Artful Names


How are illuminations used in books? Find out about fancy fonts---and make your own decorative designs. John Hancock would be proud!


1. Look closely at several illuminations (in which the first letter on the opening page is intricately illustrated) on the first pages of books. Find recent books as well as those that are copies of medieval works. Illuminations typically contain the first letter of the first word of the opening paragraph. See how the letter relates to the word.

2. Compare these illuminations to an alphabet book, noting the similarities (the word begins with the featured letter) and the dissimilarities (the illustration in most illuminations is decorative rather than representational).

3. Look at various type fonts in a typography book or on a computer. Choose a type style that appeals to you. Use Crayola® Erasable Colored Pencils to draw a large first letter of your name in that font. Then make the letter the main part of a picture that illustrates something important about yourself or an idea the letter represents to you.

4. Add details with Crayola Metallic Colored Pencils. Fill in areas of color with Crayola Markers.

Safety Guidelines

Adult supervision is required for any arts & crafts project. Observe children closely and intervene as necessary to prevent potential safety problems and ensure appropriate use of arts and crafts materials. Some craft items, particularly beads and buttons, are potential choking hazards for young children. Avoid use of such small parts with children younger than 3 years. Craft items such as scissors, push pins and chenille sticks may have sharp points or edges. Avoid use of materials with sharp points by children younger than 4 years. Read all manufacturers' safety warnings before using arts and craft supplies.


  • Medieval illuminations were hand drawn by a few selected educated monks to illustrate the lengthy, hand-lettered texts that they produced. Create your own illuminated manuscript by writing an original story and illuminating the lead letter on each page.
  • Students with special needs might create an illuminated alphabet book using these techniques. Punch holes in one side of the pages, and lace together with yarn.
  • For advanced experience, study the application of gold leaf to illuminated manuscripts. Use Crayola Metallic Colored Pencils to simulate this effect.
  • Research famous handwriting styles, such as that of John Hancock, a notable signer of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Try writing your own name in several fancy scripts.

Related Lesson Plans

Lesson Plans

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crayola supplies
  • Metallic Colored Pencils
  • Erasable Colored Pencils
  • Markers
  • Construction Paper



  • Grades 4 to 6
  • Special Needs


  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies
  • Visual Arts


  • Less than 1/2 hour
  • 30 to 60 minutes


  • Children research the art of illumination, a method for embellishing alphabet letters used to illustrate medieval manuscripts.

  • Children recognize common letters in intricate illuminations, and compare their use to designs used in alphabet books.

  • Children create an original illumination using the type font of their choice.


Research Canada Standards
Research UK Standards
Research U.S. Standards