How to Style Stationery for Photography

Hi kids, it’s Nichole from Coral Pheasant bringing you some tips on how to style stationery like a boss. Beautifully styled stationery images are important details when telling the full wedding day story. And for submitting them for publication on sites like Oh So Beautiful Paper!

How to Style Stationery for Photography / Coral Pheasant for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Photo by Kat Harris Photography

The first, most essential tip is to plan. Planning is vital for the smooth running of a photo shoot – and will ensure that you have a road map in place to capture the most significant details. The day before the shoot, I gather all the invitation components (multiple sets are very helpful to have), a variety of backgrounds and styling props. I have a dedicated space in my studio where I keep most of my props so they are all within arm’s reach. Having them close by gives me lots of options. Options are major key!

With everything gathered, I start to lay out compositions. My goal is to tell the whole paper story through a series of images. I  start big picture, laying out the main pieces of the suite. This typically includes the invitation, reply card, coordinating envelopes and any enclosures. When you compose an image, consider why you are taking the photograph. What is the story? What are you trying to convey? Is the print method stunning? Maybe the colors are unique or the design is out-of-the-box.

I experiment adding and subtracting different props until I arrive at a configuration that I am happy with – both a vertical and a horizontal layout – and take quick pictures using my iPhone. I then move on to smaller vignettes where I highlight details of the suite. None of these arrangements are 100% perfect, they are simply there to reference for the actual photo shoot. Think of them as a rough draft. Once I’ve got all the compositions planned out, I upload the photos to my computer and create a visual shot list.

How to Style Stationery for Photography / Coral Pheasant for Oh So Beautiful Paper

I find this to be immensely helpful! I personally do not excel at doing multiple things at once – like talking and styling – and having a visual cheat sheet keeps me on track. I’ve already been super thoughtful about the arrangements in the quiet of my studio the day prior. This allows me to obsess over the details of spacing and alignment on the day of the shoot. And of course there is always room to free style because you’ve done your homework and you have a solid sense of what you want to accomplish that day.

On to the actual styling! Below are some essential “tools” for getting started.

How to Style Stationery for Photography / Coral Pheasant for Oh So Beautiful Paper

SUGGESTED TOOLS

• Erasers, staples, washi tape
Stationery photos are more interesting when items are on different levels. Flat cards on a flat background = boring. You need to vary the height of the cards to create depth. Items that vary in thickness and have large flat surfaces are what you’re looking for. Staples are great because they are cheap and can be broken into different lengths. Erasers and rolls of washi tape work well, too, and are taller than staples giving you a mix of heights.

• Poster tack
This pliable tack keeps round objects from rolling, helps envelope flaps lay flat and can be used to add additional height to lightweight items.

• Paint brushes
Paint brushes are great for wiping away rogue dust particles and pet hairs. (I should mention that I have 2 dogs. Pet hair is a constant at my studio!)

• Tweezers
You have everything laid out just so when you notice one card is not quite straight. Ugh! Tweezers (or the pointed end of your paint brush) can be used to delicately move that one card 1/36″ to get it perfect without disrupting the other pieces. Anal retentive, OCD who me??

• Backdrops
Get creative! I keep a mix of different colored, large sheet papers on hand. You could also get sheets of plywood and paint them to coordinate with your paper story. Or you could be baller and get yourself styling boards from Heirloom Bindery.

• Foam core
White foam core can be used as a reflector to bounce light onto your layout and to soften harsh shadows.

• Diffuser
Another way to soften strong shadows. I have one similar to this that can be used as a reflector and a diffuser.

How to Style Stationery for Photography / Coral Pheasant for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Photos by Charlotte Jenks Lewis

In the beginning I mentioned props – and how having them is major key when styling stationery photos. I am constantly collecting items to add to my prop closet. Having a variety of items on hand makes it so much easier to style. Some will work, some will be a flop, but it’s all good because you will have options! Look for items that are smaller in scale. You want a mix of sizes but you also want to mindful of how their proportions relate to the paper. Consider items with great color, patina and texture.

How to Style Stationery for Photography / Coral Pheasant for Oh So Beautiful Paper

How to Style Stationery for Photography / Coral Pheasant for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Having multiples of things, once again, gives you options. Are you noticing a constant here? Hint: OPTIONS.  A particular pair of scissors might be too small for your setup or not the right color, but you’re not stressed, you have OPTIONS!

