Sunday, January 02, 2005

A better Calligraphy article.

Cheating at Calligraphy

I have been telling people for years that the way to cheat at calligraphy is with a light box and the ability to trace. But obviously, it can be a wee more detailed than this tossed over the shoulder comment. Good calligraphy can easily be a lot more involved than just that, and these tools can use more technical skills to become even more authentic, as well as be an excellent way to assist in the mastering of calligraphy.

One of the hardest parts is finding appropriate fonts that look right. I do recommend looking at examples of period hands before trying to pick a font on your computer. My favorite website for fonts is Coron’s Source of Fonts, but that page is often overloaded for its hit count. The website is
I like Gaelige and Theodoric, and a few of the others on that site.

Then you need to look at the piece you want to calligraph- how much space do you have? I do get out a ruler and measure it. I set up the word processing program’s borders to fit in that space, and try to pick a font and font size that will fill that space appropriately. Another thing to consider is that modern word processors and aesthetics are not the same as period hands. Look carefully at the spacing of your period exemplar and how close the lines and letters and words are. If you understand the formatting of your word processor, you should adjust the spacing appropriately to better approximate the look of period writing.

When you have the right size nib for the job, it's easy just to write over what you see with the light box, and try to match what is there. I have found it is good to have a second copy of the printout to look at for clarity, as well as a period *good* example of what the font is supposed to look like. When you don't have the proper size of pen, or for the big letters, it's easiest to trace the large letters and then fill in. Also, you can use a drawing pen for when you want to do the decorative connectors between letters that the computer fonts simply cannot do.

I have also sometimes done a tracing of the writing on a spare sheet of paper just to get into the flow of the writing before actually working on a scroll. This helps warm up my hand and build my muscle memory so that I can do the hand better. To learn a hand for the first time, this is often a good idea.

The nice things about using the light box to trace the calligraphy is that it can lower your chances for misspellings and forgetting words. You can use as authentic of materials as you wish, and no one will ever suspect you of tracing unless you tell them. Very few will approach you and ask if that's Lucinda or Diploma, or [other font name here], mainly because your copy will not be as precise as the printout, and it will look like you spent more time on it than you did.

Feel free to contact me with more questions, comments, or nice spots for fonts.

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