SIX CALLIGRAPHY PROBLEMS YOU DIDN'T SEE COMING
Hi there! Hand-lettered prints and envelopes are by far my favorite service that I offer! More specifically, pointed pen and ink add such an intentional element to any event or wedding. If you are anything like me, you scroll instagram and other social media platforms and you see how others make it look effortless. Maybe you even feel that way about me. But I am here to tell you that it is not super easy. Imagine calligraphing the most beautiful envelope and then boom. The tines on the nib catches on the paper and flicks ink all over the page. Whelp, time to start over on that one.
Don't let the problems you might be experiencing intimidate you because chances are YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Today I am troubleshooting some of the most basic problems you might be having with pointed pen calligraphy. If I don't cover them all, be sure to add your issues in the comments for others to learn from too!
1) INK IS BLEEDING
You get the layout perfectly measured out and then...bleeding ink ruined it all, making you want to toss the project all together. I used to get so frustrated when my ink bled all over the place on thin papers or more textured ones. Have you tried gum arabic? It might become your best friend! In my opinion, it's a staple product of you work with fine papers. Plus the container will last you forever!
But why is this happening and how can I fix it?
There are two reasons that ink bleeds.
1) The ink is too thin/runny
2) the nib with ink is catching on the fibers of the paper
I'll address reason #1 first. Gum arabic binds with ink and prevents the ink from absorbing into the paper. The easiest solution to this problem is combining a small amount of gum arabic with your ink. I recommend starting off with just a small amount (1 part gum arabic to 4 parts water, or ¼ of the amount of ink) ink a separate ink jar. Stir them together and then test it out on a scratch piece of paper or an already messed up envelope. It might take a few tries to get it just right. But remember, a super small amount at a time!
3) MATTE SEALANT
Problem #2 with ink is that the nib catches on the fibers that make up the paper you are writing on, causing ink to bleed or even splatter. This can be a real pain. If you can't solve it by making the ink thicker with gum arabic, then I recommend thinking about what you could change about your paper instead.
I recently had an envelope order that caused me all sorts of bleeding problems (see photo). The ink would collect in pools where the paper was uneven and made it look like “speckled” calligraphy... a calligrapher's worst nightmare.
But I did some reading and found out that you can actually use a matte sealant to create a thin protective layer between the fibers of the envelope/paper and the ink. This prevents the ink from absorbing into the paper. Go outside or in a garage and spray on a sample envelope or on a spare piece of paper to test it out before spraying your final product/envelopes. It is relatively un-noticable in appearance, but might affect the smooth feeling of the paper ever so slightly. Again… game changer when your client provides the envelopes and you don't have any other options.
4) INK IS THICK AND GOOPY
Don't stress! This might mean that your ink is old and has had too much exposure to air and be time to throw it out. But before you do that, consider that the ink might just be naturally thick! One of the most popular white inks, Dr. Ph Martin’s Bleedproof White comes in a thick acrylic-type state. Add a bit of the ink into a separate container or painters palate, add a few drops of water and you are good to go! I actually prefer using my water brush with this ink too, which creates the perfect opacity! Did you add too much water? That’s okay! Just like any other paints, if you leave the lid off for a few hours, the excess moisture will absorb. Just make sure you don’t forget about it or leave it somewhere it could easily spill!
5) THINK AHEAD
I wish someone would have given me this tip when I first started lettering. Spacing is hard. When it comes to forming letters, many people have difficulty with spacing and design of words or phrases. I try to think about the letters that I will be writing next. For example, in the word 'hello,' the consecutive l's require extra spacing to fit the double loops. Or in the word 'boss,' the connection between the 'o' and 's' can be extra tricky. By thinking ahead, I can be sure to extend the tails/exit strokes of each letter to prepare for the next letter, creating enough space for whatever comes next.
6) LAYOUT TRICK
Layouts, layouts, layouts… Is this centered? Are those rows touching? Does this look awkward? All questions that I constantly ask myself while composing a layout. If you have an iPad and the Procreate app, you know how big of a blessing it is to be able to select text and move it where it fits best.
When it comes to pen and paper, things can get a little more complicated. Pencils are great because they can easily erase, but sometimes pieces are too complicated/long or the pencil leaves shadowing no matter how hard you try to erase. I have learned that working with a Light Pad or Light Box is my saving grace for hand-lettered pieces. Using a scratch piece of paper, draw center lines, use a ruler, measure out rows. Get your piece just right. I prefer to tape the layout page to my Lightbox and then place the final product page on top. Now, using your calligraphy pen, nib, marker, etc you can trace your work without the hassle of erasing over it.
I hope these 6 tips will help solve your calligraphy problems! Be sure to ask other questions below and I'll try my best to answer them! Have a great week!