How to Style Stationery for Photography / Coral Pheasant for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Petite dishes are great for corralling other smaller props. They help to give those small things a sense of place and also add dimension and texture to the overall image.How to Style Stationery for Photography / Coral Pheasant for Oh So Beautiful Paper How to Style Stationery for Photography / Coral Pheasant for Oh So Beautiful Paper

I use vintage postage a LOT when styling. As in Every. Single. Time. They’re mini pieces of art and bring delightful color to the composition. Nole did an awesome write-up about vintage postage and where to find it. I strongly encourage you to give that a read if you are on the hunt!

How to Style Stationery for Photography / Coral Pheasant for Oh So Beautiful Paper

I also like adding bits of vintage paper ephemera when styling. The dog-eared edges, interesting typography, and varying colors are yet another way to add interest to your composition.

How to Style Stationery for Photography / Coral Pheasant for Oh So Beautiful Paper

How to Style Stationery for Photography / Coral Pheasant for Oh So Beautiful Paper

I think it goes without saying that bringing natural elements to your styling sesh can be a real game changer. But I just said it. So there, take note.

You’re now equipped with the tools and the props and you’ve got your beautifully designed stationery. That doesn’t automatically spell success. You must also be thoughtful how you compose your image.

COMPOSITION TIPS

• Balance
Your image should be balanced. I don’t mean that the composition needs to be symmetrical, but the selection of props should relate to one another and not compete. And remember, your goal here is for your stationery shine!

• Negative space
Be mindful of the spacing between each element and how they relate to each other. Is it even? Is everything straight? It’s much harder to retouch these things in post-processing!

• Alignment
If there is too much going on, it will feel cluttered and your eye won’t know where to land. Consider carving out negative space.

How to Style Stationery for Photography / Coral Pheasant for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Photo by Carla Ten Eyck Photography

That’s a wrap! I would love to hear some of your tried and true tips for perfect paper pics!

Photo and Styling Credits: Coral Pheasant (except where noted)Save

Modern Brush Lettering Tips for Beginners

Modern Brush Lettering Tips for Beginners from Fine Day Press / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Hi there! Ashley from Fine Day Press here with another guest post – this time on one of my favorite topics, brush lettering. My background is in graphic design; I’ve been painting and lettering for as long as I can remember and  it’s something I’ve always been passionate about. Recently, I’ve been teaching Intro to Modern Brush Lettering workshops at The Paper+ Craft Pantry here in Austin. I’m excited to share some of my best modern brush lettering tips for beginners with you here, along with a downloadable Brush Lettered Alphabet I created that you can use as a practice guide!

I think it’s so great that there’s a big interest in hand lettering these days. We’ve been hearing about handwriting and lettering as potentially becoming a lost art as we all become more technology-dependent. And I’ll admit, after a day of working on the computer, it sometimes feels strange to hold a pen or brush until I get warmed up. But there are so many examples of beautiful hand-done type in the stationery and design world right now, so I personally hope this trend continues for a long time.

Brush lettering is the most painterly of all hand lettering styles – it can be spontaneous, free flowing, and a little messy (in a good way). One of the cool things about brush lettering is that, once you know the basics, you can loosen up and develop your own style with it.  The best way to find your style is to practice, practice, practice.

RECOMMENDED MATERIALS

• #6 pointed round brush
You can experiment with different sizes and shapes but this is a great all-purpose brush.

• India ink or watercolor paint
Both of the above work well for brush lettering. For beginners (and for those working only in black), I recomment giving India ink a try. It’s very fluid, and gives you a super-smooth medium for practicing with the brush. If you want a more textured look or want to experiment with colors, go for watercolor. A word of warning: because of its fluidity, india ink is highly spill-able, and it will stain, so be careful when using it and clean up any spills right away.

• Protected work surface (cutting board, vinyl tablecloth, or art table)
Brush lettering can be wet and messy, so protect your table with a large cutting board or vinyl tablecloth. I have a table cover from Party City that makes a great work surface.

• Small palette cup to hold paint or ink
I like this one from Michael’s. 

TIP: A LITTLE INK GOES A LONG WAY. Start with a small amount of paint or ink in your plastic palette dish. You can always add more!

• Jar of water

• Paper towels

• Pencil, ruler, eraser

• Scratch paper for preparatory sketching

• Card stock for practicing
Card stock is more economical than watercolor paper so it’s great for practicing! Save the watercolor paper for when you’re ready to make a more finished piece.

• Watercolor paper or Bristol board
Both of these thick surfaces will stand up well to a wet medium like brush lettering. Bristol board is very smooth, whereas watercolor paper will usually have a bit more toothiness and texture.

