No-Math Measuring for Lettering Placement and even Baselines

Author: Kathryn Whitacre


Revised: August 03, 2005

I am self-taught and the methods I am going to describe I have developed through trial and error since I began in 1983. Back when I started I was told to use multiple layers of adhesive shelf paper. Back then I would draw my design and transfer it to the shelf paper with carbon paper, but the quality was lacking as carbon paper is not very detail oriented and the transfer process left a lot to be desired. So I looked for a better resist...and found it in stock used by screen printers for bumper stickers— a 3M product that was 5 Mil. It came in nice large sheets (though the box was very expensive) that I could use on windows, doors, cabinets, etc. I really liked the large size and for large projects drew directly onto the glass after putting on the resist for a crisp image.

Then in about 1985 Canon came out with the PC25 copier. I ran several tests and all came out great. I could photocopy onto my 3M stock! No more transferring. This way I could reduce or enlarge my image and not have to copy it over. This was a big boon to me. I would use my Macintosh SE30 and typeset lettering or draw graphics or use a copier and manipulate images and then photocopy what I wanted to hand cut onto the resist. I used hundreds of #11 Exacto blades. When the tip broke I threw it away, as I was doing very fine detail and broken tips caused the blade to catch and I didn't want the center of an "e" or "o" to be compromised. I continued with this work manner for many years, but I am getting ahead just a bit. When doing glassware I developed the following method, which I use even now when lettering on glassware or placing design elements on a curved, round or continuous surface.

Dividing Space Evenly

When wishing to divide a circular shape evenly I do not measure, but rather use a thin (if there is thickness it can compromise the evenness of the division) strip of paper (often tracing paper strips) or a string. I wrap the string/paper around the circumference of the shape and mark where they meet. I then remove the string/paper and make my divisions: fold in half for centering two elements: quarters for four: odd numbers require a bit of working the string/paper until thirds, fifths, sevenths, etc. are achieved. Then mark the folds with a permanent marker on the string/paper. Transfer the marks to the glass by rewrapping the measuring device and carefully noting the measurements. No ruler or math is involved.


An Even Base Line

To achieve an even base line I hit upon the idea of turning over the glass so it rests on its rim. Then using something with a variety of holes‡ I would measure until I found the right one and using a fine permanent marker place it in the hole; rest it against the glass and turn the glass while pressing the marker firm enough to make a good mark. I usually use my metal erasing shield; but sometimes I'll use some sort of plastic template I have for small holes. (These are drafting supplies)

This method has been very reliable for twenty years. I'm sure that big shops or mass production shops have some better way, but as I don't do large volumes this works fine for the several jobs a week type business. Others will have to give their advice on higher volume techniques. I hope my simple methods help some beginners. If you copy my directions I only ask that you give credit. I wish you good luck.


To finish up I would like to say that I am now in my mid 50's and my eyes aren't what they once were, so I have benefited greatly from finding several years ago— Rayzist. When I have small or detailed designs I used to send them in to be reproduced. About five years ago I bought a small set up for burning my own resist. I find it very rewarding... I can get great detail and have the ease of doing it "in house". I now only use the 3M resist for large projects like doors, windows or cabinets.


I have heard it said before, but would like to add my voice to the fact that I wish the resources that are available now were around twenty years ago. The Internet has made us a much closer industry.

(It took me several months to find Rayzist from the work I saw in an upscale golf souvenir shop. I tracked down the company that made the lovely glassware boxes with logos, but the owner would not give me any information; only after returning several times over a few months, did I finally find out about the wonderful detail possible from a photo stencil.) And the rest, as they say, is history. So now you don't have to repeat my long process of learning, you can jump right in. Just remember to give to others as you have received.

Kathryn Whitacre








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