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 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

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 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