Creating My First Digital “Etegami” and “Hanko”

Etegami - Dragonfly
Etegami – Dragonfly, a photo by Fergiemoto on Flickr.
(click on photo to enlarge)
Also linking up with Illustration Friday’s topic of Fuel. “Food = Fuel”  “Creative Juices = Fuel”


Crimson wraps and gleaming beds

Meditate on autumn beds

Awaiting fast food!


I recently came across a blog called Dosankodebbie’s Etegami Notebook that really intrigued me and has inspired some creative juices to flow in a slightly different direction.  It involves another form of traditional Japanese art called “etegami”.  Etegami is a Japanese word which means picture message/letter, which are “simple drawings accompanied by a few apt words.”  According to Dosankodebbie, the blog author, the size is generally 10cm by 14cm (roughly 4 inches by 6 inches).  There needs to be both an image and words, and be mailable, like a postcard.  There are few rules for etegami, which are traditionally done by hand.  I have broken a rule already by producing a digital adaptation of etegami…..but…..I’m pursuing new creative avenues!  If I size my image to 4×6 and print it, it would then be mailable.  I have made many greetings cards from my photos and images in the past and mailed them.

Perusing her blog even more, I found that she has carved her own personalized Japanese hanko stamps that she uses on her artwork (click here).  A hanko is a name stamp, or a name seal, which is pressed into a document or, in this case, artwork in red ink.  It is a way to sign your name.

Several years ago when I was in Japan, I bought two off-the-shelf hanko stamps of my name.  I bought an inexpensive one, and a much nicer one with a fancy carrying case and red ink stamp.  I wanted to have a customized hanko like my Japanese friends and colleagues had, but it was going to take longer to create than the time I was going to be in Japan.  I made two more trips to Japan, but wasn’t able to pursue the customized hanko I desired.  No regrets!  I’ve gotten married since then and I no longer use my maiden name.

After reading the blog post about her hanko, the thought occurred to me to design my own digital name seal in Photoshop that I could use with some of my artwork.  Most of my artwork are digital or are photomanipulations anyway, so I figured, “why not.”  But I wonder if it is still ok to call it a hanko if the name seal is now digital.

The product of my first digital etegami attempt is the image I posted above (which is another photomanipulation) along with the digital hanko I created.  I think it looks similar to some of my digital woodblock print images.  So, I will either need time and practice to improve the etegami look, or just develop my own style.  The message I opted for on this image was my usual haiku, therefore, the image could still be considered a haiga.  I’ll be expanding my horizons in this area since a haiku is only one of the options for a message.

A few days ago, I was pleasantly surprised to see Dosankodebbie’s comment on one of my blog posts.  She said she was amazed by my “21st century, digital age reinterpretations” of the traditional Japanese arts, of which she is a huge fan.  Thanks Debbie.

I’ll be making many more attempts with these arts.

Check out these blogs from others who have created etegami:


22 responses to “Creating My First Digital “Etegami” and “Hanko”

  1. Of course I know “etegami”
    In the past, we used to write a letter and draw a illustration by hand.
    Recently I seldom these letters.How nostalgic.
    The link is also good.

  2. Thank you for sharing your lovely art – I like your etegami a lot, and I’m excited to out this new art form myself.

  3. wow. aloha Ferigiemoto – i did not know about etegami. i’ve probably seen them (now that i think about it, i’m sure i have) and did not realize what they were.

    uh-oh – now i will have to add this to my “want-to-do” list. i like your image here a lot. and the hanko is great …or… digital hanko.

    our age is breaking into all kinds of tradition and establishing new ways across the planet. so whether we call the digital stamp “hanko” or not, to me it is out of that tradition that we are creating these – digital hanko. after all, traditional haiga is done with a brush – not a photograph. it’s only because we’ve begun to explore the photo as a possibility for an image that it has become acceptable to use – cool on that as i see it.

    i too – often – do “something like” a hanko on my digital work. i use it for my copyright as well as my name. i’ve been doing this for several years now. making a new one each year.

    the way i see it, we are in an age that is very exciting because of so many new ways to create images. we are part of that. and what we do is the first exploring of this new technology. cool on that. so do it your way, is the way i see it.

    traditional hanko ink is red. i use that a lot in my digital hanko stamp too – but i also at times simply use the shape and value to create the stamp. and sometimes of course i just write my name. or type it.

    i also, as you, bought at one time a stone stamp (blank) intending to have my name put on it by a carver. there are some carvers here in hawaii. but not close by and not with regular hours. so… being difficult to connect with one, over time i lost the drive behind wanting to make mine. i still have the blank stamp and ink – so may be some day… in the mean time… digital hankos work for me on digital work. well… and other things too.

    fun post. thank you. aloha.

  4. I have been toying with this and my little etegamis (posted on my blog recently) are more like pictures with wisdom sayings. But I am working on it, practice makes perfect. just wanted you to know how inspirational this was and would love to see more of this. I came back here to see if I could find the key to what I am doing wrong and may have discoverd my flaw. I will be fixing them and posting them all as a collection and with your permission would like to place a link back to this post as to the source of my inspiration in doing these etegamis (~_~) bows humble


    • Thank you so much!! Those are such nice words and yes, you may link back to this post! (bows humble!) I think it’s great you are trying etegami. I have a lot of improvement to do, but it’s fun. I’ll be over to look at your artwork. Thanks again!

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  7. Ethel and I have spent some delightful time on your site. The graphics are wonderful, and the poetry has a directness and simplicity that tends to shoot off into infinite meanings that is wonderful to read.

  8. Pingback: Etegami – Gratitude | Creativity Aroused

  9. Aahh, now I know what the hanko is called! I’ve been intrigued by the Chinese version and have always wanted one which says Made in Australia by janina margarita nowak. That would be cool! And which could be used as a Lightroom template for adding to my pix as my logo. Cheers!

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