• The Beginner’s Guide to Pencil Calligraphy

    Here’s something cool: you can create attention-grabbing calligraphy with a pencil! This post includes a video tutorial, written information, and a free printable worksheet to teach you how to wield graphite like a lettering pro.

    The Beginner's Guide to Pencil Calligraphy | The Postman's Knock

    There are many reasons to dive into the world of pencil calligraphy. First of all, this type of calligraphy offers a new way to explore lettering! It’s also something you can easily practice anywhere; and, if you have kids or pets, there’s no ink to keep track of (that may or may not end up spilled on a carpet). Pencil calligraphy is cost-effective, challenging, and creative. I hope that after reading this article, you’ll try it for yourself!

    How to Create Pencil Calligraphy: A Video Tutorial

    You can download the free worksheet featured in this video tutorial here.

    How to Choose a Pencil

    Pencil calligraphy can be created with a variety of pencils, but not all pencils are up to the challenge. Pencils graded HB, B, or 2B are best because they have a fairly soft graphite core. If you’re not sure what grade your pencil is, go ahead and try to use it anyway. (For information on the graphite grading scale, check out this short article.)

    The Beginner's Guide to Pencil Calligraphy | The Postman's Knock
    Palomino Blackwing pencils have a bit of a cult following. They are great for calligraphy (but so is any other HB, B, or 2B pencil)! If you’re curious, you can read the story of Blackwing pencils here.

    Regardless of which pencil you use, make sure it is not a mechanical pencil! Pencils that you have to manually sharpen are best for creating calligraphy.

    How to Hold the Pencil for Pencil Calligraphy

    When you create pointed pen calligraphy, the idea is to keep your hand under what you are writing. There’s a lot to think about with dip pen hand positioning, so you naturally hold the pen a different way than you do with a normal pen or pencil.

    The Beginner's Guide to Pencil Calligraphy | The Postman's Knock
    Good news: you don’t have to grip your pencil a special way in order to create calligraphy.

    One of the perks of pencil calligraphy is its familiarity. Go ahead and hold that pencil just like you have since the day you learned to write. You don’t have to make any grip adjustments!

    How to Achieve Stroke Variation

    The beauty of dip pen calligraphy lies in the stroke variation it can offer. On downstrokes, you get a nice, thick stroke. Upstrokes and horizontal strokes are dainty and thin, which leads to a pleasing contrast in finished pieces.

    The Beginner's Guide to Pencil Calligraphy | The Postman's Knock
    This Janet Style pencil calligraphy envelope features plenty of sumptuous stroke contrast.

    Believe it or not, you can also achieve stroke contrast with a pencil! If you’ve used a dip pen before, the concept will sound very familiar. To create thick downstrokes, exert pressure on the pencil’s tip every time you pull the pencil down. For thin upstrokes, apply a minimal amount of pressure.

    The Beginner's Guide to Pencil Calligraphy | The Postman's Knock
    Pencil calligraphy is best created with a fairly sharp tip. If the tip is too sharp, it will probably crumble a bit on the downstroke. It’s best to break in the tip after each sharpening on a scrap piece of paper.

    Use a Light Box for Guidelines

    If you have ever created dip pen calligraphy before, you know that it’s logical to use a pencil to create calligraphy guidelines. Guidelines make it easy to write consistent, visually-pleasing letters. Then, once the ink dries, you can erase the pencil guidelines. The obvious disadvantage of creating calligraphy with a pencil, then, is the fact that erasable pencil guidelines aren’t an option. If you try to erase your guidelines, your pencil calligraphy will go away with them!

    The Beginner's Guide to Pencil Calligraphy | The Postman's Knock
    Unfortunately, it’s difficult to use pencil guidelines to create calligraphy with a pencil. For that reason, a light box can come in very handy.

    I always use a light box if I want to create orderly pencil calligraphy. If you don’t have a light box, I suggest abandoning convention and going with a casual, no-guidelines-needed calligraphy style like the Kaitlin.

    Waterproof Your Paper to Avoid Smudges

    You probably already know that pencil lines tend to smudge. With that in mind, if your calligraphy may pass through several hands (and smudge-causing fingers), you might consider waterproofing it. In general, waterproof paper is also smudge-proof paper! You can learn how to protect your calligraphy in the How to Waterproof Paper post.

    The Beginner's Guide to Pencil Calligraphy | The Postman's Knock
    I speak from personal experience when I say that your pencil marks will smudge a bit if you use MicroGlaze to treat it. Instead, I recommend using a finishing spray such as Krylon.

    Practice Pencil Calligraphy with a Free Worksheet

    If you want to try creating calligraphy with a pencil, try downloading the free pencil calligraphy worksheet. You can print it off on whatever paper is in your printer right now.

    The Beginner's Guide to Pencil Calligraphy | The Postman's Knock
    Having the latest version of Adobe Reader (a free PDF reader software) will ensure that the worksheet prints properly.


    Before you start filling out the worksheet, make sure you have a piece of “padding paper” underneath. Keeping another piece of paper under the paper you’re writing on will make for smoother, easier writing.

    The Beginner's Guide to Pencil Calligraphy | The Postman's Knock
    Don’t forget to keep a piece of “padding paper” under the paper you’re writing on. This applies to any kind of calligraphy you create — pencil or otherwise.

    The free worksheet includes the Janet Style calligraphy alphabet. This is a very basic worksheet, so it doesn’t get into exactly how to form the letters. If you own the Janet Style worksheet set, you can look at the letter formation section (pages 15-16) to learn formations. Each letter formation will be exactly the same as it is with a dip pen.

    The Beginner's Guide to Pencil Calligraphy | The Postman's Knock
    If you’re curious about how to form each one of these letters, you can reference pages 15 and 16 of the Janet Style worksheet set.

    Again, you can download and print the free pencil calligraphy worksheet by clicking here. I hope that filling it out proves to be a fun creative challenge for you. Happy practicing!


    Lindsey's Signature | The Postman's Knock

    This article was first posted in October of 2017. It has been updated to include a video tutorial, clearer information, and an improved version of the free worksheet.