Make Your Own “You Are Special Today” Plate

Written by Gabrielle Blair of Design Mom for Building Blocks.

Growing up, one of my favorite family traditions was our You Are Special Today plate. It was a red plate with white script that said, you guessed it, “You Are Special Today.” It hung in a place of honor in the kitchen. On birthdays, or other special days — maybe we made it through a tough piano recital, earned a great grade on a chemistry exam or got a personal best at the track meet — we were served dinner on the special plate.

Such a simple thing, but what a treat! We looked forward to that tradition with fondness and anticipation, and it always felt so good to be acknowledged in such a concrete way.


My own kids don’t have a You Are Special Today Plate, so I thought it would be fun to make one! First I asked Melissa Esplin, one of my very favorite calligraphers, to hand draw three graphics. You can download them for free here. Then, I sent the graphics to Jane Rhodes of See Jane Blog. She’s one of the most crafty, stylish people I know, so I knew she would style up this project right.

Any plate with a blank center will work — a solid color, a scalloped edge, whatever style you like! Then pick your favorite design and you’re ready to go. You’ll have a happy, new family tradition in no time at all. Full instructions straight ahead.


You will need:

  • One plate with a blank center
  • Graphite paper
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Printed calligraphy
  • Porcelaine markers
  • Optional: Cotton Swabs (e.g., Q-Tips)

Step 1: Trim your printed calligraphy so it will fit in the middle of the plate. Then, cut a piece of graphite paper, (or create your own by rubbing a pencil across a plain piece of paper) just a bit bigger than the calligraphy stencil.


Step 2: Place the graphite paper face-down on the plate


Step 3: Place the calligraphy print out face-up on top of the graphite paper, and tape it in place so it doesn’t move around on the plate.  You only need to tape two corners to hold it securely.


Step 4: Using a sharp pencil, trace the calligraphy, which will leave the tracing on the plate. Then remove the tape, and papers.  Be careful not to smear the graphite image on the plate.


Your plate should look similar to this:


Step 5: Use a ceramic pen to fill in the traced lettering (optional: use cotton swab to clean up extra graphite smears and/or errors)


Step 6:  Bake the plate according to the ceramic pen instructions to set the ink and make the plate washable. Mine said to bake the plates at 300 degrees for 35 minutes.


The problem is, these pens specifically say “These markers are not recommended for use on surfaces that come in contact with food.” 🙁

I grew up with the traditional red “special plate” … what you outlined above is definitely more my style these days. I just made one for myself so that I can start this great tradition with my own kids and also made one to give as a gift. Thank you so much for such an easy and fun DIY project!

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