by Molly Jacques

Calligraphy. It’s an ancient art that has taken a contemporary twist over the past decade. If you’re engaged in any form of social media (hello, #inspirationalquote!), you have most likely seen glimpses of new school calligraphers push the envelope with a new spin on a historical technique (just search hashtags like #moderncalligraphy #calligraphy and #contemporarycalligraphy and you’ll see what I mean!).

With so many new calligraphic techniques in practice, who’s to say the tools can’t evolve as well? With Bamboo’s awesome technology, you can get creating on the iPad.

In this post, I’ll show you how to get started creating calligraphy style handwriting on the iPad using Bamboo Paper and the Bamboo Stylus fineline or Bamboo Fineline 2. Because the handwriting is not created with a single, uninterrupted stroke to create thick and thin lines, we’re going to call it “faux” calligraphy. We’ll start with learning the basic techniques and finish with a beautiful calligraphic phrase.

1) A Brief History

We’re going to be using pointed pen calligraphy as inspiration. Within the realm of pointed pen calligraphy, there are a few things to be mindful of before you start: letterform structure, spacing between and within the basic shapes, angle, and weight of the line (also called swells and hairlines).

In traditional pointed pen calligraphy, the weight of your line is created by putting pressure on your pen on the downstrokes (letting more ink flow from your pen) to create a swell, and relieving pressure on the upstrokes to create a hairline (restricting ink flow from your pen). This is what gives calligraphy its beautiful thick and thin strokes.

2) Brushes / Color

Now that you have a little bit of background knowledge to build from, let’s get started! First, you’ll need to pick out your main brush for the faux calligraphy. In Bamboo Paper, you can find your brushes on the left toolbar, right below the tear drop (color) tool. Because this is all drawn in, you can really use any brush that you want but I recommend one of the thinner, opaque brushes without texture. Bamboo Paper‘s pencil brush is also really fun, but I recommend starting out with a smooth brush to get the hang of the application. For this project, we’ll start with solid black digital ink and then add on a few fun colors to the final illustration.

3) Basic Shapes

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Now that you have your brush set, let’s focus on some warm up exercises with basic shapes. Most of your lowercase letters will consist of a variety of circular and linear shapes, so start with a row of circles, a row of “U’s”, a row of “N’s,” followed by a row of lines.

I like to write my letters in Italics to mimic copperplate script (a pointed pen calligraphy style) so I practice my basic shapes at an angle.

During this step, try to focus on improving your shape consistency (make all of your “O’s” look the same), spacing consistency (shoot for equal spacing within shapes and between shapes), and then angle consistency (all of the shapes fall on a single axis). Mastering basic shapes will help you once you jump into full letterforms. This is a practice often used in training to create traditional calligraphy.

3) Adding Weight

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The next step to learning the basic calligraphy technique is adding weight to basic shapes. The key concept here is to add weight on the “downstrokes” of your basic shapes. Take a peek at the image below to show the motion of the shapes. See how I started toward the top of the “O” with a hairline and then moved downward to mimic a swell? This is where your weight should be drawn in.

Use your Fineline to draw in extra strokes. Try and get a consistent swell weight throughout all of your forms to create a nice rhythm and get used to the technique. This will make things easier for you once we jump into words.

4) Concept Sketching

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Woohoo! Got your basic strokes and weights down? It’s time to work on the fun stuff — combining words to create a calligraphic phrase. We’re going to start by concept sketching.

In this step, open a new sheet within Bamboo Paper and rough in a few ideas for word layouts. Because we’re sticking to faux calligraphy, work in script. Play with word size, illustrative elements, and placement.

No need to add weight at this point, you’re just getting the feel for what your final drawing might look like. Throughout this process, I use a single black brush.

5) Layout Your Final

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Pick one of your rough concepts and move on to a new page in your sketchbook. Use the entirety of your page on your iPad screen to layout your desired phrase. At this point, we’re just doing a monoline drawing, similar to how we originally laid out basic shapes. Always keep your basic shapes practice in mind when you move into final artwork.

In this stage, make sure that your drawing is where you want it to be before moving on. If you need to go in and erase areas or move graphic elements around, do so. Some fun details to consider: Try playing up your baseline (the your words sit on top of). Maybe it bounces a bit? Perhaps you keep it straight? Maybe it’s on an angle? These considerations will give your design more personality.

Likewise, pay attention to how your letters connect. See how the connecting strokes between my letters arch upwards before running into the next letter? This detail adds energy and whimsy to the piece.

6) Adding Weight to Your Final

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If you like the monoline drawing you’ve laid out, go back into your drawing with the same technique we used when adding on weight to the basic shapes. Find the “downstroke” and add weight on those areas to create swells. Try and get a consistent weight on the downstroke for all of your letterforms.

7) Adding Depth

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Now that our faux calligraphy is finalized, let’s add some depth to the illustration. For mine, I use a variety of brushes to get some texture and depth.

Start by adding in a background color. For my piece, I used the bold semi-transparent paintbrush in pink and simply colored over my calligraphy to add a background. If you want more texture with that specific color, try brushing over it a few times to see how it works for you.

Next, I added a few illustrative details using the smaller solid brush (the same brush I used for the calligraphy but a thinner weight). I drew these in white so they stood out against the background but wouldn’t snag as much attention as the calligraphy does. The white details sort of fall back into the drawing. They create a secondary attention within the piece.

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Lastly, I added in one more color using the semitransparent bold brush in a different color. I love playing around with the different colors to add depth at this point in the illustration. It’s a quick and easy way to make the artwork more engaging.

8) Finish!

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Love the way your faux calligraphy turned out? Great! Finish the piece by saving it to your iPad or one of the supported galleries, and then go share your illustration with friends and family. The thing I love most about drawing directly from the iPad using Bamboo Paper and the Bamboo Stylus fineline is that it makes it super easy to share work on social media.


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