Faux calligraphy, or script drawn to mimic the contrasting strokes of pointed pen or brush calligraphy, is one of my favorite types of lettering, and one of the easiest ways to take your own letters to the next level. Whether you’re looking to expand your lettering repertoire, DIY the heck out of some wedding signs, or make your chalkboard a little more shnazzy, faux calligraphy is a relatively easy skill once you get the hang of it.
If you’re not already familiar with the concept, here’s the low-down:
The idea of upstrokes and downstrokes takes some getting used to, and I always recommended drawing slowly and saying something like “thin up / thick down” or “light / heavy” as you go back over your letters to remind you where to place the weight. It sounds kind of crazy, but trust me, it works! Once you’re more familiar with which strokes go up and which go down, it’ll be second nature and you won’t even have to think twice.
But what to do when you have the basic concept and your faux calligraphy still looks mehh? Incorporate these 5 best practices and you’ll get pro-level faux calligraphy every time!
1. START WITH PENCIL TO GET YOUR SPACING RIGHT
This is one that you can eventually do without, but when you’re starting out or unsure of your faux calligraphy, starting with pencil is always a great idea. Adding contrast to your letters isn’t necessarily what you’re thinking about when you’re writing your words out, so giving yourself some leeway with pencil in case you don’t leave enough room (or even too much!) will save you some serious headaches.
2. KEEP YOUR TRANSITIONS SMOOTH
Smooth transitions is the one thing that, in my opinion, instantly makes your faux calligraphy look better. If you were writing with a pointed pen, calligraphy brush, or brush marker, your transitions between thick and thin lines would be relatively smooth. I say “relatively” because it is possible to still get awkward, hard transitions, but when done correctly it’s buttery smooth.
While the problem is pretty common, the fix is incredibly easy!
Instead of adding your weight in a straight line, be sure that you start a bit farther up or down and add a small curve, so you get just a smidge of medium spaced weight to break up your thick and thin contrast.
3. WATCH YOUR CONTRAST
Speaking of looking like natural calligraphy, how thick and thin your lines are also determines just how “faux” you look. If you were using a pointed pen or other calligraphy specific tool, there wouldn’t be a huge difference between thick and thin strokes. Even with something like a brush or brush marker where the thick strokes a can be extremely thick, the thin strokes will still not be pencil thin. Similarly, if you’re using a pointed pen, the thin strokes can be extremely thin, but you won’t get anything as thick as a brush. The tools just don’t work that way. That’s why adding a huge contrast in your faux calligraphy is a dead giveaway.
4. BE CONSISTENT
This one’s pretty straightforward – pick a contrast, and roll with it. When one letter has a small amount of contrast and the next has a big difference, it looks off. No matter what contrast you chose, be consistent throughout the entire word.
5. FIND YOUR GROOVE FOR ADDING WEIGHT
Whenever I’m teaching faux calligraphy techniques at a workshop, this question comes up the most – where do I add the weight?!
The answer to this one is a bit tricky, because it really comes down to personal preference. For the most part, I add the weight inside of my letters. The only exceptions to this are the second downstroke of lowercase a’s, the first downstroke of m’s and n’s, and occasionally outside an e or l if space is an issue.
It all boils down to how you drew the letter or word in the first place, so there’s no hard and fast rule I can offer here beyond find your own consistent groove as you go.
Like I said, I almost always add weight in the same spaces – that makes it easy and efficient for me to quickly turn my script into faux calligraphy. Once in awhile spacing is an issue (especially if you don’t follow #1 and do it in pencil first!), so I’ll add my weight in a different place, but this is something you learn to adapt to with practice over time.
Faux calligraphy can be a really fun and easy way to spice of your letters, and I hope these 5 best practices help you get the most out of it!
Are you a faux calligraphy fan?! Have a tip you’d love to add to the list? Share in the comments below…