Don't Try Faux Calligraphy Unless You've Done This

art calligraphy

Many people recommend starting your calligraphy journey with faux calligraphy, or fake calligraphy, but here’s why I don’t recommend doing that, and what to do instead!

Faux calligraphy is often touted as an “easier” way to learn calligraphy. If that’s how you got started and you’re happy with how your writing looks, then that’s awesome… but if you’re someone who’s struggled to get their letters to look right, you’ll probably realize why in this video.

First, let’s talk about what faux calligraphy is. It’s not writing at all -- it’s actually drawing. I’ll have another article that goes more into this distinction, but for now, just know that when you’re doing faux calligraphy, you’re technically drawing your letters to mimic the look of real pointed pen calligraphy that’s made with a pen and nib dipped in ink.

Now I’m not ragging on faux calligraphy at all; I’ve used it a lot and in fact you kind of HAVE to use it when you’re creating letters at a larger scale, like on a chalkboard or a wood sign for a wedding.

A traditional calligraphy pen has such a small nib that it will only take you so far size-wise, and when you want to write at a larger scale, you typically need to start “drawing” your letters (unless you’re using a really large paintbrush).

To do faux calligraphy, you can use any regular pen, marker, or pencil to create your letters, then you fill in what would normally be the downstrokes if this were done with pointed pen calligraphy. These thicker lines are called the shades.

And therein lies the problem…Faux calligraphy MIMICS real calligraphy…So if you don’t really understand how real pointed pen calligraphy works, you may have a hard time putting the shades of your faux calligraphy in the right places, and your words may look a little wonky.

With a real calligraphy pen and nib, because of the flexibility of the nib, you end up lightening your pressure on your upstrokes, and adding a bit more pressure on your downstrokes. You naturally end up creating thinner upstrokes and thicker downstrokes because of the way nibs are constructed with the two tines.

With faux calligraphy, however, you’re using just a regular pen, pencil, or marker without that built-in flexibility that a nib has. So if you’re a beginner and you haven’t practiced with real pointed pen calligraphy first,  it’s very easy to forget what you’re doing and accidentally create a thick upstroke or a thin downstroke, which is the opposite of what you want. Basically, there’s more room for error when it comes to your thick and thin lines.

And while this may seem a little nitpicky, if you’ve ever looked at your faux calligraphy and wondered why it seemed a little “off,” one of the common reasons is because the hairlines and shades are in the wrong places.

Instead, if you practice writing with a real dip pen first, you’ll develop a muscle memory of where the hairlines and shades go. It’ll even give you a better understanding of the nuances of where to START and STOP a shade. If you’re holding your pen properly, it’s virtually impossible to put the shade in the wrong place when you’re using a real calligraphy pen.

For these reasons, I highly recommend that you spend at least a little bit of time learning real pointed pen calligraphy first, before venturing into faux calligraphy, hand lettering, or even brush calligraphy. Doing so will make your letters look prettier and much more consistent.

If you need some recommendations on which supplies to use for real pointed pen calligraphy, check out our free calligraphy tools resource -- it includes all the pen holders, nibs, and inks that some of your favorite pro calligraphers love to use.

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