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Do you feel embarrassed about your poor penmanship? Do people have a hard time understanding your handwriting? Do you want to take your legible writing to the next level?
Just like a musical instrument, a fountain pen has the capability to produce beautiful art. However, upgrading from a disposable bank pen to an expensive fountain does not guarantee overnight handwriting transformation. In this article, we show you how to use a fountain pen to dramatically improve your handwriting using the three "T's" to level up your penmanship.
Before I share 'how' to practice, let's ask the obvious question: why even bother to improve your handwriting? Aren't we all typing and texting by voice these days? Although nearly everyone is walking around with a phone in their pocket, handwriting isn't going anywhere. Pen and paper are still used in the classroom and the office. I could go into all the studies that show why handwriting is better for your brain than typing, but that's a topic for another video. Instead, I'll focus on the two main benefits of improving your handwriting.
First, there's clarity. How much more time and effort does it take to read sloppy handwriting versus neat? Have you ever failed to read your handwriting? Writing with more neatness and consistency will make it easier for you and others to understand.
Second, your handwriting reflects your personality. It's part of your overall appearance and the impression you make on others. Sure, you could be writing with a stunning pen, but what does your handwriting say about you?
If you are going to take one tip away from this article, it should be the following: S-L-O-W D-O-W-N!! Seriously, how do people expect to do anything well if they're always in a big rush?
Sit in a comfortable chair with your back straight, feet on the ground in a relaxed posture. Not slouching-relaxed, just loose. You want the writing area to be in front of you at an angle that is comfortable for your arm. Lefties will have to angle their paper at an angle that works for their writing style. You want to be in a position where you can move your writing hand, arm, and elbow freely.
Keep your posture upright to prevent hunching over or straining across the table. Your physical comfort level is reflected in the quality of your writing.
Grip the writing instrument lightly with your thumb and middle finger acting as support. The index (or forefinger) is doing most of the work in writing. Keep your wrist, arm, and elbow loose, moving along from word-to-word as you go across the page.
Consistency is key in beautiful handwriting. Our eye is attracted to shapes that are symmetrical, aligned, and spaced evenly. Sloppy handwriting is hard to understand because it deviates from how we expect letters to look.
To improve clarity, keep all your letters grounded on the baseline. Make sure that ascenders rise to the same height while the descenders drop to the same level. Capital letters should be the same size as other capital letters and lowercase should be the same size as other lowercase letters. The spacing between letters is just as important to keep uniform. The exact height and spacing are dependent on your nib size and personal writing style.
The best way to develop your personal style is first by imitation. Handwriting templates and practice sheets are a great place to start. You can find printable templates online, take out a calligraphy book at the library or buy a workbook like one from Brause.
For more inspiration, look at Instagram for calligraphers, bullet journalers, planner addicts and studygrammers. The advantage to watching video is seeing the movement of the writer as they put pen to paper. Being part of this community exposes you to new techniques, tools, and styles.
Here are a few noteworthy fountain pen instagram accounts to follow, in no particular order:
On the route to amazing handwriting, a sound technique will get you half-way there. The right tools can make your journey easier and more enjoyable. The fountain pen is a choice writing instrument for analog enthusiasts because it lays down a fluid line with a light touch. Unlike the disposable, one-size-fits-all mentality of the ballpoint pen, a fountain pen allows for individual expression, conforming to your unique handwriting style.
The nib is the heart of the fountain pen. Most fountain pens offer a variety of nib size options, ranging from extra-fine to broad, stub, flex, and other exotic options. The point is, there's a size for every handwriting style. Want to find out which nib size is best suited for your handwriting? Check out our helpful video guide to finding the right nib size.
There are two styles of nibs that help accentuate your handwriting with line variation. The italic nib, instead of having a round ball-shaped tip, has a rectangular-shaped tip. This type of nib provides a thicker downstroke and a thinner horizontal line. The automatic line variation instantly adds flair to your everyday writing.
Like an italic nib, a flex nib also produces line variation. Gentle pressure applied to the tines yield a thicker swell of ink. This type of nib is tricky to get accustomed to, especially if you're new to fountain pens. Aside from the steeper learning curve, flex nibs are a lot of fun and result in gorgeous handwriting with a classic Copperplate or Spencerian style.
Ink is the blood of the pen and an important component to upgrading your handwriting. With so many varieties of fountain pen ink, there's a color and type of ink for everyone. Lefties should be concerned about fast-drying ink to prevent accidental smudging. Certain inks have visually impressive properties like shading, sheen, and shimmer. Get a higher level of enjoyment from your handwriting practice by using your favorite color ink.
