Making a Scroll Blank

Helpful thoughts regarding scroll blanks.

First a foundation

Award Scrolls are one of the wonderful things about the SCA. They are tangible evidence of the recognition that you have done good work. Everyone remembers getting their first award, the nervousness of being called up in to court the first time, having your name read out in front of everyone and some recipients are so happy they cry. And when all is said and done they get up, bow and realize they have a wonderful original piece of artwork in their hands called an award scroll to commemorate it all and to display.

Award Scrolls are an effort in collaboration with the collaborators often not meeting each other or even knowing who the other collaborators may be. First someone recommends you for the award. Then Their Majesties choose to grant the award or to enroll the recipient into the appropriate order. The Kingdom Signet gives out the scroll assignments. From here one person may do both the illumination and the calligraphy, or a calligrapher may use a premade scroll blank. Then it goes to the event and back to their Majesties for review, signature and kingdom seal. Then finally the recipient gets called up, is honored, and gets their completed award scroll take it home and hopefully display it.

Each step in this process is key, without the preceding step, the next step is impossible. The part of that process that this webpage is dedicated to is helping you with making scroll blanks. It is presumed that you already know a little bit about about scrolls and that you have read the Scribal Handbook for your Kingdom. If you haven't read this handbook, please take the time to do so and then come back to this page.

When making a scroll blank you may never meet any of your other collaborators for each scroll. Because this is true it is best if you to try to make things easy on the rest of the collaborators. Remember this mantra:

No matter how pretty your paper and end scroll blank, if it can't be written on by the calligrapher, it won't be any good as a scroll blank.

So the foundation is set... now what?

What materials should I use to make a scroll blank?

First you have to determine what you are going to do the scroll on. In technical terms what is your writing surface? Various materials for scroll blanks most often include paper, parchment/vellum or pergamenata.


It comes in all kinds of shapes, sizes, color, thickness and smoothness. Here are some guiding principles for picking out paper. However, you will find the kind of paper that works best for you and what you like to do.

A quick note about paper sizes. I'll mention it again later but I wanted to get it in here too. If possible try to make the scroll blank fit common frame sizes and the border to work with common matting sizes. If you don't know what these are, and most of us don't, here is a link to a helpful resource on the subject. Frame and Matting Sizes

The kind of paper to use for scroll blanks generally needs to be sturdy as sturdy paper is best for durability in traveling and display. Anything that is of regular card stock sturdiness and below is generally speaking not appropriate for making scroll blanks. In technical terms this means 100 pound weigh paper or more most of the time.

Also try to use paper that has a smooth or almost entirely smooth surface. While rough paper is often good for painting on, it is almost impossible to do calligraphy on. Doing calligraphy on rough paper is difficult, slow and often leads to many mistakes making rough paper unsuitable for scroll blanks.

Some suggested papers would be Bristol Smooth, Bristol Vellum, and Arches Hot Press. These are by no means the only paper that scroll blanks can be done on, but all are a good starting place and you can compare other papers to them. Bristol Smooth and Bristol Vellum are often available in hobby and local art supply stores in a variety of presized pads and they can come in half sheets roughly 30 inches by 20 inches. Arches Hot Press can often be found in hobby and local art supply stores in the 30 inch by 20 inch half sheets.

Costs of pads vary widely depending on how many sheets and the size of the pads. Generally speaking 11 inch by 14 inch 20 sheet pads of Bristol vellum cost less than $11.00. The half sheets of Bristol smooth, Bristol vellum, and Arches hot press generally cost less than $8.00 each.

The color of your paper is also important. When making a scroll all the way from scratch to calligraphed end product on your own you have a lot of colors to choose from. When making a scroll blank though please keep your choice of colors between white and light beige. Not only are these colors easiest to find they are often cheapest and best mimic period colors of parchment. Also, these colors work best for the average calligrapher who may only have black ink.

No matter how pretty your paper and end scroll blank, if it can't be written on by the calligrapher, it won't be any good as a scroll blank.


Pergamenata isn't paper. Pergamenata is made to simulate the look and feel of traditional parchment/vellum. While pergamenata mimics parchment/vellum it is actually made of plant material. It comes in heavy and regular weights and comes in the colors of white or natural. Pergamenata is often easiest to purchase online as many hobby and art supply stores do not carry it. It can come in half sheets of roughly 20 inches by 30 inches. Some suppliers have precut sizes and scraps available for sale as well. A pack of 10 precut sheets 11" X 14" should cost you less than $18 + shipping and handling. Generally speaking a 20 inch by 30 inch sheet shouldn't cost more than $7.00 + shipping and handling.