Modern Brush Lettering Tips for Beginners from Fine Day Press / Oh So Beautiful PaperModern Brush Lettering Tips for Beginners from Fine Day Press / Oh So Beautiful PaperAbove: Sample practice strokes, along with a practice session from our recent workshop (photo by Lucia Hua)

WARM UP

A lot of brush lettering is about movement. You want to keep it loose and try to make your motions smooth, so I like to be relaxed when I’m lettering! Beginning with several practice brush strokes will help get you in a relaxing frame of mind.

Start out with a small stack of cardstock and do some basic brush motions to get warmed up. Wet your brush in your water jar, then dip into your ink. Practice making very basic motions – vertical, diagonal, horizontal lines. Vary the pressure of your stroke and notice how this impacts your line – more pressure will give you a thicker line. Continue to load up your brush with ink between every few strokes. Practice making curves, o’s and loops. I like to fill 1 or 2 sheets of paper with these types of practice stokes before I start lettering.

Next, it’s time to practice the alphabet! This may take you back to your grade school days of practicing cursive. I recommend practicing two ways – first, lightly sketch the letter in pencil and trace it with your brush to get a feel for the letterform. Then try it freehand. Test out different angles with your brush as you practice and see how these affect your stroke. To download my sample alphabet, click here.

Modern Brush Lettering Tips for Beginners from Fine Day Press / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Modern Brush Lettering Tips for Beginners from Fine Day Press / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Above: Workshop photo by Lucia Hua; Sample alphabet by Fine Day Press

MAKING AN ART PIECE

When you’re ready to make an art print of your brush lettering, there are a few steps involved. You’ll want to have a few pieces of scratch paper and your pencil handy to create a few preparatory sketches. These sketches will give you an opportunity to think about the composition of your piece – how do you want the words arranged on the page? Will some words be bigger than others for emphasis? Will some of the type be on a curve? There are so many options here!

Once you have a sketch you like, do a practice version on cardstock – lightly sketch out the words in pencil. You don’t have to exactly trace over them, but you want to create a visual guideline for where your brushstrokes will go on the page. Use your brush and ink to go over the letters. After you’ve done this, you can see if you want to make any changes before moving on to your nice watercolor paper.

Modern Brush Lettering Tips for Beginners from Fine Day Press / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Modern Brush Lettering Tips for Beginners from Fine Day Press / Oh So Beautiful Paper

Above: My initial sketches for “To the moon & back”; the final art print

Next, you’re ready to start on your watercolor paper (or Bristol board). Again, I like to lightly sketch out my composition here just to make sure it’s fitting on the page how I want it. Leave some margins around your work and try to center your artwork on the page.

TIP: EXHALE AS YOU STROKE THE BRUSH

It helps to take a breathe and exhale as you start a new stroke – this will steady your brush and relax your hand.

Aim to find a smooth rhythmic movement with your brush. Don’t rush it – paint each letter one stroke at a time. Go back into your water and india ink as much as needed. Depending on how much ink you get on the brush, how absorbent the paper is, and what kind of letter you’re making,  you may need to “reload” after each letter or two.

I like to think of brush lettering as more like painting than writing – and most of all, I just enjoy the process! Don’t worry to much about results when you’re starting out. Just keep going until you get to where it feels natural, and have fun with it – that’s where the real creative magic happens!

How to Add Personal Details to Wedding Invitations

My favorite thing about creating custom wedding invitations is being able to incorporate personal elements in to each and every suite. No two couples are the same – so why should their invitations be?! Here are a few favorite personal details to add to wedding invitations. –Kim from Bright Room Studio

Lovely venues: I love having the chance to illustrate wedding venues and incorporate the illustration on the invitation. The venue is such a big part of the wedding and featuring the beautiful buildings, wineries and venues is a perfect way to set the tone for your big day.

How to Add Personal Details to Wedding Invitations / Venue Illustrations / Bright Room Studio for Oh So Beautiful Paper

How to Add Personal Details to Wedding Invitations / Venue Illustrations / Bright Room Studio for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Puppy Love: Dogs and paper are two of my favorite things, so they make me REALLY happy when they are together on an invitation. I think its possible to still keep it sophisticated and chic while including your  furry friend.

How to Add Personal Details to Wedding Invitations / Puppy Love / Bright Room Studio for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Maps: Maps are not just functional, they are also fun ways to add a little more about you two. Among the locations to your wedding, why not also note your first date spot, favorite place to grab a beer or point an arrow to your home town.