Paper is the oft-overlooked canvas in the art of writing. Using a fountain pen on thin, recycled paper is a recipe for feathering and bleed-through, making even the best handwriting look like unintelligible inkblots. When using a fountain pen, invest in suitable paper from Rhodia and Clairefontaine for the best results.
And #3, if you haven't guessed it already, is one of the most important aspects of improving any skill. It's also the one that people are most eager to shortcut.
The key with handwriting, and any other manual skill, is developing hand-eye coordination and muscle memory. You need to consistently practice to improve. To promote the habit of handwriting practice, it needs to be a positive, enjoyable experience.
If you still have nightmares of being rapped on the knuckles in grade school, I assure you these practice methods will be infinitely more pleasant.
Practice sheets are a great way to get started. I mean, what's easier than tracing, right? Yet, these sheets can be rather dry and repetitive. To make it interesting, try sliding one of these sheets from Crooked Calligraphy. Fair warning - the language can be colorful and not safe for work.
Most writers are also avid readers. Go 2-for-1 by copying pages from your favorite books. Transcribe texts from classic literature or the New York Times bestseller list. This method of practice is also called copywork and is helpful in improving the structure and style of your writing.
For a bite-sized handwriting activity, you could handwrite prolific quotes. Search for quotes from your favorite authors, historical figures, and famous personalities to share nuggets of wit and wisdom with the world. Many pen enthusiasts enjoy sharing their handwriting in this manner by posting a picture of the quote on social media. While you might feel like your handwriting is not yet worthy of such attention, I think you'll be surprised by how welcoming the greater pen community online can be.
Next time you're on a call, be sure to have a pen and paper nearby. When you're put on hold and your brain begins to zone out, practice your swoops, loops, and doodles with your pen. If you're part of a dull meeting, you can pretend to be taking notes while you're practicing your letterforms.
Yet, if it's a useful meeting, you could be taking notes by hand instead of typing them or downloading the presentation slides. Notetaking might require your pen to move quickly to keep pace, so this method of practice is less about artful style than it is about speed and readability.
The bulk of my handwriting comes from creating the first drafts of blog posts, video scripts, and e-mail newsletters. Doing a draft by hand allows me to get the thoughts out of my head quicker and more fluidly. The lack of a delete or backspace key also prevents the internal editor from blocking the flow of ideas.
We all could think of a few friends and relatives who just don't "do" Facebook or other social media apps. Writing a letter is a great way to thoughtfully practice your handwriting while connecting with people you care about. Instead of a like or thumb's up, sending a handwritten letter is more personal, unexpected, and appreciated. If you work at an office, you can send thank you notes to customers and coworkers.
If you're the type that struggles with the blank page and the blinking cursor, try answering creative writing prompts to get your pen moving. There are plenty of places to find prompts online or in books that encourage you to write daily.
Switching up with a different pen fountain pen nib and ink can be a fun way to practice writing in cursive or other calligraphy styles. If you usually write with a fine nib, try a stub or get adventurous with a Pilot Parallel calligraphy pen. With a flat-edged nib that goes up to 6mm in width, the pen forces you to take a different approach to writing.
Switching to a different handwriting style can add visual interest and emphasis to your writing. Apply these different styles to your daily writing practice.
Starting off with basic print-style lettering, this clean style is the easiest to read. Keep your spacing and letter height consistent using the unique line grid of the French-ruled paper.
A stub nib can add instant flair to this basic style of lettering by virtue of its tip shape. If held in a position perpendicular to the baseline of the page, the nib will produce thick vertical strokes and thin horizontal strokes. If the nib is angled parallel to the baseline, then it will produce the reverse effect.
Typewriter-style lettering is almost like a standard print with serifs. It adds a bit of classy sophistication to an otherwise plain handwriting style.
Not only does cursive tend to make handwriting look more ornate and artful, it also helps improve writing speed. Joined-up letters eliminate lifting the pen from the page between letters. However, you still have to slow down to ensure proper spacing and looping.
Writing cursive with a stub will accentuate the swoops, loops, and curves with line variation, adding character to your cursive.
For a more dramatic and expressive style, use a flexible nib to provide on-demand line variation when applying pressure to the downstroke of each letter.
If you'd like to add some decoration to your writing style, try some shaded/faux calligraphy. It's a lot simpler than it sounds. Simply take one of the three previous writing styles and add faux accents by thickening the downstroke.
Go bold with this blocky style lettering. Creating headings in your journal or turn heads with writing for display, the "outline" style draws attention. Add a drop shadow to create a 3-dimensional feel on the page.
So now that you have the knowledge and a list of fun ways to practice handwriting, I encourage you to turn off the screen, get your pen and paper, and enjoy yourself!