Stop Wondering How to Draw Guidelines

Updated: Dec 2, 2019

We all know the struggle: you have a great idea for a project, but you don't know how to draw some guidelines so that it turns out precise and consistent. Wonder no more, my friend!

Today, I'm sharing 5 of my favorite ways to draw guidelines for projects! I use all of these methods, depending on the project elements, and they each serve their unique purposes well. So let's dive right in, and help you on your way to bringing your amazing idea to life!

Method #1: Lightbox + Guidelines Sheet

This method works great for light-colored papers, no thicker than 120lb. Create a separate sheet of guidelines (remember each script has different proportions, so you may need to create a new one for a new project). I typically draw them out in pencil, and then go over them with Micron or another fine-tipped marker.

Then, tape your guidelines sheet to the lightbox, and add your project on top. I like to secure my project with some painter's tape, and adjust and re-stick as I finish a section. This prevents slight movement of the page that can create crooked lines of text. If your project involves multiple items, such as envelopes, it might not make sense to tape each one down, but you'll also have less lines of text to worry about.

Method #2: Laser Level

This method is amazing for multiple item projects, such as envelopes or certificates. I have this cheap Black & Decker one, and it works great! For this method, you'll need a craft cutting mat, or something with grid lines to work on.

First, I tape my laser level down to the table (painter's tape is my best friend in the studio!), matching it up with one of the lines on my cutting mat. Then, as you place each item on the mat to work on, line up the vertical edge with a vertical line on the grid, and there you have it!

Method #3: Good Ol' Lead Pencils

Sometimes, thick paper or other unique project elements might foil all the no-mark methods for guidelines. Then, it's time to turn back to our trusty old pencils and map out our guides by hand!

I typically use a soft-lead pencil (4B or softer) for most projects, because the softer lead will help minimize the chances of leaving indentations in the surface of the paper.

Sometimes, however, very stiff or textured paper will not cooperate with softer lead pencils and I can't get all the lead to erase off the page! In these cases, I use a very hard-lead pencil (6H) and extremely light pressure to draw light, precise guidelines.

How do you tell which pencil to use? Test a small line on the back of the page! See how the lead erases, and if there's an indentation left on the surface. Then, you can begin marking your guidelines with confidence that you'll be able to erase them after you're finished.

An important note: with this method, less is best. Draw out the least amount of guidelines you can use without sacrificing beautiful, consistent lettering. The less you have to go back and erase, the better!!

Method #4: White Lead Pencils

Have a project on dark paper? White-lead pencils are about to make your life so much easier! My favorite is a mechanical fabric pencil made by Fonz & Porter...if you draw lightly, you can wipe it away with just your finger!

The same principle applies for white lead pencils as with other pencils...less is best. Pencils (especially if we mark too heavy) can leave indentations in the surface of the paper, even after we erase the lead from the page. The less chances you have to leave un-intended lasting marks, the better!

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