Every time you sit down to create art or calligraphy “in real life” (not on an electronic device), you’re taking a risk. There is, unfortunately, no command + Z if you write the wrong letter or end up with ink spatters! The only solution to some mistakes is to start over, but not all mistakes require a project overhaul. In this article, we’ll examine five ways to try to fix art and calligraphy mistakes … and one of them just might save your project!
1. Use an X-Acto Knife to Scrape Off Unwanted Strokes or Ink Spatters
X-Acto knives are good for correcting small mistakes. I like to use the tip of the knife to dig out tiny ink spatters. You may be able to use it, too, for “erasing” portions of letters. For example, take a look at the word “Archival”, below, which needs a “c” instead of an “e”.
Before you do anything, wait for the ink to dry. Then, use the tip of your X-Acto knife to carefully scrape back and forth over the unwanted stroke. The goal is to remove the top layer of paper, which is the layer that contains the mistake.
Once you’re finished, most evidence of the stroke will be removed. Unfortunately, the paper texture will be a bit “off” from all the scraping, so the fix might be noticeable.
I use this technique often, especially if I erase white calligraphy prematurely and end up with streaks. Nine times out of ten, the X-Acto knife scrapes the mistake away to the point that it’s no longer noticeable. If you look hard, though, you can almost always see where the mess-up was!
2. Rub Off Mistakes With a Sand Eraser
Tombow makes a sand eraser that is a bit gentler on paper than an X-Acto knife. It’s good for fairly large mistakes, especially if the ink or paint hasn’t sunk deep into the paper. For example, see the picture below of a bay branch illustration that I created. As I was painting, a little bit of watercolor got on the side of my finger, and that watercolor snuck onto the paper. It’s not a super-noticeable error, but it was bugging me.
To get rid of a blemish like this, you’ll gently rub at it with the sand eraser.
Eventually, the stained layer of the paper will be teased out, along with the pigment that stained it. You need to be careful not to push too hard, though. If you’re too aggressive, the area of the paper you erased will have a noticeably different texture.
After gentle rubbing, your piece will be finished, and no one will be the wiser re: your mishap!
3. Paint Over the Mistake
If scraping a mistake off won’t work, consider painting over it. Bleed Proof White ink is, after all, basically liquid Wite-Out! If you’re working on black cardstock, you might consider using a thick black ink (like Ziller Soot black) or dark acrylic paint to fix mistakes.
Just like the scraping technique, painting over an error will lead to a noticeable texture difference on the paper. That said, it is a great option for correcting small mistakes, and I use Bleed Proof White often on white paper to mask little ink spatters.
4. Just Go With It
In certain cases, embracing your mistake might not be an option. However, if you’re making a piece with some artistic wiggle room, you can experiment with adding spatters and smears! The smears on the inky poppies mail art below were the result of an inky error that sparked inspiration.
There might be certain pieces that even benefit from an ink spatter or two. If you accidentally make a spatter, consider adding several intentional spatters to make a piece look artistic and deliberate.
5. Trace Over It
There will be times when you simply can’t fix something. In that case, the most pain-free solution is to trace over your original piece using a light box. I had to utilize this solution when creating a list of musicals and plays that a friend commissioned for her niece. Instead of writing “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat“, I wrote “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamboat.”
I tried a “hail Mary” fix of scratching the “B” off the page, but the fix was too noticeable for a commissioned piece. Then, I tried painting over the scratch with Bleed Proof White, but that also didn’t do the trick.
In a situation like this, the only choice, really, is to re-do. Luckily, a light box can make things a bit easier. Place the piece on the light box, then trace over whatever you’ve already done. Keep your corrections in mind as you trace!
While the original piece took around eight hours to create, the traced piece only took around six. Six hours is a significant chunk of time, but it’s not eight hours. In short, tracing is not the most ideal of solutions, but it is better than having to start from scratch.
1. Start with a Pencil Draft
Unfortunately, none of the solutions I have proposed above are 100% foolproof, so your best bet is prevention. Whether you are creating art or calligraphy, it is always a good idea to start off with a pencil draft, especially for formal pieces. That’s why so many TPK tutorials start off with a pencil draft!
A pencil draft is truly invaluable to help prevent mistakes. If you’re creating a commissioned piece, it’s important to show pencil drafts to your client to keep them in the loop. Once you’ve got your pencil draft and you’ve checked it for spelling or spatial errors, you can trace over it with ink.
2. Warm Up
You can ensure that your calligraphy and lettering looks polished by warming up. Warming up only takes a couple of minutes, and it will result in fluid and elegant strokes. Having a “warm” hand can also prevent calligraphy mistakes!
Perhaps the most important takeaway from this blog post is everyone makes art and calligraphy mistakes. Remember that every mistake is a learning experience, and — who knows? — your mistake just may be a blessing in disguise!
Thanks very much for reading TPK, and happy creating!