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In an attempt to work on a fun creative personal project this past month, I tried my hand at paper marbling. I’ve done marbling before, but I wanted to try a couple of new methods that might improve on my last try. After reading and researching online, I found this tutorial that seemed simple enough. This method involved using Methocel, Alum, Dispersant and Ammonia, which added a lot to costs and prep, but I chose it because it was supposed to add “permanence” to your marbling. (My last attempt using oil paint led to a lot of color transferring onto my hands after handling the marbled paper). With this method, we had to prepare our mixture 24 hours in advance for best results – who has time for that!? After much preparation, this method was a total FAIL! I just couldn’t seem to get the colors to float on top of the mixture, the chemicals were messy to store and dispose of, and nothing I tried seemed to work. I posted about my failed attempt on my Instagram Story (which I’m loving, BTW), and heard back from several people suggesting the shaving cream method. Shaving cream?! A quick search, and I found this helpful tutorial, which I used as a guide. It worked like a charm.

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Marbling with shaving cream is so easy. Follow these simple steps:
1) Mix acrylic paint with a few drops of Dispersant (pictured below). Then, add a little water until it’s thin enough to flow easily. (Note: You can also use plain food coloring, which would make this project very kid friendly)!
2) Fill a shallow plastic container with shaving cream.
3) Use an eye dropper to drop paint mixture all over the surface of your shaving cream. I found that covering larger areas with color yielded better results.
4) Fold the shaving cream with a spatula, which will mix and swirl colors around.
5) Tape off the edges of heavy weight paper or envelopes with washi tape (or painter’s tape). This gives your marbling a crisp edge and prevents bleeding.
6) Place the paper on top of shaving cream and press down to make sure all of the paper is touching the shaving cream.
7) Remove the paper and place on top of a paper towel. Let it sit for a minute or two to avoid smearing before scraping the excess shaving cream off with a ruler. (We found if you scraped cream off right away, it would cause the colors to bleed).
8) Admire your marbled beauty and let it dry!

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If you’re wondering if your beautiful creation smells like shaving cream once it’s dried, it doesn’t! However, it can be a bit difficult to write on. I tried writing with my calligraphy pen on one of the pieces, and while possible, the ink didn’t always immediately take to the paper. Try spraying aerosol hairspray on the surface first, then let dry. That always help with ink flow and bleeding!

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Overall, this project was fun, easy, and looks beautiful! With this technique you could create colorful and unique gift tags, envelopes, greeting cards, wrapping paper, invitations, place cards, and so much more! The color combination possibilities are endless and the process was very kid friendly. Happy marbling!

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Photography by Peyton Frank

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As an artist and calligrapher (and a total Type B person that lives in mild chaos on the reg), things get messy. I honestly wash my hands umpteen times a day as I’m working on projects, mixing inks, and experimenting with new techniques. So partnering with my friends at method was pretty much a match made in heaven for this messy girl.

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Working in the calligraphy world, it can be challenging to come up with fresh techniques and creative ideas, so I thought I’d try my hand at some abstract envelopes to embrace method’s #fearnomess campaign. And let me tell you, I dove head first into this mess (and loved every minute of it).

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To create these fun, vibrant envelopes, I grabbed some acrylic paint and squeezed it out all over the envelopes, and then took my hands and smeared the paint in big, dynamic strokes. (Check out the video at the bottom of the post to get a really good visual). You’ll want to let them dry for a few hours before writing over the paint.

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Once you’re done with the smearing fun, you’re left with some messy (and colorful) hands. Enter method soap to the rescue. I used their French Lavender gel hand wash to clean up, and it smells so wonderful (and looks pretty in a sleek, modern package next to your sink). My favorite thing about method hand wash (besides the amazing smell and beautiful bottle): they’re totally animal-friendly. No animal testing, no animal bi-products. This makes this dog mom and animal lover a happy camper.

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After I got cleaned up with my method gel hand wash, I went to work addressing my abstract envelopes. While the ink was still a little wet, I added another layer of pizazz on some of the envelopes with a dash of pink glitter. I let the glitter sit on the envelopes for a few seconds, and picked up the envelope and tapped all of the glitter off onto the table (think back to elementary school crafting).

