Light boards are a wonderful way to avoid drawing guidelines on your paper. But what do you do when your piece is too large, too thick, or perhaps too dark to use a light board?
This is where the Ames Lettering Guide comes in handy! It is a wonderful tool that allows you to quickly draw perfectly spaced parallel guidelines at whatever interval your piece requires (up to 2”)!
Simplified Ames Lettering Guide Anatomy:
The lettering guide is actually a drafting tool and has a lot more functionality than we as calligraphers will need to utilize. In order to simply things I am going to try to just call your attention to the parts of the tool that we will actually use. We will only use the line of holes in the disc that are equally spaced apart. Below is a simplified anatomy of the guide.
Additional Tools Required:
Ames Lettering Guide
I have linked the specific guide I would recommend as I've discovered that the disc on some brands are not tight enough and tend to slip.
- Low Tack Artist Tape
- Mechanical Pencil, Fons & Porter white pencil (for use on dark paper), or a sturdy drafting pencil if you are like me and get tired of the mechanical pencil snapping off all the time.
- Smooth Hard Surface such as a table or light board for the end for the T-square to rest upon
1. Square up & secure your paper to the work surface. Low tack artist tape is great for ensuring the tape can be removed easily.
2. Draw in any margins for your piece. There is no need to pencil in more guidelines than necessary.
3. Rest your T-square on top of your paper. This is the ledge that the Ames Guide will sit upon and glide across.
Index Marker Alignment:
Your goal with the guide is to create evenly spaced lines for your guidelines. Depending on your desired layout, you may desire to write quite large with an x-height of 1 inch or smaller with an e-height of only 1/8th inch. In order to set the guide to give you the desired x-height space between your lines, you will need to rotate the inner circle/disc to align the tick mark (aka. Index Alignment Point) on the bottom of the guide to the index marker number that creates the line height you desire. This can sometimes require you to do a little math or layout work to figure out how large you desire your lettering to be before starting your work. To keep things simple, I tend to letter at x-heights that are easily divided by 1/8th.
Below are some examples of possible x-heights that I use frequently and the index marker that corresponds with them. Where it says #8 it indicates that the Index Alignment Point was lined up with Index Marker 8. You can play with adjusting the inner wheel of the guide to vary the distance between your lines until you have the desired line width. Remember that you can also skip holes as well to get a wider distance between lines. I have done this with two of the examples as noted below.
Now for the fun part.....
1. Adjust the Ames Lettering Guide to the appropriate line width by lining up corresponding index marker on the guide (see Index Marker Alignment above).
2. Place the Ames guide on the T-square. You will be sliding the guide along the edge of the t-square. If you've already drawn in your margins, you'll want the first hole of the guide to line up with your margin line (remember we are only looking at that middle row of evenly spaced holes).
3. Insert the mechanical pencil in the 2nd hole down and gently drag the guide across the T-square to make your first line. Move the pencil down to the next hole & drag back across the page…continuing down the guide holes until you reach the last hole.
4. Move the T-square down so that the top hole in the guide lines up with the last line drawn. Using the second hole down continue to draw lines as before, moving the T-square when needed until you reach the end of your page.
So much more to say!
This can be a tricky little tool, but it doesn't have to be. For those of you who love numbers and want to realllly understand more of the nitty-gritty details of this tool, I will provide a few links below that go in to more detail. Just be mindful that the documents may not be written with calligraphy use in mind. I filmed a few videos demonstrating the steps above. I will link to them as well as soon as I get them uploaded. That said, I'm off to Austria tomorrow so don't hold your breath ;) I'll post them upon my return. Promise.
Additional links for more in depth explanations of the guide:
And for fun, some photos of large pieces where the Ames Lettering Guide saved me hours of layout work!
If you want to stay up to date and make sure not to miss any future helpful tutorials, feel free to sign up for my newsletter on the home page & I'll keep you in the loop!