Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Power of Handwriting: Improving Yours & Using It Creatively

Yesterday on our blog, Nicole shared a layout with you that included her own handwriting. Although adding your handwriting to your scrapbook pages adds a touch of yourself to the pages and leaves a legacy for future generations, many paper crafters back away from doing so. Are you a scrapbooker who does not like their handwriting? If so, read on. Nicole is back today with helpful tips on improving your penmanship and adding your handwriting to your pages.

Why is it important to include your own handwriting?
If you are seeking to leave a legacy for your children within your scrapbook layouts, examples of your handwriting are an important part of that legacy. In our present world, unlike the generations prior, you are more likely to send an email, write a letter on the computer, or send a text. However, your handwriting is still a part of who you are. Those close to you will cherish any example of your penmanship in the years to come because it cannot be duplicated or replaced. 

But I scrapbook digitally. 
Don't worry, my friend! This still applies to you! There are still ways to include your handwriting in your pages. Weither you create traditional, digital, or hybrid layouts, it’s a good practice to scan your journaling. Write on a plain piece of paper, multiple times if needed until you have a result you're happy with. If you’re worried about keeping your writing straight, put a thin piece of computer paper over a sheet of lined paper. Write what you would like - either a title, journaling, or other thought - and scan it into your computer. 

If you're a traditional scrapbooker: Save it as a JPG file, open it in a Word program or photo editing software, resize it if necessary, and print it out. Cut it to the appropriate size and adhere it to your page. 

Digital scrapbooking: If you have Photoshop or other editing software on your computer, you can remove the background using the Magic Wand tool (or the equivalent in your own software) to create a transparent background. Resize your journaling to fit where you would like it. Put it onto a tag, photo, or to your page background.

Where do I start?
I'm glad you asked. Start small. Begin by writing smaller elements of your layout design such as the date. You can even place it far away from your focal point on the page. Allow yourself time to get comfortable with your handwriting within your scrapbook. There is no right or wrong way to create a page... Go ahead and combine computer fonts and your handwriting.

Hide it. 
Seriously. Hide your journaling in pockets, folded cards, matchbooks, etc. Write your journaling on a piece of coordinating cardstock and slip it into a pocket or secret compartment on the page. It won’t be seen by anyone unless they pull it out.

Work on improving your handwriting. 
This may seem time-consuming; however, it's worthwhile. 

You'll need: 
  • A pencil 
  • A ruler (May I recommend the Centering Ruler by EK Success)
  • An ink pen or marker of your choosing (Archival, Acid Free, Permanent)
  • A good eraser (I love White Art Gum Erasers)
  • The awesome tips below

Warm up. Create smooth continuous loops, circles, and ovals to loosen your grip and create a smooth script. 

Hold your pen or marker properly. The barrel of your pen should be held comfortably, near the tip, between the index finger and the thumb and resting on top of the middle finger. Narrow, pinched letters are often the result of drawing the letters with just the fingers instead of a combination of fingers, wrist, and arm muscles. Use a combination of the muscles to gently guide your pen across the page. 

Plan ahead. Think of what you’d like to say, and make sure you have enough room to fit it all in the space you've provided yourself. I have a habit of writing far too big, even on envelopes and packages. Many times I have regretted not taking my own advice in this area! Make sure you don’t end with the last few letters or lines squished into a corner of your text block. 

Slow down. We’re all capable of having neat handwriting. Most of us just need to slow down and pay attention to the spacing and height of each letter. Go back to when you first learned to write. Break down each of the letters as simple lines and circles.

Use pencil. Use a ruler to make lines on your page before you begin. Write everything lightly in pencil. Slowly trace over your words with an archival safe pen or marker. Go back and erase any pencil lines with an eraser once the ink has dried.

Find an example. What fonts are you drawn to and enjoy? Do you like round writing, block lettering, or angular scripts? Print or cursive? All caps or lower case? Discover the styles that you feel comfortable writing yourself and find examples. Look for samples in online font galleries and try imitating the different styles. 

Practice. I have a habit of doodling ALL THE TIME. Ask friends, coworkers, my past teachers. I doodle when I’m talking on the phone, sitting in a classroom, and even when making my grocery list. You too can practice different handwriting styles during these moments and more. Relax the muscles in your hand and arm and start writing. Train your hands and create new muscle memories. As you practice, the more comfortable you will become. 

Not all pens are created equal. There is a wide variety of journaling pens and markers available. They have different inks, nibs, and weights. Try different types until you find one you're comfortable with, making sure the pen is archival, acid free, and permanent.

Resources. Take a class, pick up a book, or surf the web. Here's a few of my favorite resources to help you add some pizzaz to your scrapbook pages with handwriting: 

Go beyond the text block.  

  • Write around objects - circles, die cuts, flower petals. How about writing around your photo to create a frame? Your journaling becomes an embellishment.
  • Fill in gaps in imperfectly spaced journaling with doodles, such as hand-drawn flowers or hearts.
  • Align your handwriting easily by using products with existing lines as your guide, such as a piece of striped paper or a library book tag.
  • Write your journaling on a separate piece of paper, cut the text into strips, and adhere them to the page after the design has been figured out. 
  • Write each letter of your title on a chipboard circle to perfectly space each character.
  • Enlarge, bold, or color certain words for emphasis... or just because you want to. 
  • Don’t worry about proper capitalization. Experiment with your journaling. Write in all caps. Write in all lower case letters. Mix it up and have fun. 

Remember to relax and enjoy the process of handwriting on your pages. I once heard someone say, "A Picasso painting would be worthless were it not for his signature along the bottom of the canvas." How true is that?! The same philosophy applies to you, your scrapbooks (works of art), and your story. 

Do you think you'll try including more of your handwriting into your scrapbook pages and mini albums? Maybe you already do! Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. 

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