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In the end, I was left with these uber-colorful and sparkly envelopes that I think are fresh and fun – something I’m always seeking to produce in my work. And of course, had the perfect method hand wash to clean off all of that glitter. We all know how hard that can be! :)

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Photography by Peyton Frank

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Over the years I’ve tried countless calligraphy products and supplies, and have had great success with some while immediately disliking others. I say this in my calligraphy classes constantly: I believe that supplies are very personal to each calligrapher. We all write differently. Some of us are heavy handed, some are light handed. We are right and left handed. We have preferences on how our lettering looks. All of these factors are things to consider when shopping for supplies. Because there are soooo many out there to choose from, I thought I’d write an updated version of my favorite supplies and where to buy them (like Paper & Ink Arts, Amazon, JetPens and John Neal Booksellers) for you lovely people. All of the supplies here are ones I use on the regular. Honestly, I’ve used them for years! If it ain’t broke…

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Inks

My favorite black ink is – hands down – Sumi, KY Series. It’s very opaque (great for use when lettering work that will be digitized), fast-drying, generally waterproof, and has a nice glossy finish. (It’s described as having a matte finish, but I found it has a pretty shine to it). I love it!!

For color, I recommend a couple of options. For newbies, I think that FW Acrylic Inks are great. The color choices are vast, it’s easy to work with (flows easily from the nib), and no mixing is required. They also carry a fluorescent collection that’s super fun (think neon pink)! I find this ink to take a little longer to dry, why I don’t always use it for my projects.

If you’d like to try what I most frequently use for color, then give gouache a try. My favorite brand is Winsor & Newton, and I loooove it. Gouache (pronounced goo-aush) is a paint medium that is likened to an opaque watercolor. It dries really quickly, is easy to work with once mixed, and the colors are gorgeous. I frequently mix colors to match Pantone color requests, and this medium mixes very well together. Check out this video from a few years ago that shows you how to mix it. Side note: a super handy tool to have for matching colors is a Pantone Color Guide. You can also try searching for them on eBay to find a used one. They can be pricey.

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Metallic inks: they’re beautiful, but tricky. My go-to is Dr. Ph Martin’s Iridescent Collection. The Copperplate Gold is a big favorite with my clients, and I also love their silver and copper. This ink can sometimes feel a little thick, so adding a touch of distilled water with a pipette can help ease the flow. Additionally, if you dip the tip of your nib in a cup of water before dipping in the metallic ink, that also helps with flow.

One thing you’ll notice about metallics is that the pigment in a metallic ink separates quickly. This can leave the coloring in your work inconsistent. A super handy tool to help with mixing metallics is this ink stirrer. This stirrer uses a magnet to quickly spin in the ink and mix without the need to shake it up yourself. Major time saver.

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One of my absolute favorite combinations is white ink on darker envelopes like black or navy. It always looks so sharp, and I have two favorite white inks I rely on. First, Ziller North Wind White is my top pick. It’s a white ink that’s easy to work with in that it flows very easily from the nib. This ink can have some transparency to it when it dries, so if you’re looking for an option that is more opaque, then I suggest Dr. Ph. Martin’s Pen White. This is a more “white out” version of white ink. It can lean toward the thick side, so if you feel it’s getting gunky, try thinning it out with a little distilled water. (Or, TBH, just a little tap water).

Before moving off the topic of ink, I wanted to share my favorite vessel to keep my inks in when working on projects. This little 1/2 oz ink pot is my favorite little guy, and you can’t beat the price. It’s big enough to allow the nib to easily dip into the ink, but small enough that you’re not wasting a lot of ink or gouache that you might not use. You can use washi tape to set your ink pots in to help with tipping over your ink pot. These ink pots are very easy to tip over, so the washi tape totally helps!

Side note: I’m a big believer in the scratch sheet. When you’re working with dip pen calligraphy, you can often pick up more ink than you need when you dip into the ink. You’ll always want to use a scratch sheet to do a few down strokes to a) get rid of blobby ink and b) establish ink flow. I’ve created a scratch sheet sticky note (I like to use sticky notes because they’re stuck to the table) that has pre-printed down strokes for you to trace. These will help guide you in understanding how thick your down strokes need to be to actually get ink off of your nib. If placing your working surface, you’ll want to put 3 sheets down, as the ink can sometimes bleed through.

A big issue you’ll have when dealing with inks is bleeding. This often happens because of the paper or medium you’re writing on, rather than the ink. If, however, this is happening to you, the best trick is using aerosol hairspray like this one. Mist hairspray on the surface of your page (don’t soak it), and let it dry thoroughly. It helps to seal the page and eliminate that bleeding ink!

Nibs

Not all pointed pen nibs are created the same way, so I encourage you to try a variety of nibs. Based on the way you write (heavy handed vs. light handed), different nibs will work better than others. I’m a more heavy handed gal, so a nib that is firm and does not snap under pressure is a better fit for me. Thus, the Zebra G and Nikko G nibs are my favorites. A new preference is also the Brause Blue Pumpkin, which has a little more flex to it (and it’s actually blue)! A fun alternative is the Titanium Zebra G, which is built to last longer and also looks gold (!) so it’s pretty. My advice is to try a variety of pointed pen nibs, and see which ones give you your favorite results, and stick with that one to really master that particular nib.

