• Shaky Calligraphy Strokes: Causes, Solutions, and a Free Warm Up Worksheet

    Occasional shaky calligraphy strokes are part and parcel of using a pointed pen. In this article, I’ll help you to troubleshoot less-than-perfect strokes with a warm up worksheet and several suggestions.

    Shaky Calligraphy Strokes: Causes, Solutions, and a Free Warm Up Worksheet
    Everyone deals with shaky calligraphy strokes sometimes! I wrote this calligraphy after I hopped out of bed this morning. It’s especially easy to notice the shaky calligraphy strokes in “woke”.

    Regardless of your skill level, shaky calligraphy strokes will always be a problem that requires attention. Today, we’ll talk about five potential shakiness causes and their solutions! I’ve also got a warm up worksheet for you that can lead to more fluid, confident strokes in your calligraphy projects.

    1. Cause: Not Being Warmed Up

    I’ve jumped right in to several calligraphy projects over the years only to be frustrated by my hand’s inability to make smooth strokes. Eventually, I realized that it’s a lot to ask of a body to sit down and immediately create flawless calligraphy. It’s important to warm up!

    Calligraphy Warmup
    Here’s an example of a warm up sheet from one of my recent calligraphy creation sessions.

    I always begin my calligraphy projects by writing out a few loops, curls, and a couple of words. Taking the two-ish minutes to do that always leads to more polished-looking calligraphy! To help you get the gist of warming up, I made a warm up worksheet for you. Fill it out before a writing session, and you’ll appreciate the benefits of having a hand that’s ready to write!

    You can download this warm up worksheet here.

    If it’s helpful to print and fill out the worksheet before every writing session, you are welcome to do so. If you want to skip printing, though, just remember the exercises and do a few of them on a scrap piece of paper. You’ll be amazed at how much of a difference a warm-up can make!


    2. Cause: Tension

    Tension is a big cause of shaky calligraphy strokes, especially among beginners. You want your pen to follow your will, so there’s an instinct to grip it tightly in order to exert more control. Surprisingly, the opposite is true: the more relaxed your grip is, the better your letters will look.

    How to Hold a Calligraphy Pen | The Postman's Knock
    This is an example of a relaxed grip. Try to keep your fingers loose and long.

    If you’re experiencing shaky strokes and you know you’re warmed up, take a look at your grip. Are your fingers clutching the pen? If so, take a deep breath, roll your shoulders back a couple of times, and recalibrate your hold on the pen. If your grip starts to tighten again, simply reset it.

    3. Cause: Writing Speed

    Writing too quickly can lead to shaky strokes because you’re not being conscientious about stroke transitions. Writing too slowly, however, has the same effect. When you write very slowly, your nib tends to follow the tremors of your hand, especially on upstrokes. A middle point between fast and slow, as shown in the calligraphy medallion video below, is usually the way to go.

    There seems to be a “Goldilocks” writing speed for everyone, and it does tend to be fairly slow. But how slow? That depends on you! Experiment with writing speeds to see what gives you the most polished-looking calligraphy. Then, try to match that speed when you write.

    4. Cause: Caffeine

    If your shaky calligraphy strokes don’t seem to have an explanation, look to what you’re drinking. If your beverage has caffeine, consider that your hand might be reacting to the caffeine! For a lot of people, caffeine might not seem to have any effect … until they sit down to write.

    How to Use Coffee to Write Calligraphy
    It might not be a good idea to write calligraphy while drinking coffee, but I fully endorse writing calligraphy with coffee!

    Of course, there are people who have a high caffeine tolerance. If you’re one of those people, I’m jealous because coffee is delicious, and I’d love to enjoy some while writing. But, if you’re anything like me, you should save the mochas and matcha lattés for times when you’re not creating calligraphy.

    5. Cause: Medical Conditions

    Sometimes, a shaky hand simply can’t be helped, and that’s okay. The most important thing is that you derive joy from your calligraphy creation! If your letters have a bit of movement to them, embrace that. Remember, too, that any recipients of your calligraphy will easily be able to see past any sort of shake, if they notice it at all. For example, my husband gave me the card below for Mother’s Day:

    Hernán's Mother's Day Card
    Hernán made me the card from this tutorial. I suspect that his shaky strokes are a result of writing speed (too fast) and clutching the pen.

    Hernán ran into several problems including (and beyond) shaky calligraphy strokes, but I treasure this piece. The fact that he sat down and made it for me means so much, and I appreciate every shake and spill. The recipient of your calligraphy will feel the same way.

    I hope that this article helps you to create calligraphy that you love! Regardless of your shakiness level, I promise that the free warm up worksheet I’ve presented you with today will help. Thanks so much for reading, and happy writing!


    Lindsey's Signature | The Postman's Knock