If you want to get better at calligraphy, consistency is important! Not only does regular practice make a big difference, but also the strokes and letters themselves should have some level of consistency to look neat.
Paying attention to the little details of letters and keeping them consistent is the secret to beautiful writing.
In this post I’m going to share some modern brush calligraphy tips that will quickly improve the consistency of your lettering. Making these things a habit over time really can transform your calligraphy!
Have you been doing brush calligraphy for a while, but can’t figure out why your work doesn’t look as amazing as you hope?
Maybe you’ve mastered the basics and are now doing more words and longer compositions, but you’re frustrated because they don’t look right and you don’t know what’s wrong.
I understand the frustration, because I had the same problems not too many years ago! Somehow the beautiful lettering I envisioned in my head didn’t take shape on paper, and I would feel a little disappointed in the result.
Thankfully there are some simple fixes, but first it’s important to understand the problem: inconsistent calligraphy.
Consistent vs. inconsistent calligraphy
Consistency makes a huge difference in your calligraphy!
Consistent calligraphy looks neat and cohesive. It’s easy to read and pleasing to look at because it’s balanced.
Inconsistent calligraphy is unbalanced and can look messy and disjointed.
It may look like the letters are all over the place. It isn’t as pleasing to look at as consistent letters, and it can decrease the legibility of your writing.
What causes inconsistent calligraphy?
I think the main reason for inconsistent calligraphy is just neglecting to pay attention to letters and how they affect a whole piece.
When you were new to calligraphy, you probably used guidelines each time. As you grew more confident, you may have stopped using guidelines and didn’t pay as much attention to every stroke.
That’s only natural as you get used to it, but it’s still important to check for any inconsistencies that can appear.
You don’t have to use guidelines every time, but you should practice to build muscle memory so you can maintain consistency without guide paper.
Another reason for inconsistent calligraphy is going too fast. Try to slow down and focus on each letter so you can make strokes with a little more intention.
Here are three tips for consistent calligraphy (plus a bonus tip at the end). Check for these things when practicing to ensure that you’re consistent in your work!
First things first: make sure you maintain even spacing.
Spacing is very important for legibility, since some letters can look like other letters when they’re crowded close together.
Try to keep your entry and exit strokes the same width so the spacing between letters is consistent. Once you get into that habit, you won’t even have to think about it!
The space between lines and words is just as important, so just check the spacing all around to make sure it’s consistent and that your writing is easily readable.
Try to keep each downstroke at a consistent angle, whether you’re writing slanted or upright.
It’s easy for your letters to start leaning to one side without you even noticing!
It can be tempting to change up the letter angles for a “playful” style, but this will almost always make your calligraphy look messy.
Since it’s often easy to miss inconsistent angles, how do you check for them?
One way is to use guideline paper that has angle lines on it. This is especially handy if you’re writing at a slant.
Another easy way to check for inconsistent angles is to draw a line along each of your downstrokes. Lettering artist Amanda Arneill taught me this handy trick.
Take a pencil and draw an extended line through each downstroke (use a ruler if you want to be exact).
Each line should be about the same angle. If they cross over each other at any point, you know those letter angles are inconsistent.
A little bit of angle variation is fine here and there, but it shouldn’t be too much!
Note: Letters like “s” and “x” are exceptions, since the downstrokes for those letters are meant to be angled differently.
This is as simple as it sounds! Make sure the general sizing of your letters is consistent.
The shapes that build up your letters should be roughly the same size. Try to keep ascenders and descenders all roughly the same length and the loops and ovals generally the same size.
Of course, with traditional calligraphy there are strict rules to follow, but with modern calligraphy, you have more freedom and flexibility.
Not every loop and circle has to be identical to the other. It’s totally fine to have a bit of size variation, especially if it’s part of your style!
Just make sure there aren’t letters that stand out because they’re way too big or small compared to the others.
Bonus Tip: Upstroke/Downstroke Size
This bonus tip is related to the previous one, because consistent downstroke and upstroke width plays a big part in consistent sizing.
Check to see if your downstrokes are all the same general width, and then check to see if each upstroke is the same width as the other upstrokes.
As always with calligraphy, there should be a noticeable size difference between upstrokes and downstrokes.
If you apply heavy pressure to your pen on some strokes and not much pressure on others, you’ll end up with inconsistent line widths, so that’s something you’ll want to watch for.
Of course, you can always touch up lines and add a little weight to them if you need to!
With upstrokes, inconsistent widths are often the result of a brush pen that gets softer as you write, making it difficult to get a crisp, thin line.
To prevent inconsistent upstroke or downstroke widths, make sure you get to know the pen you’re using to do calligraphy.
When you buy a new pen, get familiar with it so you know how thick the downstrokes can be and how thin the upstrokes can be.
There’s no need to barely touch the paper to get the thinnest line possible, or to press the pen to its maximum width if it’s not easy to do while writing.
Just figure out how you can comfortably achieve consistent widths for the strokes.
If a brush pen gets mushy as you write and makes it hard to get thin upstrokes, try rotating the pen occasionally as you write. The pen tip will be firmer after you turn it, making it easier to get crisp lines.
Even if these things don’t seem to magically transform your calligraphy, look at your writing as a whole and you will see a difference.
Little things like spacing and angles don’t seem that important when you’re working on a word or two, but when it comes to bigger lettering compositions, these things have a big effect.
Making sure letter spacing, angles, and sizes are consistent is what can take your lettering from “meh” to “yay!”
Keep these tips in mind the next time you’re doing brush calligraphy and remember, building muscle memory from regular practice will make it easier to write consistently.
If you found these calligraphy tips helpful, comment below!