Hand Letter a Favorite Recipe

In the April Lettering Lesson, Laura Lavender shares her technique for creating a hand-lettered and illustrated recipe. She creates her one-of-a-kind recipe using a fountain pen, drawing pencils, watercolor paints, and a variety of lettering styles.

To begin, choose a recipe that evokes lots of ideas for illustrations. Zucchini bread is a family favorite, so I went with that. I immediately thought of all of the bowls, measuring spoons, mixing tools, dry ingredients, and, of course, the zucchini. It was time to make a rough sketch. My first sketch was all wrong. The spacing was totally off, leaving me with no room for the baking information. This resulted in a lot of erasing and reassessing. My second attempt was much better.

When hand lettering with illustrations, it’s important to think about the size and placement of every element you plan to include.

Once all of the adjustments were made, I transferred my design to watercolor paper using pencil. Laura suggested using 2–­3 lettering styles, so that the work isn’t too busy. She also said to leave space between the elements to give the eye a place to rest. I was pleased with my design.

Take another look before adding ink or paint, and make any necessary changes. A good eraser comes in handy.

Laura recommends tracing over the lettering portion of your recipe first, so I did. I added green to all of the ingredients, using a Sakura® Pigma® Brush pen, and started at the top of the paper to avoid smearing the ink. I also used a fine-tip, black Sakura Pigma Micron® pen to trace over the labels on the various bottles and boxes, canisters, and measuring cups. Laura did most of her lettering with a fountain pen, but my lettering was small, so, after starting over for a second time (lesson learned), I decided to leave the fountain pen for the larger letters.

I placed a piece of scrap paper over the lettering I had already done (great tip from Laura), and added blue to the lettering in the instruction boxes, again starting at the top of the page.

Using a different lettering style helps draw attention to that area.

Now it was time to try the fountain pen again. After practicing on scrap paper, I dipped the pen in blue ink and added the baking instructions. No turning back now! I was pleasantly surprised and very comfortable with this tool. Next time I’ll use this pen for the whole recipe! It felt more formal . . . more artsy using the fountain pen.

I started adding color to the illustrated portion of the recipe, using watercolor and a detail brush and again starting at the top of the paper to avoid damaging the work I’d already done. It was wonderful seeing the page come to life as the color was added. After letting it dry, I went back in and added some shading, outlined the instruction boxes, and did some outlining on some of the ingredients with the fine-tip Pigma pen.

Hand lettering and illustration is a perfect union. It makes a recipe come to life.

Three take-aways from this experience:

1. Spacing is important. Think about the words you will be hand lettering as well as the tools you plan to use. If the letters are too close, you may not be able to use that broad-tip pen you planned on.

2. Scrap paper is your friend. Not only is it essential to practice the lettering, it’s important to take time to practice with the pens and brushes you plan to use before working on your final paper.

3. Use a guard sheet (any clean sheet of paper will do) and work from the top of the paper down to avoid ruining the work you’ve already completed.

What a perfect way to celebrate or share a favorite recipe.


P.S. Click here to explore more hand-lettering projects inspired by our Lettering Lessons.


Art Journaling and Lettering, Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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