the writing's on the window

Have you put your decorations up yet? We tend to put ours up the first weekend of December and it's certainly feeling a lot like Christmas here! Of course, I wanted to incorporate some calligraphy or lettering this year and as our new house has lovely large windows I thought I'd try me some window lettering. 

I've never written 'large-scale' before so the results were a bit of a gamble, but I thought I'd share my process with you anyway.

First, I roughly sketched out an idea. And by roughly, I mean rough as you can see from my first biro efforts. That was enough to point me in the right direction though, and a couple of re-tracings later I had something I could work with.

Next I measured my window and set up an artboard in Illustrator with the exact dimensions 1:1. I scanned my artwork and cleaned it up a bit in Photoshop. I wasn't too fussy as this was something I would be using as a guide to trace from. I then dropped it into Illustrator and sized it to the proportions I wanted and (this is important!) I flipped the image.

I set my printing options to 'tile' to ensure that the image printed out at actual size spread over several sheets of A4 paper. As there was a lot of white space around my image I counted from the top row, left to right on the tiled image to figure out which sheets to print.

The next stage is fun. You literally piece your image together like a giant jigsaw puzzle and fix it together with sellotape. Not too much, just enough to hold it together.

I decided to do a practice run on the back window first, which was a useful learning curve. Before starting I gave the glass a good clean. Then I stuck my giant jigsaw image to the outside of the window with a bit of masking tape. After a shaky start, I realised I needed to rest my hand on something to keep it steady. Then I remembered seeing signwriters and artists using a stick with a chamois on the end. After a bit of googling I found out that this is called a Mahl stick. Luckily, I was able to knock one together quite easily by using things I had lying around the house, but here is a quick tutorial I found if you need one. The stick proved vital for obtaining smooth lines. With the large curves I found I just had to be confident and arc my whole arm.

And here it is. The top image is my first practice run and below is the final front window version. It doesn't hold up to close inspection, but the distance from my front window to the pavement is far enough to hold the illusion. I'm sure there are better tools and materials to use (I used a UNI Chalk Marker), but for my first attempt using what I had lying around, I'm pretty pleased with the results. And it's not like it will be up there forever is it! Happy holidays everyone!