Designing your Antique Monogram
Creating an Antique Monogram and Stationery: You will need to have access to a computer and printer, along with nice quality paper and envelopes. You may also need a scanner, depending upon your method.
To create an antique monogram stationery set, you’ll first need some reference material. Or, I should say, you’ll first need to decide if you’re going to use a computer font, made for monogram creation, or if you’re going to use a book for reference.
The first option is by far easier, but it does have it limits.
Using a Digital Font to Create a Fancy Monogram
There’s nothing wrong with using a digital font to quickly and easily create a monogram. In fact, if you have a personalized stationery business, like myself, it’s the go-to option, unless you’re a professional lettering or calligraphy artist.
And even if you are, to create the kind of monograms that were used in the 15th to late 19th centuries, is time consuming. You may still opt for a semi-digital approach.
More about this later.
At the end of this post, I’ll list resources for monogram fonts, but in explanation as to how to use them, it’s as easy as any other digital typeface. Just type your monogram intials, and there you have it.
The limitations of a digital font come when you want to create two-tone monograms – with each letter being a different color – or when your particular monogram letter combo doesn’t look great.
Sometimes this happens.
For example, in the image below, the first monogram, the KS, looks wonderful…but the others, not quite as perfect.
The others look a little too tangled or clunky.
That’s one of the downfalls of a digital font, there’s no nuance in the design. It is what it is, whereas if they were being done by hand, changes could be made.
The photo above is an image from the book, Monograms and Alphabetic Devices, from Dover publishers. I recommend it highly as a resource.
It has hundreds of different monogram combinatations and several of each possible pairing. For example, above you can see ‘ET’ treated with different layouts and styles.
The one on the right would be harder to immediately guess the actual letters, unless you knew the person or saw them written below, as in the image. It was common for liberty to be taken with the direction of letters.
It’s not always apparent what the monogram is!
Can you guess what the monogram above represents?
I’ll tell you: Leonardos. Not a two or three letter monogram, but a whole name.
It seems, back a few centuries, that artistry was more important than legibility.
Another common practice in the past, and now, is to do a ‘mirror’ image monogram if your intials are the same. See example below, by Claude Mellan in the 17th century, ‘BB.’
Or is it AB? There are some monograms where the last letter is simply mirrored for decorative purposes and to create symmetry.
Today one of the most famous brands in the world employs the back-to-back lettered monogram – the house of Chanel, with its double Cs.
Creating a Monogram by hand
If you wanted to create a monogram in the antique style shown, but don’t want to buy an expensive font or prefer not to use a more contemporary or common monogram font (there are lots of inexpenseive fonts but their look isn’t quite as unique), you coud do it by hand.
This will take a little work.
The ‘semi’ homemade way of doing it, would be to use an existing resource. For example, the monogram book I wrote about earlier. You could then trace your letters and scan them into your computer, or paint them on paper.
One advantage of creating your monoram this way is that you can get experimental with embellishes, such as the little row of dots gracing the hand-painted letter above.
I’ll tell you something else….
It’s very satisfying to paint these letters vs typing on your keyboard. It’s relaxing and it’s one of those activities that allows your mind to drift.
In fact, the above sheet I did by first printing out my monogram after creating it with a digital font. I traced it into my journal before painting.
At some point if you’re going to use your monogram on stationery, you’ll need to have it reproduced though. So, if creating by hand, your options are to scan it, or to have someone else scan your image for you. Another alternative is to have a rubber stamp made.
Once you have your monogram, creating stationery is easy.
Decide what size card or sheet you’re going to be printing first. Don’t design a stationery card or paper at an unusual size and then try and find envelopes for them. Use a standard size sheet, card and/or envelope.
I like the 4Bar size because you don’t have to write too much to fill it up. But there’s varying size:
4-1/4 x 5-1/2 (A4), 4-1/2 x 6-1/4 (A6), 5×7 (A7), and so on. All envelopes that match will be just a smidge larger.
If you want to create the flat note stationery I sell, you would design a 4bar size note card, add a hairline border, and center the monogram at the top. Whether you choose to add the full name below is up to you.
But, once you have your monogram, you can place it wherever you want, on any printed piece.
Here I’ve used my monogram as part of a return address on the back flap of the envelope.
Having symmetrical letters is a big advantage when creating your monogram.
Here’s a beautiful old monogram from the 1800s.
Perfectly balanced letters make this particular monogram especially regal and elegant.
This is a look that you don’t get with a digital monogram font. At least not as of this writing. The shading on the second letter gives it depth, and was achieved because it initially came from an engraving. No computer fonts back in the day!
I designed this sample piece by using a font combo I found in the Monograms and Alphabetic Devices book. I first scanned it in, and then put it into my stationery file, before finishing it with a heavy border to match the grey of the letters.
So, are you ready to create your own Monogram Stationery Set?
Here’s a few tips and reminders:
- Decide what size you’re going to print first, and make sure it’s a size you can get envelopes for
- If you want a two-tone monogram, you can do this by manipulating the color in photoshop, but unless you know how to use Photoshop, and have the software, this will probably not be an option for you. Otherwise, you can hand paint your monogram.
- Purchase monograms fonts from the sources below
- Purchase the book, Monograms and Alphabetic Devices
- Use your monogram on stationery, DIY gifts, anything you can think of
- If you’re using a digital monogram font and you don’t like the way your monogram looks, you can opt for a straight forward monogram using single antique letters. So, instead of intwined, they would be standing next to eachother.
- Pretty add-ons for stationery include liners and adding your monogram to your return address