Monday, May 3, 2010

Illuminated Letters - How to Create a Convincing Illuminated Manuscript

Using this method it is very easy to create a convincing gilded manuscript that has the look and feel of genuine vellum or parchment.

To do this you will need:

An inkjet printer, Microsoft Word software or similar and a good quality off white or cream paper to print onto.

Imitation gold leaf. This is for the illuminated letters.

A bottle of gold size, there are many different varieties, I suggest using an acrylic size like  Simple Scribe as it is very easy to use.

Blonde de waxed shellac. This will alter the tone of the paper and give the paper the feel of vellum/parchment; it will also seal the gold leaf so that it does not tarnish over time.

Methylated Spirit is needed to dissolve the shellac, this is a 90% proof alcohol made to smell and taste very bad.

Some small paint brushes and a 1 or 2 inch paint brush.

Lastly you will need a craft knife and ruler, plus a cutting mat, or a sheet of thick card to cut upon.

I suggest making up the shellac solution first, we will not need it until later, but it gets it out of the way.

To make up the solution take 1 part of shellac flakes to 4 parts alcohol.

Be aware that the alcohol does give of fumes, best to do this in a ventilated room.

Using a screw top jar add the flakes and alcohol and let it stand for 24 hours; give the mixture an occasional stir. If conditions are cold it will take longer to dissolve.

Now create your document in Microsoft Word; if you want the look of a medieval illuminated letter choose an Old English typeface.

If you do not have such a type face installed on your PC you can easily obtain them as there are many websites that offer free fonts.

If you want to use a large drop capital you can do so in Word by going to Format/Drop Cap/Dropped.

Change the colour of the capital letter from black, to pale pink; we do this in order that we can see the letter to be gilded.

When you have finished creating your document in Word, print out however many copies you want to create.

Using a small paintbrush, paint the capital letter with the gold size.

When the gold adhesive is ready it is time to apply the leaf.

Remove one of the leaves together with the front and back tissue to support it, and cut it up into appropriate sizes with your craft knife.

Now lift up one of the pieces, discarding the bottom layer of tissue but including the top layer, and lay it down in place over the large capital, the top layer of tissue paper protects the gold while you rub down firmly.

Removing the surplus gold leaf from the illuminated letter.

Take a small length of masking tape and gently dab the gold leaf, the surplus leaf will stick to the tape.

When you have removed the surplus leaf it is time to apply the shellac coat.

Give a generous coat of the shellac solution to the front and back of the paper.

Leave to dry in a warm room.

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