Cheater Chalkboard Calligraphy

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A friend recently asked me to create a couple of chalkboard signs for her son’s beach wedding and I admit I felt a bit daunted by the project. I haven’t practiced calligraphy in many years and I had never done calligraphy with chalk. I started thinking about how to keep the words spaced properly and decided I needed to figure out a way to transfer the design to the chalkboard before I drew with the chalk. It was easy! You do not have to be a graphic designer or calligrapher to do this. Here are the steps:

What you’ll need:

  • Adobe Illustrator (this technique will work with Photoshop or InDesign too)
  • a laser or inkjet printer
  • tape, pencil, scissors, ruler, liquid chalk markers
  • chalkboard

Create the calligraphy pattern
These instructions show you how to create the design using Illustrator but you can do basically the same thing if you want to create the design using Photoshop or InDesign.

  1. Measure the chalkboard and note its dimensions.
  2. Launch Illustrator and create a document using the dimensions of the chalkboard.
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  3. Use the type tool and various typefaces to create your design. Save the file. Here are a few great tutorials about using the type tool in Illustrator:
    Work with fonts from Typekit
    Point vs. Area Type
  4. I created my design in color to give me an idea of where I wanted to use different colored chalk. I also created a black rectangle behind the typography so that I could visualize what the final chalkboard would look like.
    Chalkboard-design
  5. Choose File > Save As to save a duplicate of the design. Select the type and choose Type > Create Outlines.
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  6. Select View > Show Print Tiling. This will give you a preview of what the pages will look like when they print. Select the Print Tiling Tool. You will use it to indicate which part of the design you want to print.
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  7. Use the Print Tiling Tool to print each area of your calligraphy design. Print the page or page tiles at 100% size. For my design, I printed 4 separate pages to include the whole design at full size. You definitely want some overlap. That will help you align the prints when you combine them.Notice in the illustration below that the inner dotted lines show what you’ll see in the print. The outer dotted lines indicate the edge of the paper. For further learning, here is more printing & tiling information: Printing onto multiple pages using tiling.
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Combine the pages to create the full sized pattern.

  1. Take your scissors, some clear tape, and your printed pages and find a window or glass door you can work on. This works best during the day with lots of indirect light. (A glass of wine is optional but I recommend it.)
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  2. Holding the pages up to the lighted window, line up the letterforms and once they overlap seamlessly, use the tape to secure the pages together. Continue aligning and taping until all the pages are taped together. You now have a pattern that is ready to trace.
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Transfer the design to the chalkboard

  1. Flip the pattern so the back side is visible. Tape the pattern to a window or glass door to reveal the design. If the overlapping pages block you from seeing the letterforms, you may need to trim them a bit. That’s what I did below:
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  2. Use a fine tip chalk marker or chalk pencil to trace the outlines of the letterforms onto the back of your pattern. Don’t fill in the designs, just outline them. The chalk that’s left on the back of the paper will transfer to the chalkboard in the next step.
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  3. Place the pattern sheet backside down on top of the chalkboard. Adjust its position and using a ruler, make sure the baseline of the letters is parallel to the chalkboard frame.
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  4. Once the pattern is taped to the chalkboard, use a pencil to trace over the outlines of the letterforms on the right side of the pattern paper. I used a dull pencil so that it wouldn’t tear the paper and accidentally scratch or mark the chalkboard.
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  5. Once you are finished tracing the whole design, you should have a light outline of your letterforms transferred to the blackboard. You will use the outlines as a guide for your calligraphy.
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Create the chalkboard calligraphy

  1. Trace the outlines using the liquid chalk markers. I used two sizes. For very light, thin typefaces (Futura Light below), I used the small markers. Note: I placed a sheet of paper over the chalkboard as I drew so that my hand or sleeve didn’t smear or erase the light outlines.
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  2. I started at the top and worked downward, moving the protective sheet as I went. For the straight line, I used a ruler and a thin marker. For larger letters and fill areas, I used the large chisel tip chalk markers. Theoretically you could use regular chalk for this but the liquid chalk markers give you much cleaner lines and more solid colors.
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  3. Below is the finished board before I transported it to the wedding venue. To protect the chalk lettering, I wrapped the chalkboard with cardboard and taped it. I managed to smear some of the letters while I packed it up but I used some wet Q-Tips and the chalk markers to touch up and it looked as good as new.
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Normally I wouldn’t mix so many different typefaces but the idea was to imitate the style of old fashioned ad designs. Here are the typefaces that I used:

  • Futura Light and Futura Book
  • Zapf Dingbats
  • Lust Script
  • HWT Catchwords
  • Rockwell Extra Bold

How I made a Renaissance portrait with Photoshop and a sari

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The ADIM Conference
Russell Brown has been hosting the yearly ADIM Conference for many years. In previous years, I taught and assisted. But this year I went as an attendee to literally walk in the shoes of Adobe’s customers as they learn to use Creative Cloud apps. I manage a team of UX designers at Adobe who create many of the tutorials our customers use to learn our apps. As User Experience Designers, we need to regularly remind ourselves of what our customers face everyday when trying to use Adobe products.

