Once Upon A Time…Illuminated Letters

Once Upon A Time…Illuminated Letters2017-12-27T11:23:09-04:00

Project Description

Illuminated FFate has a way of making things happen that are supposed to happen. Earlier this week I had to spend a day in Chicago and caught a flight back home to Columbus at the end of the day. When I got in line at position A1 (shoutout to Southwest!), I was surprised to see a friend, fellow teacher and SCAL user, Dorothy, get in line at position A31 (right next to me!).  We were able to sit on the plane and had a great time chatting.

Dorothy told me she was working on a project with SCAL and needed the classic “Once upon a time…” title. I did a little research and here’s what I came up with.

Once upon A time

Sample illuminated manuscript

The “O” is an example of an illuminated letter. Illumination is an embellishment used to decorate or illustrate a manuscript. Illumination was a complex and frequently costly process and was usually reserved for special books: an altar Bible, for example. The term comes from illuminate; to fill with light. This effect was typically achieved with the application of gold leaf to the letters and images, which relfect light and appear to glow.

An illuminated letter was usually the first letter of a page or paragraph. It was always enlarged and was typically in color and gold leafed, while the rest of the text remained in black. The images used to enhance the leters include animales, plants and mythological creatures.  The images were modified to fit into or around the letter or were even shaped to be the letter itself.

There are several fonts that will give you a great place to start when making an illuminated letter. GriffDinShi is a free font available at Ffonts.net and it looks just like the “O” we typically see in “Once upon a time.”

To compliment the “O”, I like the font called OldStyle from DaFont.com.

SCAL Project: Once Upon A Time

SCAL Project: Once Upon A Time

I used both of those, plus some tracings from a book cover, to create this embellishment. The zip file includes Once_Upon_A_Time.svg and a Sure Cuts A Lot (SCAL) V2 project file (.scut2). Download the zip file, unzip it, and you can used Sure Cuts A Lot to import the SVG (File > Import) or just open the project file (File > Open).

Download the Once_Upon_A_Time.zip file

Use it in a project and consider adding some stamped flourishes embossed with  gold. Once you do that, you’ll be ready to start your own fairy tale project. Enjoy! Joe


  1. Amy Day May 27, 2011 at 7:44 am - Reply

    Gorgeous and educational at that same time! That's one of the things I've always loved about you and your teaching style – you don't just show me how to do it – you help me understand it. Knowing the history, makes the technique extra special. I would love to see what you could do with the metalic markers and this font! Ooh! Weekend play project!

    • Joe Rotella May 27, 2011 at 9:50 am - Reply

      … or some gold embossing or even gold foil? MMMM Sounds like you better come over this weekend to play… steaks on the grill, sangria, paper crafting… let's make it happen!

  2. Jamie May 27, 2011 at 7:51 am - Reply

    I would have to agree wtih Amy… GORGEOUS… and educational! I had no clue those embellished letters were illuminated letters… Great crafting information!

    Thanks Joe!

    • Joe Rotella May 27, 2011 at 9:50 am - Reply

      I didn't either. Carole was the smart one who knew about illuminated letters and that started me on my research. I love learning about this sort of thing.

  3. Venicia May 27, 2011 at 8:48 am - Reply

    I must agree with Amy. just beautiful!

  4. Susan McClure, MS, O May 27, 2011 at 9:42 am - Reply

    Being a lover of calligraphy and owning two illustrated manuscript pages dating to 1450 and 1500 , this is an interesting project that I will pursue possibly this weekend since I think I will have a little time.

    • Joe Rotella May 27, 2011 at 9:49 am - Reply

      Wow!! I bet those pages are amazing!! Check out the fonts in the post. The illuminated one is really nice and I bet you could do so much with it!

  5. Carole Lassak May 28, 2011 at 4:25 am - Reply

    Great file. Thanks for sharing. Would make the perfect cover page for so many different types of project–story book, life story, prom or wedding scrapbook. You could really glam this up by cutting the vines from double sided adhesive paper and embellishing with gold or silver leaf or Gilden Glitz from USArtQuest.

    • Joe Rotella May 28, 2011 at 4:27 am - Reply

      Thanks! You're welcome! I think you could incorporate stamping in/around the letter too and do some amazing things with embossing powders, leaf or perfect pearls. Maybe we need a contest….hmmmm

  6. Denise May 28, 2011 at 5:54 am - Reply

    Love this project! I have always enjoyed illuminated lettering. I used them in a scrapbook I did on my Canadian cruise journalling and used a gold foil calligraphy pen to add that sparkle to my letters. Steaks and sangria sound really good to me – you're my kind of crafter! 🙂

    • Joe Rotella May 28, 2011 at 6:21 am - Reply

      OOO What a great idea! a gold foil calligraphy pen! I've never used one so now I have an excuse to go out and buy another tool! LOL! If you're close by, you could always join us!

  7. Tam May 28, 2011 at 6:53 am - Reply

    Very nice indeed. TFS

  8. Barbara Johnson May 28, 2011 at 6:54 am - Reply

    OMG! What can't you do with SCAL? I'm learning slowly but surely. Thanks, Joe, for all of your great information.

  9. RetiredPJ May 28, 2011 at 7:16 am - Reply

    Many of us have the Krylon 18 carat gold leaf pen, think 40% coupon @ JoAnn's – this would be beautiful! Keep the ideas coming, I may not be creative but I've become a great user!

  10. Winnie May 28, 2011 at 9:25 am - Reply

    Very nice job, love the font.

  11. Jan May 29, 2011 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    Thanks so much Joe. This is gorgeous, and I'm sure I'll be using it on a layout before long.

  12. JustYolie May 30, 2011 at 11:40 am - Reply

    Wow, this file is fabulous! I found your site from the SCAL FB group…thank you for sharing it.

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