If you haven't worked with pergamenata before it is recommended that you buy or borrow some scraps. Unlike paper, and very like vellum/parchment, pergamenata will buckle and bend as a result of the work you are doing on it. Calligraphy is actually pretty easy to do on pergamenata but not all calligraphers are used to working on pergamenata.


Aaah the holy grail of writing surfaces. Parchment/Vellum are made of animal skin, specially prepared and stretched for use in scribal arts. Like all writing surfaces there are two sides to Parchment/Vellum but the difference here is that one side is the hair side and the other is the fat side. Some Parchment/Vellum providers only sell one side prepared for scribal arts. Single sided prepared vellum will run you around $50.00 a square foot. Double sided prepared vellum/parchment will cost you around $75.00 a square foot.

For the difference between Parchment and Vellum check here.

Okay, enough about the writing surface!

What kind of paints can I use?

Actually there are lots of different kinds of paints you could use. Some kinds are better than others.

What to avoid: While acrylic and oil paints can be used in the making of a scroll blank they do not store well for our purposes. In any humid environment these kinds of paints can get tacky and stick to whatever is next to them, say like the back of another scroll blank. While where you are located may be mostly dry this scroll blank is going to travel and end up in at least three other peoples homes, the signet, the calligrapher and the recipient's. Any one of which may use a humidifier or live in a humid place. So generally speaking avoiding the use of acrylic and oil paints is a good idea.

Spray paints and model paints or paints designed to cling to metals, woods or any paint that is intended for use on something other than the writing surface mentioned above are not appropriate for scroll blanks.

What works well:

Paints that are recommended are guaches and watercolors. These are readily available in most hobby and local art supply stores. You should be able to find the primary and secondary colors as well as black and white in guache pretty easily. Also, and interestingly enough, many watercolor paints are very period for the SCA. Shell Gold is definitely acceptable to use as a paint. But paints aren't your only options.

You can also use inks as well as period pigments. Period pigments can be made at home or sometimes purchased from SCA merchants and specialized art supply stores. If you make or use period pigments, please to be careful as many, but not all, are poisonous in nature. Just be aware of the ingredients and take any appropriate precautions.

General Guidelines:

Now that we know what kinds of materials to use let's discuss some good general guidelines for making scroll blanks.

PLEASE DO NOT PRE-LINE SCROLL BLANKS. The calligrapher scribe will be filling in the wording. Not all hands of calligraphy are the same size and so they will need to make their own lines. Thus they will have to erase any lines already present. The residue of erasing can make writing much more difficult. Also there may be damage done to the writing surface in the process of erasing. Pre-lining your own scroll is a wonderful idea, pre-lining a scroll blank causes many problems for the calligrapher scribe.

No matter how big or how small your scroll blank is you should to create at least two large areas of "white space." One area is for the calligrapher to put the wording of the scroll. Please leave an area large enough for a calligrapher to use common wording for an award. If you haven't left enough room for the calligrapher then you have run afoul of the mantra: No matter how pretty your paper and end scroll blank, if it can't be written on by the calligrapher, it won't be any good as a scroll blank.

The other area that you need to have white space in is the border between the edge of the paper and the start of your illuminating.

Generally speaking this border should be at least 1 and 1/2 (1.5) inches. This amount of border allows for the end recipient to be able to mat and frame their award scroll. If you leave less than 1.5 inches of white space border the recipient may have a hard time and go to more expense to be able to display their well earned award scroll.

If possible try to make the scroll blank fit common frame sizes and the border to work with common matting sizes. If you don't know what these are, and most of us don't, here is a link to a helpful resource on the subject. Frame and Matting Sizes

Look to period pieces for inspiration

After all we are the Society for Creative Anachronism. We are here to learn about how things were done in period. Some of the best inspirations therefore come from in period. By the way tracing in period. But just because you got inspiration from a period piece that doesn't mean you should shackle yourself to what you see.

You are an artist after all, use your artistic license! Now that you are inspired, be creative. Scribes in period were, and you certainly are as well. You are absolutely welcome to follow a pattern of illumination in period but color it your own way, or to use a color scheme from period (say 14th century france that used red, white and blue a whole lot). Just remember though, these are to become award scrolls so keep things tasteful! We wouldn't want to offend the recipient let alone the Crown.

Common Framing, Matting and writable space sizes (in Excel XP format)

Need some Period Inspiration?

Hunting book of Gaston Phebus

1 2 3 4 5

Various Books of Hours

1 2 3 4 5

Book of Kells

1 2 3 4 5

Mira Calligraphiae Monumenta

1 2 3 4 5

Scribal Resources by Kingdom (Includes Handbooks)

This page is not an official document of the SCA, and does not delineate SCA Policy

Working of Router