Today, I’d like to address an issue that often strikes fear into the hearts of calligraphy learners: double letters. You probably know the feeling … you’re happily writing along, and then, all of a sudden, you need to write a word like “coffee” or “Mississippi”. What do you do? Read on to find out!
The Two Ways to Approach Double Letters
When it boils down to it, you have two choices in dealing with double letters. The first choice is to try and write the two letters exactly the same. The second choice is to intentionally write them different.
Writing Double Letters the Same
Writing identical double letters is the best choice for simple letters like most vowels (“a”, “i”, “o”, “u”) and nearly all consonants. Most letters connect to each other beautifully despite being duplicates. Should you choose to go this route, it’s important to remember one thing: you will never write any two letters exactly the same. If perfection were your goal, then you would be typing instead of creating calligraphy!
With that in mind, you can try to get close to writing identical double letters. My secret weapon is a pause! First, write out the word until you finish the first of the two double letters. Pick up your pen and take a moment to look at the letter you just wrote, then pick up where you left off and write the second double letter. Try to imitate the first letter as well as you can! If there’s a noticeable difference, don’t worry about it: you’re only human!
Writing Double Letters Different
If you want to add an artistic flair to any calligraphy project, try writing the letters in a double letter pair differently. Doing so can make life easier because you don’t have the pressure of exactly duplicating any letters!
Modern, freeform calligraphy styles like the Kaitlin make it easy to vary letterforms: you can extend or contract your strokes and vary letter sizes without any trouble. If you’re working with more formal styles, however, you can still vary your double letters. Try giving one of the double letters an extra loop or flourish that the other one doesn’t have!
Trouble Double Letters
There are two double letters that everyone seems to struggle with in nearly all calligraphy styles: “ee” and “ff”. The trick to writing a double “e” is picking up your pen! Let’s say you want to write the word “tree”. You’ll start by writing the “t” and the “r”. Once you’ve written an upstroke coming from the end of the “r”, pick up your pen.
Now, start just to the right of the end of that upstroke, and write one “e”. At this point, you’ll want to pick up your pen again.
Repeat the process from the last step to write another “e”.
No matter what calligraphy style you are writing in, it can be exceedingly difficult to write nice “e”s without picking up your pen. So, don’t be afraid to take your time and create your “e”s as outlined in the steps above! For double “f”s, the process is similar. You’ll start by writing the word up until the end of the first “f”.
Once you’ve finished the first “f”, start a second “f” just to the right of it. This “f” won’t connect to any other letters, but it will still allow the word to visually flow!
End by writing any letters that go after the “ff”. Again, these letters won’t connect to the second “f”, but will look natural!
Most of my calligraphy styles involve “f”s like the ones shown above. I love “f”s that have open tails because they offer a lot of possibilities! You can keep them plain, or flourish one or both of them. There is no right or wrong way to do it, so feel free to be creative!
Fun Double Letters
Besides “ff”, there are four pairs of double letters that I really look forward to! They are: “dd”, “gg”, “tt”, and “xx”. If you run into any of these letter pairs, have fun with them! For “dd”, you can flourish the second “d” to hover above the first. The letter pair “gg” allows you to make elegant letter intersections.
My favorite letter pair is probably “tt”. It’s fun to cross them with one dramatic swoop! You won’t run into “xx” a lot, but when you do, you can vary the length and flourish of both of the crosses.
Dealing with Double Letters in Any Calligraphy Style
There is no blanket rule about double letters. There are a million different calligraphy styles out there, so the treatment of double letters can be handled a million different ways. Right before you sit down to create a project that you know has double letters, it will help to decide what you will do when you encounter them. Will you make them identical like the two “p”s below, or will you vary something about them? Will they connect to each other, or will you leave a smidge of space in between?
As long as you have a game plan, double letters will be much less intimidating! The more you write them, the less you’ll think about them when they come up. In fact, you’ll find that you start to look forward to them! Double letters give you a lot of room for artistic improvement because you can get creative in how you handle them, and that will become part of your signature style.
I know that this blog post is rather broad considering that double letters are subjective. How you treat them can really depend on what calligraphy styles you tend to gravitate toward! If you have any specific questions, please feel free to comment. I’m glad to help to the best of my ability! In the meantime, I hope that you gleaned a couple of tips in this post, and that you enjoy the rest of your day!
P.S. – One spot opened up yesterday for the June 3rd morning session TPK Modern Calligraphy Beginner Workshop — which is coming right up! It’s the very last spot left in the beginner summer workshops. If you can make it, I’d love to see you in Boulder in a few days!