Perfect Penmanship

Perfect Penmanship

Perfect Penmanship

August 27, 2013 | Crafts | 2 Comments

Its been a bank holiday weekend of glorious antiquing- hunting out treasures in a local antique village. We might not have come home with armfuls of goodies, but, I was given this book (an attic find by my mother-in-law) and it is old, beautiful and inspiring all in one hit!
BookFor a start this book is titled the Manual of Lettering which is going to be getting my vote from the get go – Cecil Wade has also authored a couple of other related titles, Modern Lettering and Layout and Lettering for Amateurs – truth be told, I’d probably better fit into the amateurs category, but, I’ll happily take a super manual any day of the week!

This book is a study of lettering and it’s many forms. Pages and pages dedicated to a single letter and all the styles and variations that it can be presented in. So incredibly beautiful and inspiring. As Cecil explains in the introduction, the presentation of the letters alone – over in an alphabet format – whilst unorthodox, allows the consideration of the various forms or ‘faces’ of each one.

It does seem these days that you can’t take a single step without falling over a typographer or a typographile (I think I might be one too). I know that those with true, actual design training kinda hate these folks with a new found love for lettering. But, you know what? If this is a step closer to ridding the planet of Comic Sans then all power to them!

Spending hours gazing lovingly at all the different forms of the letters has rekindled my desire for perfect penmanship. Elegant typography is all well and good – and I do love it so, but, there is something breathtakingly beautiful about handwritten notes in with neat careful cursive, which really does something magical to me.

OK so we can’t all have perfectly neat handwriting all the time, or can we? There are heaps of letting and calligraphy classes that you can take online – a couple of years ago I took one such class over at Elvie Studio and let me tell you – it was amazing! OK, let’s be honest here. It didn’t transform my smudgy spider scrawl into carefully composed cursive overnight (just imagine if it did though!). No, let’s be realistic, that’s probably never going to happen. What did happen is that it shows you how to carefully shape letters, how to correctly space the ascenders and decenders – you know, the letters that have ‘uppy’ or ‘downy’ bits. So, know I know, with a bit of effort, I can have pretty awesome handwriting.

Most importantly, it teaches you that perfect penmanship is in your own hands (haw haw), it shows that you can practice to achieve the results you want, that you will gradually become more aware of how you hold the pen, how you space the letters across the page and how you shape and form your words.

So, it is true what they say, practice makes perfect. But, practice takes time. So, I wanted to share a quick fix for faux modern calligraphy. This clever trick is great for when you want to write small, yet elegant messages – it’s ideal for greeting cards and gift tags!

How to create faux calligraphy…
Penmanship1You’ll need paper, a pencil, eraser and a black marker pen – I have an obsession with Sharpie markers, the ink always seems to flow in steady smooth lines with very little bleed, but, grab your own favourite marker pen.
Penmanship2Using the pencil, lightly write out the word in flowing cursive. Erase and re-draft any letters that look a little wonky until you’re happy with the word. If you want to be super precise, draw out three equally spaced out horizontal pencil lines; one will be the base line where the letters will sit, will will mark the place where the ascenders (uppy) letters will reach, and the last will mark the place where the descenders (downy) letter will reach.
penmanship3Grab the marker pen and slowly and steadily work over pencil letters. There is no point rushing this, you carefully drafted out each letter in pencil to get it just right, so work over these as neatly as you can.
penmanship4Here’s the clever part. Posh calligraphy is recognised by  the distinctive variation of width of the strokes formed by the tip of the pen when creating the letters. Add in these heavier lines to create the impression of the strokes of a calligraphy pen by working back over the down strokes of each letter.

To identify which are the ‘down’ strokes, hold the marker in the air above the paper (don’t let the tip of the pen touch just yet!), work over the letters of the word following the flow of the cursive – you know air guitar, right? Well, this is air writing. Every time your hand brings the pen in a downward stroke, moving from the upper section of the letter to the lower section of the letter, this is the area that need to have the definition added.

Once you’ve identified these, work back over the these downward strokes with an additional line. These lines can be as simple as working directly over the previous letter for a subtle increase in the down stroke, or they can be all out double thick lines for super impact.
penmanship5Unlike those old maths papers, you don’t get any points for your workings here. So, those drafted pencil lines have to be erased. I’ve never had a problem with smudging Sharpie lines, but you know what? Let’s just give it a few seconds for the ink to fully dry before going at it with the eraser!
penmanship6Want to be even more fancy-pants? Try writing your lettering on linen or embossed finished paper and put in a frame  – tah dah!


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