Monday, July 15, 2013

Titles on sketchbook covers

Blog reader Juergen van Straelen asked: "I noticed the nice cover decorations of your sketchbooks and I was wondering which paint you use for this. Do you fix the paint to make it more resistant?"


Thanks for asking, Juergen. First off, as a calligrapher and sign painter since I was in high school, I love to paint a title on each sketchbook. While I'm using the book, it helps me find the front, and it helps me remember what's in a book after it's finished. I usually title the book with whatever words I write on the first page.

I have tried a lot of paints and inks for the titles, such as gel pensenamel markers  and acrylic paint,  with varying levels of success. Acrylic doesn't stick well to the watercolor sketchbook covers, which seem to be made of some kind of fake leather. Gel pens are OK on paper, but they skip a lot on the covers.  Enamel markers work OK; they're opaque and wear well, but I find they clog up eventually.

What I have found works best is One-Shot sign painters' paint.  This is a very opaque enamel that holds up to incredible abuse. You only need about four colors for all your titles. I use yellow, red, light blue, and white.

If you do hand-lettered titles on your sketchbooks, please email me a photo. I'll choose a few of my favorites to feature on a future blog post.
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Links for: Enamel markers

17 comments:

David R. Darrow said...

I'd love to know what brushes, too. ANd what do you clean up with when you're done?

Thanks!

dragonladych said...

Oh dear, mine are really rough compared to these. I might give it a try now since I am learning more about graphic design and typography at the moment.

Sharon Morley said...

You are always so inspiring!

Tim said...

Very nice James! Have you ever bound and made your own sketchbooks? I never much cared for the Moleskine wc paper, so ive takesn to making my own, using Sanfords waterford 190 gms rough paper. Its a little on the thick side, but its a great paper to use. Ill be trying to find a decent 120 gsm paper for my next one, NOT presse or satin.

tkelly said...

Very Nice....it would be great to hear some of your "sign painting" tips.

Jürgen van Straelen said...

Wow, now I'm "thrilled" that you used my little technical issue for a new - and very interesting - blog entry :) I really love your sketchbook covers, only a detail, but a lovely one! Thanks for picking up this topic to share it here :)

Kit Umscheid said...

I got my start in illustration and design as a sign artist in the 80s and 90s using One Shot sign enamel. Love that you are using this skill to enhance the covers of your sketchbooks! Makes me think of possibilities for my own covers.

Tom Hart said...

Like David, I'd love to know about the brushes (and pens?) that you use to apply the enamel. A video would be great, of course! :^)

Karen Robinson said...

I agree with Sharon, you are really so inspiring! I don't know how you find enough hours in the day to achieve all that you do. Does 'life' never get in your way?? It's always getting in mine..

Tamara Owyoung said...

Would *love* to see a demo!!

liz bengtson said...

OH MY GOOOOODDDNnnnesssss those are so so beautiful! I have a mixed media sketchbook i'm starting to use more and the cover is so bare. i'll make it all pretty!

Gina Florio said...

I'm really glad to see a post about these as I'd been wondering the same thing myself. I wonder if you could do a more in-depth post about hand lettering. Your letters look so neat, all correctly sized and spaced, and I'm curious about the method you use to get such beautiful, neat titles with hand tools.

kcw said...

As everyone has already said, your sketchbook covers are beautiful. Since this post is about sketchbooks I was wondering if there any plans to reprint your book Artist's Guide for Sketching? It was rated very highly and I would love to buy it but the price is prohibitive. Based on the reviews it would definitely be worth a reprint.

K_tigress said...

I've done that actually but mostly on the inside since the covers get pretty damaged after awhile.
There is one in particular that I really went to town with. I'll probably make my own children's book with the character I designed which was based on a pun. Or was that vise versa? Its been awhile.

James Gurney said...

KCW, no plans at present to republish AGS. I talked about it with Tom a few times before he passed, but we were both too busy with other things. Now my mind is on bringing out a new book on sketching, but of course including some of the stuff from the Hoister days.

Gina, Tamara, and Tom, that's a good idea. Someday I'll get around to doing a video demo of the lettering method. But for now, I used a super-long 1/4 inch flat nylon brush. My inspiration for the letterforms are books from 1900-1920, which I may talk about on future posts.

Karen, yes, life does get in the way for me too. I get super distracted by a lot of things. I often do hand lettering or calligraphy when my wife is cooking dinner.

mp said...

Love your sketchbook covers.

lynnwood hage said...

James,once again ,I'm sorry if my comment is too late.I really dig your sketchbooks!Do you always finish one before you start another? I always have several going and It theoretically seems like a good idea in my head because they're for different purposes,but in practice it just feels kind of scattered and unfocused.Recently you mentioned how you would get on a jag about one medium or another and I see how that could be a fun way to do it.Thanks