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  • Hannah Tao, AIT

The easiest way ANYONE can do calligraphy: Pen/Sharpie Edition

Yes. In a few minutes, you could be making simple word art creations just like this. Especially during quarantine, learning new hobbies can be the best way to spend your free time, give your mind something new to think about, and help you relax. Even more importantly, word art skills can be put into practical use almost anywhere!

While everyone who has the appropriate calligraphy supplies can learn modern calligraphy, anyone with everyday office utensils can learn faux calligraphy, or "fake calligraphy," a type of calligraphy created without the use of real calligraphy pens. Faux calligraphy makes it quicker and more accessible to start making beautiful word art without having to buy and familiarize yourself with complicated, and often expensive, calligraphy supplies!

In this guide, you will learn two common ways to make faux calligraphy with any fine-pointed utensil, such as a pen or Sharpie marker. These methods utilize similar techniques, so learning the first will put you on track to learning the second!

This article is the first out of two editions of my calligraphy guides. The next and final one, calligraphy with Crayola markers, will be in the next edition of the Campus Chronicle!

Method 1: Modified Cursive

This method is the simplest and barely requires learning any new techniques! All you need to know is how to write basic cursive. If you don’t know how to write cursive, you can learn fairly easily online― this website is one of many helpful resources available on the internet.

To begin, simply write a word or phrase in cursive, making sure the letters aren’t too cramped, as shown below. I recommend writing out the letters in pencil first and, then, tracing them over with your final utensil. This helps ensure that the letters are even in terms of size and spacing. If your writing will span many lines, you may want to draw guidelines in pencil, too (see Method 2).

Afterwards, identify the downstrokes: the parts of the letters where your pen was moving down:

Reinforce the downstrokes by outlining those parts to thicken to the degree of your choosing. This is the part that helps the letters mimic calligraphy! This part also allows you to cover up any shaky or inconsistent parts from before, if there were any. Make sure to keep the thickness relatively consistent:

Finally, finish filling in the letters, and you are done!

Method 2: Using basic calligraphy strokes

This method, although requiring some minimal effort to learn, will look a lot cleaner, polished, and consistent than the previous. However, the usage of the basic calligraphy strokes may be unfamiliar to most people.

The seven basic calligraphy strokes, written with Sharpie, look like this (the last one is a connector between letters):

Every letter can be made with these basic strokes. For example, a lowercase h is built from 3 of the strokes, shown below:

A tip for using these basic strokes is to write slowly, and pick up your pen during each transition from one stroke to the next. This will help make sure the letters are steady and even, and it is a factor that differentiates calligraphy from cursive, where words are one fast, continuous stroke. These stroke changes are marked with a change in color in the picture below. Note that a few letters, such as f and k, may need some extra lines or curves aside from the basic strokes:

Connecting the strokes into letters, then into words, is what calligraphy is all about! You may need to first practice this before continuing. If you would like to see the basic strokes in action in a video, I recommend this one:

To begin the faux calligraphy, write the desired word or phrase, using the basic calligraphy strokes. Again, if you want to, you can first write it out in pencil, then trace with your final utensil. If the words span many lines, all you may need are some horizontal guidelines, like shown below:

Then, proceed in the same way as before, thickening the downstrokes and adjusting mistakes if applicable. The finished product should look something like this:


Q: Should I thicken the letters from the inside or from the outside? (This is pictured below.)

A: This is one of the most common questions concerning faux calligraphy! The answer is that both work! It can vary depending on how you wrote the letter to begin with. Choose the way that will make the word look best as a whole, and the least cramped. Sometimes, you can also do a little thickening on both the inside and outside, like so:

Q: Where can I use faux calligraphy?

A: Faux calligraphy can be used literally anywhere, from school projects, to holiday cards, to decorations, and more! Once you get used to it, you will find it very easy to encounter new occasions where you can put your skills to use.

Q: What resources can I use if I’d like to learn more about faux and real calligraphy?

A: Here are some resources that I personally found helpful:

And that is all there is to learning how to make faux calligraphy! Creating word art like this is very versatile in that it can look amazing on any surface (chalkboard, mirror, windows, etc.), using virtually any utensil. Don’t worry if your work is not perfect the first time; all this needs is some practice, and improvement will be guaranteed. If you’re interested in learning calligraphy with other common supplies, make sure to tune in to the next edition of the Campus Chronicle for a guide on making calligraphy with Crayola markers! Happy lettering!

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