How to do Calligraphy with a Pencil

Richard Wideman
Last Updated on March 21, 2021

Learning calligraphy is a rewarding hobby with many different applications and for a lot of people it is hard to start. One of the barriers that many people think that they need all these fancy tools and inks but that just isn’t true! The paid tools are better suited for more professional calligraphy like gifts and products but for practicing and learning you can’t beat something you already have in your house. In this post, you will learn a few different techniques along with calligraphy basics from different script families. If you are unsure about what kind of calligraphy you want to learn then I suggest checking out this post first. With just a pencil or two, you can simulate most styles of calligraphy (Blackletter, Modern, Copperplate, Lettering..etc) can be done (and well). So grab a couple pencils and let’s begin learning how to do calligraphy with a pencil.

The above video is a nice little overview of how you can do calligraphy with two pencils and two elastics. So good you don’t need sound! Just kidding, somehow this video went viral with bugged audio so make sure you watch on a desktop computer or use headphones. Most people say it’s pretty clear even without verbal instruction.

NOTE: ARE YOU LEFT HANDED PERSON? SKIP TO THE SECOND VIDEO FOR MY ATTEMPT AT THE BASICS!

In case you don’t watch the video below here are the main points:

1. Once your pencils are secured together with a few elastics you must hold them like you would a normal pencil but the tips need to be at an angle of 45 degrees. (see images below)

How to hold your new pen
What I mean when I say 45 degrees.

2. Maintain the angle at all times while moving your pencil along the paper. Moving the pencil like this will allow different thicknesses different stroke angles.

If you maintain pen angle, the stroke direction determines stroke thickness.

3. Move your arm instead of your hand to write.
4. To learn the upper and lowercase Gothic alphabet with a pencil check out video number 3 below.

LEFT-HANDED Pencil Calligraphy Basics

I say it in the video but disclaimer: I am not a lefty. I have been told by left handed people that the strokes I make as a righty don’t make sense to them. After trying it with my off hand, I realized that they are right and so I made a video showing the stroke order for some common letters. So I attempt to learn calligraphy with a pencil, but left handed. It goes how you’d expect, but the fundamental differences are showcased so that you can pick a few things up from it.

  1. While keeping your pen at 45 degrees you will be holding the pen
  2. Strokes will be “up” or away from yourself
  3. You start each stroke from the opposite end than you would as a righty

Gothic Calligraphy with Pencil (Full Alphabet)

In this video, I go over the upper and lowercase Gothic alphabet. I write each letter individually with some tips on how to perform each stroke and in what order. Therefore, you can follow along at your own pace, replaying or pausing the video at anytime. Otherwise you can just view the resulting alphabet in the 3 photos below.

Gothic Blackletter Calligraphy Alphabet letter examples A-L
Blackletter Calligraphy Alphabet – Aa-Ll in Gothic style
Gothic Blackletter Calligraphy Alphabet letter examples M-W
Blackletter Calligraphy Alphabet – Mm-Ww in Gothic style
Gothic Blackletter Calligraphy Alphabet letter examples X-Z
Blackletter Calligraphy Alphabet – Xx-Zz in Gothic style

Uncial Calligraphy with a Pencil (Full Alphabet)

Pen twist for Uncial Alphabet (Detailed in video)

In contrast to the previous video, this one covers a very different, but still blackletter, alphabet. The alphabet in this video is called Uncial and is commonly used today to represent letters from the Medieval era but is most well known from Lord of the Rings. So it’s a pretty cool calligraphy alphabet to learn with a pencil. This video in particular builds on techniques taught in the previous two, introducing twisting of the “pen” to alter the pen angle and get different stroke shapes like the one below.

Modern Calligraphy with a Pencil

For the next video, I cover faux calligraphy, which is essentially sketching out modern calligraphy letters. I cover all the lowercase alphabet in my practice sheets you can get (if you haven’t already) for free here. I also have a Master Class set of Monoline & Faux Practice sheets if you want to check that out too. It is easier to do this after learning Modern Calligraphy for yourself, so you know how the strokes look like and can determine which parts of each line to thicken. Either way you have a guide you can reference if you are unsure of the structure.

Copperplate Calligraphy with a Pencil

Copperplate Calligraphy with a Pencil

Copperplate calligraphy is a highly sought after script, but requires a lot of extra tools and paper. Following this video will help you get the technique required to write copperplate calligraphy with only a pencil.

That concludes (so far) the many ways you can learn calligraphy with a pencil, paper and some free time.

Keep practicing, practicing, practicing.
-Richard

Did I cover everything? Is there something missing? Leave a comment below and I will be sure to get back to you. It could even inspire a video or a post.

Thanks for reading til the end. 🙂

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