Ways to Improve Shaky Lines in Calligraphy and Hand Lettering
Shaky lines are such a downer when it comes to lettering. A frequent question I hear from beginners is “how can I make my upstrokes smooth?”.
A quick little side note: don’t be scared to have a few flaws in your work; it makes it personal and unique. However of course we aim for straighter, smoother lines in our hand lettering! So here are 5 tips to help your upstrokes and downstrokes become nice and smooth.
Use a Beginner Pen to Improve Shaky Lines In Your Lettering
Always, always, ALWAYS start with a good pen if you’re learning! Using a difficult, advanced, soft nib pen can be really hard to master and create consistent strokes with, which can be super disheartening. Never underestimate the power of a good pen though!
Small brush pens are easier to control
Larger brush pens tend to have a softer nib, which means you can increase pressure and get a varying thickness of the thick lines. Small brush pens usually only have two gears: full pressure for a thick line, or no pressure for a thin line, there isn’t often anything in between.
So when you use a good beginner brush you don’t have to think much about keeping the width of your strokes consistent, AS WELL as keeping each stroke the same thickness. This means you can focus more on what you’re writing!
Hard nibbed brush pens are better for beginners
Even with small brush pens, sometimes you can get really REALLY soft nibs as well as quite hard ones. So some small brush pens also have more than two modes, because of their soft nibs.
The most suitable beginners pen I have found is the Tombow fudenosuke hard tip. They have a nice firm tip so you can focus on improving your shake rather than keeping the thickness consistent. The tip is firm enough that you get nice thin upstrokes a lot easier than with other pens, aaand the Tombow pens also come in colours! Just in case black just isn’t doing it for you.
Number 2: Go Slow To Remove the Shaky Lines
One of the most basic thing that can screw up your lines is speed. Like actually, it can destroy your work. When you move slowly, you can control your pen more – it’s as simple as that! You could probably find a lot of sped up, fancy calligraphy videos on Instagram but it’s only because of time limits on video uploads.
More often than not, calligraphers need to go super slow when creating their stunning artwork. Otherwise, it just ends up looking gross. So don’t be scared to go slowww and just for fun, have a look at some #realtimelettering to see just how slow other calligraphers go.
Remember, we are writing in strokes, not drawing.
Number 3: Warm Up and Relax To Improve Shaky Lines
Calligraphy is meant to be a relaxing, therapy-like hobby, not a stress inducing procedure. It may sound weird, but sometimes people focus soooo much on their writing that they end up holding their breath!
If you find your hands to be shaky and your lines wobbly, a simple tip is to breathe. Stop for a moment, take a deep breath in, and a slow breath out. See if you are holding any tension in your shoulders, neck, or arms. If you are, maybe adjust your posture, or see if you can get a better table height. Shake out your tension and start again.
Also, warm up! Just like athletes get their muscles warm before training, we need to do the same (just not to the same extent, thank God!). We warm up using drills! Repeat your strokes, or stretch your hands or write the same word over and over.
Your hand muscles will soon warm up and your wobbly lines will smooth out in no time.
Number 4: Experiment with Your Grip or Angle to Improve Shaky Lines
Sometimes it can be something we don’t realise that causes us to have shaky lines, such as our grip or the angle of our pen or paper.
Are you gripping your pen too tight? A great tip I heard once was to hold an eraser in your non dominant hand, which can help to loosen your grip on your pen because it splits up the focus of your brain.
Generally we need a 45º angle on our pens from our paper, but it actually depends on the pen you write with. Some brush pens are a little a-typical and you may need to adjust the angle.
The type of grip you have on the pen might change the angle you need to hold it too, or it might change the way you need to angle the paper to make it more comfortable for you.
Experiment with a few things and when you find some comfort, take not of how your paper is laid out, how you’re gripping your pen and what angle you are using so that it might come easier next time.
Number 5: Complete Worksheets and Drills to Improve Shaky Lines
The last tip might seem like the most obvious one but it is probably the tip that gets overlooked the most: practice.
Don’t beat yourself up so much if you have shaky hands when lettering, because it is definitely something that improves with time.
Practice makes progress (don’t strive for perfection), so get your hands on worksheets, practice your drills, do it again and incorporate all the previous tips. Your body will build up the muscle memory and smoother straighter lines will come easier to you with time.
Join the Cherry Pearl Creative Family and gain Access to the Resource Library:
While we are on the topic, make sure you head on over to the resource library and download the worksheets to practice with. If you are just visiting and don’t know about the library yet, well you are in LUCK!
It’s only new, but the resource library has worksheets galore (and it’s growing!) specially built for calligraphers and letterers. Get the password, download the worksheets and practise your drills, flourishing and more! If this is something that interests you, put your details in below and the password will go straight into your inbox.
Until next time, keep creating!