Mastering the art of Fake Calligraphy, also known as Faux Calligraphy, is an achievable skill for anyone - notedly, for lefties! It offers an easy way to enhance what you think of as typical cursive writing, and is a fun and creative skill to use in countless ways. Modern Calligraphy has my heart and soul, of course - I literally wrote the book on it. But I am all for having an unlimited number of tools in my bag, and faux calligraphy is one of my favorites even to this day. Especially as a beginner when you are still trying to master the muscle memory needed to create a perfectly finessed piece of lettering, by adding a few extra pen strokes to create width on downstrokes, you can effortlessly achieve the look of calligraphy in a fraction of the time (and often, with a fraction of the anxiety).
So, why would you want to embrace fake calligraphy? In the image below, you can see examples of the difference between Faux Calligraphy and "Real" Calligraphy. Although both resemble a cute, simple illustrated piece of modern calligraphy in the end, the faux version took only a few minutes and can be created with any writing tool, whereas the "real" version takes a bit more skill, and a flexible tipped brush pen or marker that allows for varying pressure with your different strokes. There are several reasons it is a fun and beneficial skill to learn. Firstly, not everyone possesses the necessary skills to perform real calligraphy, or they are still at the beginning of their journey but are eager to start creating final pieces now. Real calligraphy demands meticulousness and a specific level of control to seamlessly create thin and thick strokes, and can be particularly challenging for left handed people (whereas faux calligraphy eliminates a lot of the handed biases).
Secondly, there are instances when you want to incorporate calligraphy in a particular color or with a specific pen that isn't a brush pen or calligrapher's ink. Personally, I often encounter this scenario when using Sharpies, Gel Pens, and other similar writing tools. These pens come in various captivating colors but are fundamentally different from the pens used in calligraphy. Therefore, faux calligraphy is the best and only option to achieve calligraphy with those vibrant colors. And while more and more brands are expanding the color options for their brush pens to be used for brush lettering, this is a great way to use the tools you have as opposed to having to invest in a significant number of additional tools. Now, let's explore the pens that work best for faux calligraphy. Essentially, any pen that allows you to thicken the line easily can be used for faux calligraphy. Some super thin pens, like regular ballpoint pens, while they can be used to create faux calligraphy, they might not yield optimal results since coloring in the space becomes more challenging. However, numerous pens and markers can do the job, including a plain old pencil. Some of my personal favorites include Sakura Moonlight Gelly Roll Pens, Sakura White Gelly Roll Pens, Crayola Supertip markers, Sharpies, and Stabilo Point 68 pens.
So, how do you go about "faking" calligraphy? Let's break it down into simple steps:
STEP 1: WRITE OUT YOUR HAND LETTERED DESIGN
Begin by writing your words in your hand lettered script style of choice to serve as your base. This allows you to create a foundation for faux calligraphy. One thing I will note, while many suggest you start with cursive, keep in mind the difference between cursive and hand lettering (check out my book Modern Lettering for a refresher on distinguishing between cursive vs. hand lettering, but below is an illustration to show the difference, with the "beautiful" on the left written in traditional cursive, and the one on the right in hand lettering). If you want your final result to look like a faux version of a modern calligraphy, then you need to start with a monoline hand lettered script. Being comfortable with hand lettering, even in a more modern lettering style, makes it easier to execute faux calligraphy until you develop your own distinctive script.
STEP 2: IDENTIFY THE DOWNSTROKES
After writing your words in the chosen cursive or lettering style, examine each letter to identify the parts that are written with downstrokes (while your pen moves downward toward the bottom of the paper). These downward strokes are crucial. In the image above, I marked these downstrokes with small arrows to the left of the original lines. You don't have to draw arrows like I did; simply take your time with each letter and mentally identify all the downstrokes. STEP 3: DRAW GUIDES TO THICKEN DOWNSTROKES
On each downstroke, draw a guide (an additional line connecting it to
the original letter) about 2-3 pen strokes to the right of the original line, depending on the thickness of the pen you're using. If there isn't enough space on the right side to add the extra width, you can alternatively add it to the left or distribute a little width on both sides of the original line. As you practice more and more you will take these added widths into account as you do your foundational lettering, and you will naturally identify where it will look the best for you to add the width and make sure your piece still looks balanced.
When drawing the guides, ensure that the amount of width you add tapers off smoothly when transitioning from a thinner line (known as upstrokes). This will create the illusion of a natural addition, similar to real calligraphy. To make it more seamless, follow the upstroke again and commence the downstroke where the transition occurs from upstroke to downstroke.
STEP 4: FILL IN THE ADDED WIDTH
Now that your guides are complete, fill in the empty space between the original line and the additional width you added in Step 3. Ensure a seamless transition from the thinner lines (upstrokes) to the areas where you added extra width for the downstrokes. While filling in, it's advisable to trace over the thin strokes again without adding extra width, so the letter appears to have an even application of ink. This will give it a more natural appearance.
STEP 5: PRACTICE!
As with any new lettering style, practice makes progress. Don't get frustrated if you feel like your widths aren't all exactly the same, or perfectly smooth. It takes time to continue to develop that muscle memory to achieve that smooth and even appearance. And that doesn't happen overnight! So practice, practice, practice!
Grab a copy of either of my books The Ultimate Guide to Modern Calligraphy & Hand Lettering or Modern Lettering for more detailed instructions on developing the foundation of your hand lettering as well as printable practice sheets for traditional lettering and faux calligraphy.