Steps to Create a Calligraphy with a Color Gradient

Layout and your piece in one color

To have a good draft you can use underneath your multicolored calligraphy, simply write out your piece in the desired layout and style. It doesn’t have to be perfect and obviously smears and splatters don’t matter as much because you’ll just use this version as a lightbox reference, but you should strive for a halfway decent looking rendering of your text.

Decide on Your Colors

How many colors do you want to use? Remember, more colors are more difficult to juggle and the writing can start to look patchy if you use more than, say, four inks. If you can pull such a multicolor piece off, cool, more power to you (and share it with the community, I’d love to see your work!). A good number is two or three colors. I like to pick two colors and then create a third color by mixing them. This is what I’ve done for my piece, too. I just added a little black blue to my normal blue ink and then created a mix between this and my green ink, which resulted in a lovely green-blue color that I adore so much.

Test the colors on paper and in writing before you ink the final piece to see if you like the gradient.



Draw lines for the different zones

Next thing is you’ll decide when to change your color. For a consistent looking effect you’ll assign different zones for different colors and you then change the ink color each time you change the color zone.

One way to remember where you’re supposed to change your ink is to draw a big fat line on your draft so you’ll immediately see it when you’re writing. You can also draw a thin pencil line on your calligraphy paper, but I’ve noticed I tend to overlook those and keep writing with my first ink.

One technique you can use if you don’t want the transition to look so harsh is to apply the new color behind the old one on your nib (I’ve described the technique in my watercolor tutorial). You’ll have to plan this well, though, because the old ink will write on for a little while, and for this effect to look nice it’s important that the changes look consistent.

It’s up to you to decide if the different color zones should be the same size or different. Both can look great.



Organize your colors for easy access

An important step is to have your inks prepared and accessible in a way where you don’t get a headache by thinking about which one comes next. I have organized my three colors in a row (using a watercolor palette which works well with my tiny Brause nib, I can even dip it in without using a brush to apply the color) so that I know immediately which comes next. Little tricks like this can make your life a lot easier!

Protect your paper

One thing I like to do when I work with ink is to put a few guard sheets in place so that I’m less likely to splatter or smear ink all over the expensive watercolor paper or bristol board.

Begin writing while changing colors

Now it’s time to start writing the calligraphy. Remember to change your ink color roughly where that line is, and again at the next line. You’ll change back to your first color at every new line.





You’re done.

I hope everything went well, below is my result. Don’t feel intimidated by such a big piece, in the beginning you’ll probably want to start out with something a little smaller and then work your way up. Have fun!


For more detail shots from this piece, have a look here.

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