom so it doesn’t scrape up my desk.
Once again, here they are listed with clickable links to where you can find them online: