Using tools to draw.


Chapel Hill, MS 92, f. 1r

Illuminated manuscripts can have some very complex borders.  Take the above manuscript from the University of North Carolina. However a beautiful medieval border doesn’t have to be so complex.

Codex Manesse f 120v

Codex Manesse f 120v

Simple, elegant and pretty.  And easy to do.  Use a 30/60 degree triangle to make it.  How?  See below.


Codex Maness Bernger von Horheim

Also, simple, elegant and pretty.  Use a 45 degree triangle to do this one.  How?  See below. Okay, I’ve wet your appetite a little bit.  But how do you make this work?  I did some simple examples of how to use the tools you need to make these borders easy to draw.  Now the tools I will be using are modern and plastic.  They are just the modern version of the wooden medieval tools.  Wooden ones today are a bit out of my price range. First we draw the column.  We do this in three simple steps. Step 1 – Figure out if your project will be portrait or landscape.  Put your column on the paper and measure out its width.  In this case one inch.

Measure width of column.  In this case one inch (1")

Measure width of column. In this case one inch (1″)

Step 2 – Turn your page 90 degrees and draw out the length of the column.  I chose to use green ink to make it more visible for you.

I used a t-square to draw both these lines.

I used a t-square to draw both these lines.

Step 3 – Reorient your column in the direction you will be doing your work.


On column one inch wide.

Alright so you have a column.  What if you want a column on more than just one side?  Draw them in too.  I recommend using something you can erase until you get down to final parts of the project. I drew in three sample columns I will be using to show you different things.

Three columns for demonstration purposes.

Three columns for demonstration purposes.

Grab your drafting triangles and let’s see what we can do with them!

Draw a line with this 45 degree triangle.

Draw a line with this 45 degree triangle.

Take care to notice where the edge of the triangle is.  In this case I’ll be using the 90 degree edge but the point edge works just as well.

Bottom edge is at 10 1/2 inches.

Bottom edge is at 10 1/2 inches.

Now how wide do you want your lines to be?  Move your edge that distance on the t-square.  In this case I will move it 1/8″ to the left.  This will let me draw a line below the line I just drew.

Now the edge is at 10 3/8 inches.

Now the edge is at 10 3/8 inches.

Apologies to those who use the metric system.  My t-square works best using the imperial system. So what do the drawing results look like?


Draw a line 1/8″ below the first line.


And there we have it two lines perfectly parallel 1/8″ apart. (3.175 mm)

You can create a pattern this way if you choose.  Here I repeated it 1/4″ apart from each other.


Repeat as you desire.

You can turn the triangle around and get lines the opposite direction.


Flipped around.


And then flip it around again to get a line in the opposite direction creating a new theme.

You can do this all the way down if you like.


A series of triangles created by changing the direction of the triangle.

Of course you can even overlap and cross the lines to make a variety of different patterns. So that was the 45 degree triangle, what about the 30/60 triangle. It works much the same way.


60 degree lines using the same technique as the 45 degree lines.

And there is the 30 degree version as well.

30 degree lines.

30 degree lines.

And if you really want you can add the triangles together!


45 degree and 30/60 degree triangles being used together.

There are a lot of things you can do using these basic drafting tools.  I hope showing you some of the basic techniques will inspire you to try them out and to play around and see what else you can do with them.

2 responses to “Using tools to draw.

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