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Nib Holders & Brushes

My go to for nib holders is the super inexpensive Speedball oblique pen. This is literally the nib holder I use on a daily basis. It holds the Nikko G and Brause Blue Pumpkin perfectly. They’ve recently started making it a little differently, so the Zebra G nib falls out pretty easily. If you’re wanting a nib holder that will hold any type of nib, then you’ll want to look for a nib holder with a metal flange. You can squeeze the flange to snugly hold your nib in place.

If you’re into the brush lettering look, then I recommend using a round brush like this one (size 5 or 6). Another fantastic tool is the Pentel Water Brush. It allows you to squeeze water and control flow. Plus, I love the actual brush. It’s super easy to work with. Another really fun product is the Zig Color Brush pens. These are really easy to work with and come in a huge variety of colors.

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Paper

I have a few paper pads that I kind of religiously use. First, go buy yourself a Canson Marker paper pad right now. It’s a thin paper that can still be used to trace handouts without using a light box (it’s slightly transparent), but also so smooth that your ink and nib glide like magic across the surface. Any lettering I do that is going to be digitized, I write on Marker Paper. Every time.

In every class, I use this tracing pad. It has a super easy waxy smooth surface to write on, so for practicing purposes, it’s fantastic. (And cheap).

Lastly, for more serious projects (like custom commissions), I always use Strathmore Smooth Surface Bristol paper. It has a nice weight to it, so it feels substantial, and has the smoothest of smooth surfaces to write on.

Random Stuff I Love

The Artograph Lightpad (9 x 12″) is my fave light box option. It’s super thin, so it’s very easy and comfortable to write on. This helps tremendously with layouts and addressing envelopes in straight lines. I’ve had mine for yearssss and have never had a problem with it.

Pentel makes an eraser (the Hi-Polymer eraser) that is amazing. It’s white, but don’t let that make you think it will leave residue behind. It works gloriously when erasing pencil lines on envelopes.

For chalkboard projects, I recommend the Zig Posterman Waterproof Medium Bullet. If you make mistakes, you can use Windex to clean anything you’ve already written, but the Waterproof nature of this pen ensures no bleeding in any condition. (Think, rain!)

If you’re running out of space for your envelopes or projects to dry, I love these envelope drying racks. They save major space.

And there you have it, an updated list of my everyday favorite things. I’d love to hear more about your favorites and go to’s, and as always, contact me with any questions!

Photos by Peyton Frank

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I equate buying business supplies as the adult version of the back to school supply excitement. There’s something about new pens and paper that makes you feel actually pumped to get to work. I’ve partnered with my friends at Staples for their #MakeMoreHappen campaign to show you my favorite resources and great things they have available to you, the small business owner.

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Real talk, I am in constant need of copy solutions for my calligraphy classes. Each one of my students gets several handouts, so I’m always looking for cost effective solutions, ease of ordering, and delivery options. The Staples Copy & Print Center has some of the best prices out there for copies, and also offer easy online ordering. And to put a cherry on top, they deliver your projects for FREE on orders over $49.99. Can’t beat that.

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If you’re looking to get started in your own business (perhaps a calligraphy gig), the Staples Copy & Print Center also offer solutions to get business cards, notepads, and more made. I assure you, if you’re thinking of starting a business, the simple act of making business cards will make you feel so much more official.

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One big thing I love about Staples are the cute office supplies they sell, because let’s be real: we all want an attractive work space and cute matters. They carry a favorite brand of mine, Poppin, whose supplies grace my tabletops and make appearances in my classes. These giant pink sticky notes are amazing as calligraphy scratch sheets, and their rulers are colorful and sturdy – I use mine constantly.

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I’m frequently asked in my classes, “Lauren, where do you buy your washi tape?” Staples is the answer! I love their selection of Scotch Washi Tape – which I use in every single class. Their wide selection of colors and availability make me happy.

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All of these supplies are available at your local Staples. So colorful and cheery, right? A happy work space will absolutely help you #makemorehappen.

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Interested in getting some fun supplies, or making business cards of your own? Staples is offering a $50 gift card to my readers – perfect to get you started on your big venture or help out your small business budget. For all of the details and to enter to win, hop over to my Instagram account.

Photos by Peyton Frank

I was asked to participate in the #MakeMoreHappen campaign, sponsored by Staples. Although I have been compensated, all opinions are my own.

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“It makes a big difference in your life when you stay positive.” At least that’s what Ellen DeGeneres said in her book, and I totally agree. While it’s not always easy to look to the sunny side, if you make a big effort to keep smiling, it makes such a – for lack of a better word – positive impact on your life, both personal and professional. I partnered with Society6 recently to showcase some of their positive art and share some of my tips on staying positive, getting shit done, and remaining inspired. You can read the whole post here.

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Photos by Peyton Frank