Some Secret Tips on How to Do Pencil Calligraphy

Feb 11, 2024

I've been asked many times how to achieve thick and thin contrast in calligraphy strokes like this using a simple pencil.

Today, I am going to show you some tips on how to do pencil calligraphy.

You don't need all the fancy supplies and tools to start calligraphy at the beginning stage. After all, calligraphy is the art of writing with what you have on paper, following certain rules and patterns. Although I recommend trying out a nib and ink as you progress in the future, I think this is a great place to start.


Here is what you need:

First, a pencil.

As you know, pencils come in different graphite softness levels, indicated by their names. Avoid pencils labeled with "H," meaning hard. Instead, preferably choose a soft pencil to achieve both thick and thin calligraphy strokes. Here I have my favorite pencil, which is the Blackwing Pearl.


Second, paper.

The beauty of pencil calligraphy is that you can use virtually any paper without worrying about ink bleed-through!

I'm using my all-time favorite practice paper from John Neal Books. If your paper doesn't come with guidelines, you can simply draw them with a ruler or download my free guidesheets. I'll leave a link in the description below.


Third, we need a soft cushion underneath the paper.

My secret trick for achieving even better contrast between thin upstrokes and thick downstrokes is to place a soft leather mat under the writing paper. This applies to pointed pen calligraphy with a nib and ink as well. If you don't have a mat, don't worry, you can use your mouse pad or layers of paper underneath.


Lastly, we need a pencil sharpener or any craft knife will do.

Sharpen your pencil as you normally would so that the point is nice and sharp.

And here is my golden trick to successful pencil calligraphy. You need to grind the point of the pencil to have both a sharp and flat point.

This is crucial for desired results. Grind the lead's point on a piece of paper like this to create a flat area. Now you have both a sharp and flat point.

Test out which angle gives you the best thin and thick strokes. (Thin upstrokes, thick downstrokes)

If you'd like to watch me explain this further, I've uploaded a YouTube video on this topic.

Click the link below to learn more as you watch.

Keep in mind that the key to any calligraphy is making thin upstrokes and thick downstrokes, which create a beautiful contrast.

Regardless of the tool you're using, practicing with intention is crucial. It helps train your muscles to control the pressure.


Is it a good idea to practice with a pencil?


Certainly, there is a difference when using different tools such as a nib, pencil, brush, or fountain pen. However, for training your hand muscle memory and hand-eye coordination, starting with any tool will help improve your calligraphy skills.

With that being said, I believe a pencil is the simplest yet most powerful tool you can use to begin your calligraphy journey immediately.


Whenever you're ready, there are two ways I can help you:

  1. The Calligraphy Copperplate 101 course is now open for enrollment. This course is suitable for either absolute beginners or those who have started their journey but feel the need for a comprehensive framework to learn in the most effective and enjoyable way.

  2. Calligraphy Envelope Pro is for those seeking to make their practice more fun and meaningful. It teaches everything about crafting beautiful envelopes with calligraphy. For me, it was the best way to continuously level up my calligraphy skills.

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