Illumination Letters

Illumination Letters

Express yourself with Illuminated Letters! Decorate your initials with delicate layers of bright watercolor details.

  • 1.

    Illuminated letters are hand-drawn, intricately decorated letters, usually the first letter in a book or chapter of a book. These are often found in books from the middle ages. Look at some examples of illuminated letters. What do the images and designs surrounding the letter tell you about the content of the story?

  • 2.

    On a sheet of heavy white paper or watercolor paper, lightly sketch your first or last initial with Crayola® Colored Pencils. Embellish the letter with small images and designs that represent you!

  • 3.

    Fill the letter and designs with bright colors using Crayola Washable Watercolors and Crayola Watercolor Brushes. Tape the edges of the paper down to the table or a sturdy piece of recycled cardboard. This will prevent the paper from wrinkling as it dries. When applying the watercolors, use more water to spread the color over a large area. Less water on the brush will give you a richer color and allow you more control over where the color settles. You may wish to practice your painting technique on a separate sheet of paper before you start.

  • 4.

    Allow your painting to dry completely then mount it on a sheet of brightly colored paper with clear adhesive tape. Share your painting with the class for everyone to admire!


  • Students view examples of illuminated letters and analyze the meanings of the decorations on each.
  • Students design their own illuminated letters and include designs and symbols that represent themselves.
  • Students engage in watercolor painting and work to master the delicate technique.


  • Younger students and those with special needs may benefit from working together as a class. Write letters together on the board for reference while students work. Discuss what images and symbols can be used to describe something about each student to spark ideas.
  • Create a journal cover! Glue, tape or laminate your dry illumination letter to the front of a notebook or journal. Embellish with jewels, ribbon and glitter glue to make your cover even more unique!
  • Make it a story! Use your illumination letter to inspire a short story. Write a two- or three-page adventure starring you as the main character! Utilize your illumination letter painting as the cover of the book. Punch holes in the corners and tie with ribbon to bind the pages and cover together.
  • Share your painting with the class. Can you guess the student-artist that made each letter just by observing the symbols on each?