There are many reasons to dive into the world of pencil calligraphy. First of all, pencil calligraphy offers a new way to explore lettering! It’s also something you can easily practice anywhere, and, if you have kids, 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 — and I hope that after reading this post, you’ll try it for yourself!
Shall We Start with a Video Tutorial?
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.)
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 pencil calligraphy.
How to Hold the Pencil
When you create dip 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.
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.
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.
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 pencil calligraphy, 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!
I always use a light box if I want to create orderly pencil calligraphy. If you don’t have a light box, I would 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 pencil calligraphy in the How to Waterproof Paper post.
Practice Pencil Calligraphy with a Free Worksheet
If you’re curious about making your own pencil calligraphy, try downloading the free pencil calligraphy worksheet! You can print it off on whatever paper is in your printer right now.
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 pencil calligraphy 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!
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! If you have any questions or observations about pencil calligraphy, please feel free to contribute them in the comments. It’s always interesting for me to see what you have to say. In the meantime, have a fantastic weekend, and enjoy the worksheet!