How to Do Ruling Pen Calligraphy

Last Updated on March 7, 2024

What is Ruling Pen Calligraphy?

Ruling pen calligraphy in the scheme of things is a very new kind of calligraphy. So new in fact, that it doesn’t really have a standardized alphabet, but is often a brush calligraphy-like script characterized by it’s rough spraying and splattered strokes. While most calligraphy is centuries old, ruling pen calligraphy was first first written in the 1950s by German calligrapher Friedrich Poppl.

Tools for Ruling Pen Calligraphy

The calligraphy tools you’ll need for ruling pen calligraphy are as follows:

  1. A ruling pen or folded pen
  2. Appropriate ink in a container you can easily dip into
  3. For extra splashes a rough paper is preferred. A paper that can handle a lot of ink, like a watercolour paper is best to reduce bleeding.

What is a Ruling Pen?

2 Common Tools for Ruling Pen Calligraphy: Folded Pen (Left), Ruling Pen (Right)

There are two kinds of ruling pen: the original ruling pen and the calligrapher’s folded pen (which also is referred to as a ruling pen). The original ruling pen (top right) has a small dial to open and close the two tines of the pen. It originally was used by draftsmen in engineering and cartography to help make the thinnest lines for technical drawings. The folded pen however was developed specifically for ruling pen calligraphy by Matthew Coffin in 1995.

The Ruling Pen I Recommend

Folded pen for Ruling Pen Calligraphy
Horizon Folded Pen from Paper & Ink

The best ruling pen (or folded pen) for just starting out in ruling pen calligraphy has to be the Horizon folded pen off of Paper&InkArts. It’s maybe not the best one available but at ~$15 it is a steal compared to the $40-$60 I see on some other sites. But you know a better price than $15? Free. Check out the next section to learn how to make a folded pen (ruling pen)

How to Make a Folded Pen

If you are just starting out calligraphy, or don’t want to spend money on the hobby just yet, try making your own folded pen!

How to Make a Folded Pen (aka a “Cola Pen”)

All you need to make your own folded pen include:

  • Cola can
  • Old scissors (or some sort of metal cutter)
  • Marker
  • Pencil (or some sort of sturdy stick)
  • Tape (or some adhesive)

If you have all of those things, I have a full blogpost and video on how to do this over on this page: How to Make a Calligraphy Pen

How to Do Ruling Pen Calligraphy

In pointed pen and brush calligraphy, there are thin upstrokes and thick downstrokes. Ruling pen calligraphy shares this sentiment but in a more sharp and abrupt way. That being said, feel free to mix up the strokes between thick and thin.

Just So You Know….

I have a premium Master Class Practice Sheet set to be a one stop shop for learning Ruling Pen calligraphy over on my store check it out!

Brush Calligraphy VS Ruling Pen Calligraphy
Ruling Pen Calligraphy (Top), Brush Pen Calligraphy (Bottom)

Your First Ruling Pen Strokes

Start by dipping your ruling pen into your ink, ensuring you have a generous amount of ink on it. You’ll notice that strokes made using the tip of the pen are thin, and strokes made with the edge of the fold create much thicker strokes. This change in pen angle and grip allow upstrokes and downstrokes to be made.

Thick stroke created with the edge (Left), Thin stroke created with the tip (Right)

Why the Ink Splatters

The ink splatters are caused by the nib catching and releasing from the writing surface due to friction. This typically happens when doing quick strokes with the folded pen on it’s long edge. Rougher paper and thinner ink can be used to increase the severity or frequency of your ink splatters. However, try out your own paper & ink combinations!

2 different kinds of papers – (Top) Smooth paper with thin ink, Bottom

Ruling Pen Calligraphy Alphabet

Ruling Pen Calligraphy Alphabet

You can use this image above as a practice exemplar to copy from. Once you get the hang of it, try making new dynamic letters and new strokes by varying pen pressure, angle, ink and paper. Whatever you choose to do, just keep practicing and working towards your personal goal. 🙂

Alright, Over to you!

Something missing from this post? Please leave a comment letting me know. Thanks for reading until the end! 🙂

4 thoughts on “How to Do Ruling Pen Calligraphy”

  1. Your courses are amazing how come I did not find you sooner I have been wasting my time taking courses that I don’t understand half of what they are talking about your courses are fun also we learn something at the same time I Have been trying all kinds of courses and finally I found you I can understand and see results seeing you courses that you very much for being their.I will be fellows g you. From now on so you will be hearing from me now and then if I have questions can I ask theme here or do you share an email address I can write you. Adam’s from Montreal. Canada Your work is amazing

  2. Hello🙂 I love your tutorials! I was personally wondering if you have ever tried calligraffiti ? And if so would you be willing to do some tutorials on it? I already know my copperplate and brush pen pretty well as well as a little bit of italic. I found your video on black lettering as I thought it may help me with learning calligraffiti. Hope to hear back from you!

    • Hi! Yes I have definitely done calligraffiti, and its actually how I started learning calligraphy and I love it. I am working on something to teach it but it is difficult to teach something that doesn’t have an established alphabet. It is hard to nail down what exactly IS calligraffiti and how it differs from calligraphy. I believe it is a rough/hardcore blackletter based script with many of the traditional calligraphy rules bent with many letter flourishes.

      All that to say I am working on a custom Fraktur script builder and a practice sheet set based on a collection of graffiti and tattoo scripts. If you are interested in either of these, stay tuned on my email list or any @calligrascape social medias. 🙂

      And if you cannot wait, my best advice for moving towards calligraffiti is to learn Fraktur script, and start playing around with the individual strokes.


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