How to Add Personal Details to Wedding Invitations /Maps / Bright Room Studio for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Fun Wording: Wording is another great place to inject some personality in to your invitations. I love the fun descriptions of the weekend events – and this poem written by the groom kills me. If you want to keep the invitation wording more formal, RSVP cards and details card are a great way to add some more personality.

How to Add Personal Details to Wedding Invitations /Creative Wording / Bright Room Studio for Oh So Beautiful Paper

How to Add Personal Details to Wedding Invitations /Creative Wording / Bright Room Studio for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Bright Room Studio is a member of the Designer Rolodex  – you can see more of Kim’s beautiful work right here or visit the real invi­ta­tions gallery for more wedding invitation ideas!

Photo Credits: Bright Room Studio

Tips for Working From Home

Like many other creative entrepreneurs, I work from home. Some people assume I must stay in my PJs and work from my couch all day. But working a few steps from where I do dishes and laundry can sometimes be a challenge. I am my office coordinator, janitorial staff, accountant, cook, and receptionist. I can sit down at my desk and get lost in emails any time of day or night or weekend or holiday. But while it working from home may not the PJ-wearing, movie-watching life that people sometimes to imagine, I really love it. I’ve found that a few simple habits help me maintain a healthy work-life and get my work done, all from the comfort of my own home. –Kim from Bright Room Studio

Tips for Working from Home from Bright Room Studio / Oh So Beautiful Paper

1. Keep a schedule. I used to work in my PJs for a few hours in the morning and then shower mid-day, but you know how that goes. Sometimes the shower gets pushed later and later, sometimes my mid-day shower break took way too long, and sometimes taking a break to shower breaks my creative momentum. Now I get up in the morning, shower and get dressed (in real clothes!), get a cup of coffee and get to my desk at 9am. I’ve found my mornings to be WAY more productive when I started my day “properly” – I can jump in to big projects more freely and I don’t feel embarrassed to open the door at 11am in my sweats. That doesn’t mean there aren’t yoga pants days, but I try to keep that as a little treat on rainy or cold days or when I have a lot of production projects to do.

Tips for Working from Home from Bright Room Studio / Oh So Beautiful Paper

2. Keep a dedicated space (if you can). I’m lucky enough to have my own office space and I try to do my work in there (my hubby has a corner of the office but I take over more and more all the time). I have a large monitor that connects to my laptop and a nice comfortable chair that helps keep me at my desk (working on my laptop on the couch isn’t as efficient). This keeps me from answering just one more email late in the evening. My office is decorated with inspiring things to make sure it is a place where I can happily work day in and day out. 

Tips for Working from Home from Bright Room Studio / Oh So Beautiful Paper

3. Set some boundaries. This means for you – and for your friends and family. For me, I try not to answer emails in the evening or weekends if I don’t need to. I might pop in the office to quickly respond to someone but, in general, I save communication to business hours as best as I can. I do my best to treat my work-from-home job the same as any other job, so we have a dog walker just like we would if I worked in an office. For friends and family, its a little harder, because you always seem so available. When someone asks if you can go shopping with them on a Tuesday, just let them know that you have to work (you’d be surprised how quickly using the word “work” changes people’s perspective on your time!). It will take some reminding but they’ll start to realize that your flexible schedule isn’t just open and free all the time.

Tips for Working from Home from Bright Room Studio / Oh So Beautiful Paper

4. Podcasts! People always ask if I get lonely working alone. I don’t, but I do sometimes miss the energy of having other people around. Podcasts are a great way to mix things up. They are perfect when you are doing work that doesn’t require too much focus. My current go-to favorites? This American Life, The Mystery Show, Start-Up, Reply All (and anything else that Gimlet will release next), Invisibilia, The Lively Show, and After the Jump. 

Tips for Working from Home from Bright Room Studio / Oh So Beautiful Paper

5. Enjoy the good parts of working  from home! Don’t be so strict about keeping your schedule that you don’t get to reap the benefits of working from home. Whenever I can, I do my shopping on weekdays and I meet my mom for lunch at least once a month. I get to make dinners that require more cooking time because I can get them in the oven mid-afternoon. And since I don’t have office lunches or coffee breaks, I sometimes make up for it by treating myself to a nice lunch or latte break at my desk. 

What are you tricks for staying happy and healthy while working at home?

Photos by Chiarashine Photography

So You Want to Get into the Stationery Business: A Brief Overview

It’s been such a fun week guest blogging here at OSBP. Thanks for following along with me! (Don’t forget, OSBP readers get 25% off all items in the Happy Cactus shop through June 15. Use code OSBP25 at checkout.) I am often asked how I got my start in this industry and thought that as we wrap things up I could offer some thoughts and pieces of advice for those of you who may be thinking of launching your own stationery or greeting card line.

