Designing & Lettering the Cover

Illuminated letters can look complicated, but broken down into simple steps, they are as doable as they are beautiful.

hope illuminated word

Here is a photo and list of lettering/doodling supplies you will need for this lesson to write the words for the cover in pen: 

Lettering illumination supply list


  • Journal Pages of watercolor paper to doodle and write on
  • Pencil
  • Eraser –  kneaded eraser and/or white eraser suggested
  • Permanent drawing/writing pens, preferably in a few various widths, such as Fabercastell Pitt Pens (fineliner set which includes sizes XS, S, F, M) or Copic Fine Nib Inking Pens set which includes sizes 0.3, 0.1, 0.05, 0.03. Microns may work too, but tend to smear when writing over layers of acrylic medium or paint, so they aren’t my first choice.
  • Shades of Gray Pitt Brush pens. I have a set of six, but it is not necessary to have that many. The ones I use most are the two lightest of either the cold greys (Cold Grey IV 233 and Cold Grey III 232) or the warm greys (Warm Grey IV 273 and Warm Grey III 272)
  • White permanent pen for fixing mistakes, such as Painters Pen, fine tip, paint marker by Elmer’s, OR ACRYLIC water based paint marker/Extra fine by Montana Markers, OR BIC Wite-Out Correction Pen. See note below photo of white pens for more info:


~ Go into Pinterest and type illuminated letters or lettering in the search box. Here is a link to my Words and Letters board on Pinterest:  http://www.pinterest.com/valeriesjodin/words-letters/
For more fancy letters and historical illumination, check out my Pinterest board:

~ Look up books on Lettering, Calligraphy, or Illuminated Letters at your local library.

~ Google the word Illuminated Letters or Calligraphy and click on Images for the word/s you typed in the search box.

hope cover flap open web

The following video is a demo of the process of designing and lettering the front cover:

Pen –

The password for the video is: do-letter

In the video below I share how to draw illuminated letters:

The password for the video is: do-letter



  1. Tina_Janeen@yahoo.com

    I’m not sure if I missed it in your videos but when do you apply the matte medium? After you finish the doodling before you apply color to the background? I notice that before you color in the feathers or the birds and hearts that the background is already filled in with stencils and color. Do you apply the matte medium before you apply any color at all?

    • Tina, Yes, I usually put matte medium on the surface after I doodle and before the color. This makes the paint much easier to manipulate on the surface of the paper because the pigment does not soak into the paper. The stencils and colors are done in the Beautiful Backgrounds class.

  2. Inge

    Hello Valerie, I went to the store today and bought watercolorpaper to start making an album, they did not have matte medium but gel medium matte, is that the same? Maybe it is a stupid question, but I’ ve never used it before, so I’m a bit afraid to use something that is not right.
    It is so great to watch you make the album, such an inspiration!
    Love Inge

    • Hi Inge, Gel medium will work. You will just have to use more water so it is a bit thinner if you find it thick when spreading on the paper. Not a stupid question at all. That’s how we learn. Be blessed today with hopeful creativity!

  3. Denise

    Valerie, when I got to the coloring part–applying a wash background and then painting inside the words as well–my inked lines became dulled beneath the paint and I had to re-ink the lines which was more time consuming and seems extra effort. How do you keep your lines AND grey shadows so crisp when you ink your words first and then apply paint? Do you go over the lines again after the paint?

    • Hi Denise,
      I haven’t had that problem. Are you using the paints and pens I suggest on the supply list? I use mostly transparent colors and have a light touch with the paint, so it’s hard to tell without seeing the work in person. Do you want to post it in the facebook group and I can take a look?

  4. Shawna

    Hi Valerie,
    Just so I understand correctly…..you cover the entire page with the matte medium AFTER you’ve done all the lettering, doodling and ink work? Thank you! I’m loving this, learning so much and having fun!
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us 🙂

    • Hi Shawna,
      Yes, that is what I usually do, just because the paper takes the pen so well. There are times, though when I brush a coat of matte medium on the paper and then use pen. You can do it either way. The first way is preferred, but if I am unsure about the pen work, I often put the matte medium on first. That way, if I make a mistake or want to take off the pen, I use a little rubbing alcohol on a paper towel to remove the pen that has been applied on top of dry matte medium. If you put matte medium first, make sure it is thoroughly dry before you write on top of it. Otherwise it will ruin the pen.

  5. Shawna

    Thank you Valerie! I’m still doing the pen work without matte medium as you’re instructing here. I like the feel of the pen on the paper directly. 🙂 Appreciate understanding the other procedure with matte medium first, however, and may be a time when I’d want to do it that way depending on my piece.

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