Title: Illuminated Letters

Type: A lesson in creative lettering

Grade Rage: 6 – 12


A scalable lesson plan great for intermediate to advanced students discussing the development of lettering over the years that is easy to adapt to whatever topic or age range is appropriate for your students!


Download the lesson plan in .pdf here



    • Maped Essentials Triangular Graphite #2 Pencils [851779ZT]
    • Maped Classic 1 Hole Metal Pencil Sharpener [006600] (optional)
    • Helix Angle & Circle Maker [36002]
    • Helix 3-in-1 Circle Ruler [36001]
    • Maped Graph’Peps Felt Tipped Pens x10 [749150]
    • Maped Color’Peps Washable Fine Tip Jungle Markers x8 [845447]
    • Maped Color’Peps Triangular Colored Pencils x24 [832046ZV]
    • 1-2 sheets of white drawing paper (size can vary depending on time given or complexity)
    • Examples of different fonts and alphabets (Romanesque, Gothic, Celtic, etc.)



    • Students will be introduced to Illuminated Manuscripts from the Middle Ages and how lettering has evolved through the years.
    • Design and create a letter inspired by the Illuminated Manuscripts.


Talk to students about the evolution of lettering going back to the history of cloistered monks that transcribed and created delicate and intricate designs painted and embellished with gold. Discuss and show pictures of the differences of the alphabets and give a brief history how lettering evolved through the centuries.  In today’s world, it is easy to see the creative flair that lettering adds to the mood of images, posters, and artwork.  The word “calligraphy” means the “art of beautiful lettering”. One only has to search hundreds of fonts on the computer or surf Pinterest to discover infinite styles of lettering to convey thoughts and ideas creatively.  But have you ever wondered how long mankind has sought to embellish their world through the written word, a creative mind, and an artistic hand?  This isn’t just a 21st century fad.

Drawings have been found illustrating Monks (500-1500’s) bent over their drafting tables transcribing and designing lettering on pages and books.  The printing press wasn’t invented until around 1500, so books were hand lettered.  Some artists only worked on the lettering, but there were special artists that created incredible pages that included beautifully designed letters and drawings that helped pages to stand out, helping to designate a new chapter, etc.  Often, the first letter of the passage would be elaborately designed so the people reading the pages could easily turn to that particular story. Many of these designs included gold leaf and paint used from ground minerals, which were very costly. 

To find out more about Illuminated Manuscripts, look it up on the Internet, or check out these suggested references listed:

    • The Illuminated Alphabet Calligraphy by Timothy Noad; Text by Patricia Saligman.  Running Press ISBN 1-56138-458-5
    • Spectra Program: Learning to Look and Create Grade 6, Lesson 7. Author: Alexander, K and Day, M. Publisher:  Dale Seymour Publications


    • Take at least one letter (the initial of their name is a good idea) and create a design influenced by the Illuminated Manuscripts.
    • Students will begin their design using a pencil on white paper. Draw lightly, so erasing unwanted lines is easier.
    • Make sure to use the Helix Angle & Circle and 3-in-1 Circle Ruler to keep curves, lines and spacing as even and exact as possible!
    • Animals, designs, shapes and motifs, etc. can all be incorporated into the drawing to express the idea as creatively as possible.
    • Once the drawing has been sketched using pencil, begin to go over the drawing with Graph’Peps Pens to outline the letter.
    • When the drawing has been outlined, continue to add color with additional Graph’Peps Pen colors, Fine Tip Jungle Markers and Color’Peps Colored Pencils!

Suggested Goals to Focus On:

    • Some part of the design should include gold to help achieve the “illuminated” look.
    • The design should be at least 6 inches tall, or fill better than ½ the paper.
    • It should be contained within the edges of the paper (do not break space).
    • If desired, the student can transfer the rough draft to a clean sheet of white paper so there are no dark or stray pencil marks.  They should erase any unwanted pencil smears or marks that are not part of the design to present a clean image.


    • Did the student create and complete a finished colored drawing using at least one letter?
    • Did they showing influence of the illuminated manuscripts?
    • Did they create a design using a minimum of ½ their paper?
    • Did they demonstrate an understanding of illuminated lettering and how it has evolved through the ages?

Did you like this lesson plan? Share your creations on social networks with the hashtag #MapedDIY , we will be delighted to see what you’ve made! And find all our tutorials of creative activities online.

See you soon!