One of the greatest things I love about the community of stationery and greeting card designers is that it is truly is a welcoming community that supports newbies. I received so much advice and assistance when I launched Happy Cactus Designs’ first collection in 2011. I never imagined how nice and helpful fellow designers would be to me. I was also fortunate enough to take a continuing ed class on launching a greeting card business at New York’s School of Visual Arts with Joyce Wan and shortly thereafter took Tradeshow Bootcamp’s webinars. Both helped immensely and introduced me to many good friends I’ve made in this industry.

gardenblues

One of my very first card designs that is still a best seller years later!

So, Where to Begin?

Do you have dreams of crafting a collection of greeting cards? Have you just opened an online shop? Are you thinking about exhibiting at a tradeshow? Here’s some valuable tips I’ve learned along the way.

  • Create a cohesive collection that exemplifies your own personal style. Think about what distinguishes your work from everyone else’s out there. Is it your spectacular hand lettering? Your innovative printing method? Your funny puns and play on words? Play to your strengths and focus on what makes your work unique. It takes a lot of work to build an initial collection, but debuting with 20+ designs will help give people a greater sense of what your work is all about.
  • Do your own research on the industry and build relationships with vendors. I can’t tell you how much time I spent Googling questions as I designed my initial collection and laid the groundwork for what would become Happy Cactus Designs. (Full disclosure: I still spend a ton of time with my pal Google. The struggle never ends.)
  • Invest in getting samples of your work from various printers if you are outsourcing the job. Research local printers and online printing options. Don’t be afraid to ask questions either. Coming from a non-design school background, I had no idea what the difference between RGB and CMYK was or how to set up a file with bleeds. Just ask!
  • Trial and error: Trust me, it takes a LOT of trial and error to get things right. Every designer has a story about the cards that were printed incorrectly, or the catalogs with horrible ink bleeds, or the printing press that broke down just as a big print run was to begin. Just remember it’s all part of the learning process!
  • Observe what is happening in the stationery industry. OSBP is the best resource for doing this as Nole has her finger on the pulse of all things paper. Stationery Trends, a quarterly magazine targeted specifically to the trade, is another great place to scope out new trends and to read interviews with both designers and shop owners.
  • Be respectful of other designers. Each has been in your position and while some may freely share their sources/vendors, others may be reticent to share this information as they have spent a lot of time working to get things right (see the points above!).

foil

I introduced a line of foil stamped cards at the National Stationery Show in 2013. Adding a new method of printing to my collection took many, many hours of research, not to mention a large investment. That big gold balloon makes me so happy.

happycactusflats

Over the years I’ve learned techniques to improve my product photography. It takes a lot of time and practice and many outsource this job.  You can imagine my surprise when the shot above was featured on the cover of Stationery Trends!

  • Think about how you want to sell your cards:
    • Research and sign up for local craft fairs. Listen closely to customers as they can provide a wealth of feedback on your products. Are they looking for particular types of cards? What designs are they responding to? Are your price points on target?
    • Consider an online storefront: Etsy or your own shop, or both. I could write an entire post on my thoughts about the two (I run my own e-commerce site via Shopify and have an Etsy storefront that plays second fiddle to my store). Each has its own set of pros and cons and building an online shop takes a tremendous amount of work upfront. From product photography and marketing to packaging and shipping, it’s no small feat to open an e-commerce site, but it’s one of the best ways to establish your brand.
    • If you are thinking about dipping your toes in the wholesale pool, seek out opportunities to learn how it all works. It is an entirely different beast. My personal favorite learning tools include Tradeshow Bootcamp, Eva Jorgensen of Sycamore Street Pressclass on Atly, local continuing ed classes, Emily’s brilliant Brick and Mortar column here on OSBP, and Meryl Hooker and Rob Fortier’s book on the industry. I’ve also found that talking to shop owners I’ve grown friendly with is a great way to get pointed advice about the world of wholesale.

first-booth

My first booth at the National Stationery Show in 2012. Exhibiting at a tradeshow takes a tremendous amount of work. Looking back, there’s many things about my debut that I’m proud of and many things I’d change. Drawing on the walls, while risky, was my favorite part.

  • Say yes to new opportunities! Some of my best learning experiences came from just saying yes to new projects, inquiries, professional development opportunities, and events.

Please feel free to offer your own words of wisdom or ask questions in the comments below!