Each year the conference has a different theme. This year’s theme was Shakespeare and the attendees worked on two projects: a Renaissance self-portrait and a book. For the portraits, Russell invited a fabulous photographer, Joel Grimes, to shoot using lighting similar to that in many Renaissance era paintings. Most everyone brought a costume to wear for their portrait. Russell brought three – Caveman Shakespeare, Renaissance Shakespeare, and Futureman Shakespeare.

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The Costume
I started with some beautiful Indian sari silk that I had purchased in Bangalore, India while on a business trip. After doing some research on 16th century clothing, I made a sketch of my idea. I decided to create a man’s costume based on the cross-dressing character Viola in Twelfth Night. It took me many weekend hours to create because I was mostly designing as I constructed. As you can imagine, I had to rip out many stitches and start over several times.

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The Painting
Let me just say right now that I hate having my photo taken. I much prefer to be the one behind the camera instead of in front of it. I posed for the portrait photo along with everyone else and I really disliked almost all of mine. The only ones I liked were the ones where Russell photobombed the shot (dressed as “Caveman Shakespeare”). I returned later that evening and had the portrait reshot—this time wearing a stunning dragon mask created by costume-maker Robert LaMarche.

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Once I had the photo, I started to play with it in Photoshop. We were taught several techniques on how to make your photo look like a painting. I discovered the Impression filters for Photoshop from TopazLabs and really liked them. I ended up experimenting for hours to create really cool painterly effects. Once my file was ready, it was printed onto textured, stretched canvas. I picked a gold frame, attached it, and voilá!—a framed Renaissance self-portrait made with Photoshop.

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The Book
The book project had two parts. The cover was to be designed using Illustrator and because it was made of wood, it was laser cut by a Universal Laser machine. I LOVE using these laser cutters! It is so fun to design something in Illustrator and then output a three-dimensional object with incredible precision. Once the cover was finished, I started on the contents of the book.

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For the inside of my book, I created a set of digital paintings with Photoshop that I printed onto heavy watercolor paper. I had created these paintings by using many of the portrait photos that Joel Grimes shot of the attendees. I chose to focus on the hands – as if it were a close-up view of a larger painting. These reminded me very much of my art history classes where the professors would show magnified views of different paintings and sculpture to discuss creation techniques and details.

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The Renaissance – yet again
In 1987 I designed the first Adobe Illustrator packaging using Botticelli’s Venus as the base of the imagery. I did that because I felt that Adobe was part of a 20th Century Renaissance with the advent of digital publishing and digital art. That was almost 30 years ago and it feels like another Renaissance is happening in the 21st century as well. Artists have so many digital and mobile tools and output options at their disposal that it’s a bit overwhelming. But at the same time, I find it a very, very exciting time to be an artist.

Learn the pen tool by playing a game

project-nimbus-1Having trouble learning to master the pen tool in Illustrator, Photoshop, or Flash? We’ve got just the thing! Get started learning pen tool basics by playing the Pen Tool Game. This cute and clever game let’s you practice drawing both straight and curved lines. If bezier curves have got you stumped, give this a try. Its fun! And you’ll be helping a wayward little space traveler named Weber find his way home.

Hint: drawing curved lines scores more points than straight ones.

Find the right tutorial faster with Adobe’s new Search

Search-2Adobe’s learning search has not been the greatest. We’ve wanted to fix it for a really long time and we’re really excited about our new redesign of tutorial search.

There are almost 1000 Creative Cloud app tutorials on Adobe.com, but they’re often too hard to find. This summer, the Learn team built a totally new tutorial search experience to help you get what you need faster. It just went live yesterday.

Here are some of the improvements:

  • Search is now available on every tutorial page.
  • Search results are totally redesigned to help you decide which tutorial works the best for you. On the results page you’ll find a whole new look.
  • Each search result includes:
    • tutorial description
    • tutorial type:  video, text, hands-on, game
    • duration:  length of the tutorial or time to complete a hands-on project
    • apps covered
    • user level

Take a look:

SearchTry it out for yourself!

Learn Adobe Illustrator tools in a game

shape-builder_1408x792My team has some cool new learning games for you to try! If you’ve never tried Illustrator before, these games teach three essential skills to get you creating in no time.

Our group has been working on building learning experiences that engage users. We want to hear what you think of these games because we’re working on making them bigger and better, so make sure to leave feedback by clicking on the “Provide feedback in our survey” link on the bottom of each page. Here are the interactive learning games:

How to use the Line tool
How to draw shapes
How to use Shape Builder

Cropping images in Adobe Illustrator — Test this tutorial

100713My design team is testing out a new format—”Visual Tutorials.” The goal is to use simplified visuals to communicate, instead of lots of text. We are currently testing a tutorial for masking an image in Illustrator. You can help us create the most effective content possible by following this link, looking at the tutorial, and giving us some feedback. This might be especially interesting to you if you are interested in topics of semiotics or illustration. Thanks!