I love pencil calligraphy because it can produce results as attention grabbing as brush pen calligraphy, but without the mess and the ink. You can also practice it anywhere, all you need is a pen and a stack of paper, and the skills you practice will be useful for dip pen calligraphy as well as the basics are very similar. You don’t need to worry about ink, and you can correct any mistakes with a basic eraser, making pencil calligraphy perfect for beginners. What’s not to love?
Pencil Calligraphy Supplies
The good news, getting started with pencil calligraphy is cheap. You probably have all the supplies you need at your desk! All you need is a pencil, an eraser and some paper. Calligraphy worksheets for beginners make learning the right techniques much easier, and you can print them yourself at home or use a dedicated calligraphy workbook to keep things tidy. The most important thing is to practice, practice and practice until you are comfortable with the different strokes.
There is no specific pencil for calligraphy, but some are more suitable than others. To start with, avoid mechanic pencils and stick to those you need to sharpen yourself. This will allow you to create the different width down and upstrokes easily. Relatively soft pencils, such as those graded 2B, HB or B are easier to use for beginners. You can use coloured pencils as well, as long as they are soft enough to allow for wider downstrokes.
Alongside a pen, all you need is an eraser and a pen sharpener. The key to creating beautiful pencil calligraphy is having a good difference between wide, soft downstrokes and sharp, thin upstrokes. This creates a beautiful, balanced contrast. For this, you will need a pretty sharp pen so the upward strokes are as fine and delicate as possible. Keep a scrap piece of paper handy to soften the tip after sharpening and prevent crumbling as you press the pen harder for the wider downward strokes.
Nice To Have Supplies
Regular paper works fine for practicing pencil calligraphy, but you may find calligraphy worksheets useful particularly at the beginning. Unlike with brush or dip pen calligraphy, you can’t just use a pencil to create guidelines and then erase them, so a light box will become really useful outside practice in order to create calligraphic artwork. You don’t need a light box though, as long as you stick to more free form fonts and styles that don’t require all the letters to be the same height.
Pencil calligraphy has a tendency to smudge, particularly if you use very soft graphite pencils. To fix this problem, all you need is a finishing spray such as this one so your artwork can be preserved.
The Basics Of Pencil Calligraphy
Now that you have sorted your supplies, we can get started with pencil lettering. The good news, it’s pretty easy to get the hang of it!
To start with just hold your pencil in the same way you do when you write. When practicing dip calligraphy you need to hold your pen right below what you are writing. Pencil calligraphy is much easier. You can hold your pen in the way that comes more naturally to you. No grip adjustments to be made, though you may discover you prefer holding your pencil a bit differently than when writing or sketching. Just go with what feels comfortable.
In order to achieve stroke variation, you will need to control the pressure you apply to the pen. Start by practicing applying more pressure on downstrokes, and then doing vertical upstrokes with a much lighter hand. If you have got a new pencil, practice on a bit of scrap paper until you achieve the right balance between the pencil crumbling and the lines not being wide enough. A very hard graphite pencil can be almost invisible on the upstrokes, which is why they are better avoided.
There is no need to spend money buying calligraphy worksheets before you even know if you will enjoy it. Just download a free pencil calligraphy worksheet such as this one or this one, print it and get started practicing pencil lettering.
Practicing Pressure Variations
One of the most useful exercises for pencil calligraphy is practicing pressure variations. Consider this a warmup exercise if you prefer, before you move on to lettering.
Consider three variations of pressure: light, medium and heavy. To create a heavy, wide line, you need to apply pressure hard on your pencil as you draw the strike. This is very similar to how you create swell strokes on pointed pen, dip pen or brush calligraphy, minus the ink and the nibs and the mess. Medium strokes require less pressure, and a thin, light stroke requires even less. Practice creating uniform strokes on each weight, so your lettering looks consistent and balanced.
Each letter on a calligraphic alphabet is composed of thin, medium and heavy lines. A calligraphy guide or worksheet tells you in which order to draw those lines and how to combine them for a particular aesthetic. So if you become a master at controlling the pencil pressure you will be able to move on to complex worksheets in no time.
Moving On: Pencil Hand Lettering
You can achieve the same kind of results with a pencil as you would with any other writing medium. This means complex lettering designs which often look beautiful complimented with drawings in a variety of coloured pencils. The main difference with ink base lettering is that you can actually erase any mistake and easily experiment with your layouts and letter combinations. Experimenting is key to calligraphy artwork and you will get better the more you practice.
To start with, choose a phrase that resonates with you. If you are a beginner to pencil calligraphy choose something short that is easy to layout. Sketch out different layouts or ideas, using a calligraphy font you like and are familiar with. Or create your own font for calligraphy lettering if you want a challenge! Sketch the outline, and don’t worry too much about thickness or how straight the lines are. You can pay attention to that later.
Once you are happy with the layout, then it’s time to build up the letters. Thicken up the downstrokes, creating contrast. Pay attention to the spacing between the letters, you don’t want your downstrokes making them too close together, unbalanced or irregular. At this point your design is probably quite messy as you have drawn and erased a lot of letters to get it just perfect. Not a problem! This is when you fall in love with your light box.
Use your light box to copy your design to a clean sheet of paper, and make any adjustments you see fit to perfect your work. Many people choose to do this on a sketchbook, to keep them organised. They also look great in bullet journals and planners.
Pencil calligraphy is a great starting point for those interested in lettering, as it’s easy and affordable. If you are interested, check out our pinterest board on pencil calligraphy for inspiration and worksheets.