The pencil is one of my favorite calligraphy practice tools. The main reason is because it’s so accessible and you can use a pencil anytime and anywhere! Below I am going to list some ways that using a pencil to do calligraphy can help improve your skills.
Great warm up tool
Many times before a calligraphy or drawing session I will use tracing paper over my guidelines and a pencil to do some warmup strokes. Some strokes I like to do are ovals (clockwise and counter clockwise), Infiniti symbol and tornado drills.
Improve your grip
Many people, yours truly included, have an issue with having a “death” grip on the pen holder. The tight grip can cause wrist and hand pain. So it’s helpful to perform the calligraphy strokes with pencil and really practice lightly holding the pencil so you build the habit of holding the writing tool lightly while doing calligraphy.
Improve your letterforms
I use the pencil often to practice my basic strokes. When you are learning calligraphy you are learning both a new way of writing and a new writing tool - the dip pen. This can prove to be challenging so it’s helpful to use a pencil or a pen to practice the basic strokes and letter forms. This will allow you to build muscle memory for basic strokes and letter forms so it’s less daunting when you are using the dip pen.
Practice the slant
While modern calligraphy has varying slants, most traditional calligraphy is written at specific slants. For example copperplate and engrossers script it written at an angle of 52-55 degrees. Italic hand is typically written at a 5 degree slant. In order to ensure your calligraphy looks cohesive, it’s important to make sure all of your letters follow the slant. This can prove to be tricky for beginners or even seasoned calligraphers. The guidelines help a lot which is why I always use guidelines with my work. I also like to use the pencil to practice drawing simple connecting lines and connecting ovals to building muscle memory to write consistently at the slant line.
Plan your composition
If I am writing a quote that has to be perfectly centered and/or required flourishing, I always write it on tracing paper and pencil first. This allows me to figure out the best layout and determine which flourishes work best. Using the all powerful eraser I am able to erase portions of my writing, refine it and then use the dip pen on the final piece once I love the composition.
I hope you enjoyed this post and it inspires you to get try using a simple pencil to practice your calligraphy. Below is a picture of one of my warmup sheet showing you the various tips I outlined above. I wrote on my actual guidelines so you can see the work clearly but typically I use tracing paper so I can re-use my guidelines. Here is a PDF of my guidelines for small pens and for large pens.