Craft in Color: Joya’s Tips for Window Tracing

We’re back with our latest Craft in Color feature, shining light on folks who—like us, make something totally unique from scratch. Meet Joya Rose: Gifted illustrator and letterist extraordinaire, whose window-tracing tips are the perfect hack for creating homemade hand-lettering projects. Read all about her gift for penmanship and why you should trade in your stencils for a window and some sunlight.


Joya has the kind of cozy handwriting and illustrations that are both charming and whimsical while natural and thoughtful all at once. Using a paintbrush and paper, she draws everything completely by hand—from menus and wedding invitations to full on illustrated commercials. Her work has been featured in publications like Flutter and 100 Layer Cakelet and she's even illustrated a book! Lucky for us, she’s here to tell us all about her craft and how sunlight can be used to outline letters for tracing. Want to create impeccably handwritten birthday cards, party invitations, or fun menus for a dinner party? Joya’s got the scoop on how to window trace like a pro.

When did you realize you had a gift as a letterist and illustrator?

I always did lettering as a hobby. I used to just call it “doodling”— that’s what you call it when you don’t take yourself seriously as an artist. I resisted doing it professionally for a long time, but I was inspired to try it when I came home after traveling in New Zealand, Australia, and Southeast Asia for two years. I found myself in a position to take more risks, so I started by doing work for friends because it was a low-pressure situation. Eventually I quit my desk job and started doing it full time in 2014!

Hand-drawn design has become a sort of cherished artform in the digital age. Is there a certain joy that you get from crafting something with your hands?

Absolutely! They’re so many people in my field that are working completely digitally now. But the reason why I love working with my hands on paper is because there is a variability that happens. Like if there’s a mistake, or maybe a little doodle in the margin that I wasn’t planning on keeping. Those are often the things that I like the most about my work, and they don’t happen when I am working digitally.

What is your greatest source of inspiration?

I get a lot of inspiration from the Instagram community. I love Oliver Jeffers’s work and James Victore’s too. Marie Kalman is another artist that inspires me. I also love sifting through books! I have lettering books, art books, interior design books—books with lots of texture and color. I love turning to them when I am need of inspiration.

What is advice you would give to someone getting started as a calligrapher?

I would say, “Make the work that you want to get hired to make.” Whatever it is you want to do, start making it and showcasing it, and eventually jobs and work will come to you. If you want to do book covers, or if you want to do wedding stuff—start doing it on your own and then eventually you will get hired to create the same kind of work you enjoy making.

What do you like about window tracing?

I love window tracing because it’s a great alternative to free-hand lettering. It’s like stenciling but you can be even more creative! It’s super easy, all you need is a window and lots of sunlight.

Favorite all-time food?

Oh, that’s easy. Pesto. You can throw it on anything.

Projects While You Process: Window Tracing

Pssst. Coloring your hair at home? Our five-step “Craft in Color” projects can all be done in 30 minutes or less. Perfect for passing the time while you await your gorgeous color.

And there you have it. For those of us whose handwriting ranges from not-so-pretty to flat out “what does that say?,” Joya’s window-tracing tips can make someone with the most hieroglyphic-style scribbles seem like a calligrapher. It might take a little patience and focus, but the reward is in the results: hand-painted lettering, with the help of a little sunshine.

Follow Joya on Instagram at: @joyarose