Contemporary leading letter W with gold background
Leading letters with contemporary design
Modern-leading letter

Leading Letters are decorated large letters

Using "leading letters" which are the first letter, generally, that are at the beginning on a text or paragraph is a way to bring a beautiful decorative element to hand written calligraphy.When writing hand calligraphy, there are many ways to make a text special.  When you are requesting calligraphy services this is something you can ask the calligrapher for in your art piece.

Phantom of the Opera lyrics with leading letters in calligraphy

Contemporary Leading Letters

I love designing contemporary leading letters. They can be put into a box with color or gold behind the letter and even adding a little image from the border into the box. 

I wrote out the song lyrics in calligraphy from Phantom of the Opera  which had a special meaning for this couple, but wanted to make it even prettier. So I did some extra flourishing on the couple's names to make them stand out. This beach scene with the couple walking in the sunset had special meaning for them. With the addition of color in the box behind the leading letters, it really made the piece special. It's going to be printed in the newest  contemporary look with acrylic face which will make it really gorgeous!

One of the best uses of leading letters is with acrostic poems. In that type of poem the first letter of a name is used to begin a definition. Check out the link to see examples.

Leading Letters Have Different Styles

Leading letters were used in Biblical text. Monks worked long and hard to create gorgeous decorated letters. They are known as "illumination" because of the use of gold. The gold would light up the text, and thus the word "illumination". I was surprised when I first learned that. 


Another way that leading letters were made to stand out from the text is using a color. Red is a common color to make the first letter not just larger, but bolder. You can even do that on your computer. You would just look for the way to enlarge the letter and "drop" it so it goes into the next line. You still see book chapters where the first letter in the chapter is "dropped" or larger than all the other letters in the text. 

Red, bold leading letter can be done in calligraphy or on your computer to make the first letter stand out
Contemporary look with Gold Leaf Leading letter in business award

White Vine Illumination

Many years ago I took a class in "white vine illumination". When you look at the letter you understand why it's called "white vine". There's a drawing of the vine surrounded, typically by "jewel colors" to look like a stained glass window. It takes a LONG time to design and then illuminate these letters. So they are VERY expensive to have designed in calligraphy! 

white vine illumination done with gold paint, not gesso

Contemporary or Traditional Leading Letters

Make sure you let me know whether your taste goes towards traditional or contemporary if I'm going to be adding leading letters. Also, let me know about your color preferences - or even better, the color preference of the person who will be receiving your calligraphy gift.

Business proclamation award in handwritten calligraphy

Decorating Letters

Letters can be made to stand out by putting color behind them, flourishes and other treatment. It's time consuming but fun for me to do! Here's a special treatment of capital letters with color to make the text really stand out. This was a gift to Senator Barbara Boxer from California to thank her for standing up in the Senate and demanding a true, transparent, verifiable election.

Decorated letters to Senator Barbara Boxer's gift

Decorated Border Designs With Calligraphy

If your taste goes more towards a painted or hand drawn border design I have many choices for you. Here's a delicate beautiful colorful traditional border design used with a wedding/marriage certificate. 

Wedding certificate decorated with a traditional border
decorated colorful letters in headings in calligraphy
historical colorful border design

When you order your custom calligraphy make sure to let me know what style of calligraphy you prefer so you can get something that is really perfect for you or the recipient.  Let's get started on YOUR perfect calligraphy artwork!