Long texts – Suited for Poems or Wedding Vows

At some point in your calligraphic practice you will write a longer text, and by that I don’t mean filling endless practice sheets. It can be a poem, a song text, a dedication or even your wedding vows – the writing of long texts with a calligraohy nib should be prepared thoroughly and needs a lot of concentration. But don’t be afraid of the moment when you’ve arrived at the last line and mess up and have to start all over – this all belongs to the calligraphic experience. Don’t give up and just start over again immediately.

Longer texts usually have a cleaner look to them, usually the writing is relatively small (to fit on the page) and doesn’t have as many flourishes or details. There are of course impressive counteraxamples.
Single letterforms are still important, but they sort of disappear in the mass of text, and small inconsistencies can be hidden this way.
Before you attempt such a big project you should be able to write several consecutive lines of text consistently and without error. Please make the time to practice (always make time for practice, it’s important!).



Preparation should be thought through. If you notice on your last line of inking that you should have set the whole text differently, that’s very irksome and time-consuming, too.
Here’s a couple of things you should think before you pick up your pen:

  • the layout of the paper, harmonious borders
  • the layout of the text on the paper
  • line breaks
  • line spacing – the writing shouldn’t appear squeezed
  • text height – do you want to change text height to emphasize words
  • writing style, colors
  • if included, graphic elements – where should they go

After thinking about these factors, you should absolutely write several drafts with a pencil on a similar piece of paper, until you’re content with the result. If that’s not an option, you should at least print the text in a font that comes close to your writing style in its dimensions (tracking is the most important factor), so that you have a reference. I advise the pencil method. It’s virtually impossible to tell in advance where a handwritten text will end and where line breaks will be, and for a harmonious end result you should take your time with the preparation.
You can use your draft as a loose reference or out it under the light table, that’s up to you. I like to use my light table with the pencil-written draft, so that I have fewer error sources and can concentrate on the calligraphy itself when I’m inking. I usually fix the draft with a piece of tape so that it can’t move around.





The actual calligraphy needs a lot of concentration, even if it’s only the execution of your previous preparation. you still have to make sure you don’t mess up.
You should write slowly, and pay attention to all the things you have to keep in mind anyway: the nib should be clean so it doesn’t splatter, and you should from time to time take a step back and look at what you’re doing. Are you still on the defined line, are you writing within your defined space, is your writing getting smaller or bigger or do you change the angle?

Like with every calligraphic endeavor the writing of longer texts depends on practice, but good planning and preparation is worth the time, and you’ll get a great piece of writing in the end.


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