Different hand positions for left-handers

The most important thing to consider is the way you hold your hand. There are different possibilities to hold a pen if you’re a left-hander, you might find you’re either an under-writer, an over-writer, or a side-writer.

Under-writers write under the baseline and pull the pen towards themselves.

Over-writers curve their hand around the pen and push the nibs across the page.

Side-writers don’t curve their hand, and push the nib across the page.

You might find that your unique writing technique falls somewhere between these examples, as there are as many writing styles as there are left-handed individuals. But one of these will probably come close.

More good example on the different hand positions can be found here: Left-handed writers.

Left-hander’s problems when it comes to calligraphy

You might have experienced the issue that as a left-hander with some hand positions you likely drag your hand through the wet ink. Another factor is for an over-writer trying to write with a pointed pen, your nib points into the wrong direction and you can’t make those thick strokes easily because you seem to push it downward instead of pulling it.

However, for pointed pen calligraphy you need to pull the pen quite a lot, since you can’t achieve thick strokes by pushing.

I will explain a few techniques and strategies for the different left-hander types below.

Remember that you should always start where you feel the most comfortable, but learning calligraphy also means that things will be new and weird for quite some time – this is true for everyone, not just left-handers, so don’t feel bad.

Under-writers: Use a straight holder

The good news for under-writers is that you don’t have to adapt your usual hand position. Since you write with your wrist positioned under the baseline, this is the ideal position for writing with the pointed pen. You can simply use a straight holder, and will have a very natural slanted position for your hand that will make it easy to write downstrokes, and you can avoid ink smearing because your hand doesn’t touch your writing. You simply pull the pen towards you.

Actually, achieving a natural slant for Copperplate style calligraphy is easier for under-writing left-handers than it is for right-handers. This is because of the anatomy of the nib. Your hand and arm movements serve as a natural extension of the nib and you will be able to make the tines split in a very parallel fashion, which is good for consistency.

Usually, under-writers need to tilt their paper a little bit to achieve the desired slant for their writing. This will also help with your arm movement by preventing your elbow running into your torso.

Over-writers and side-writers: Shifting your hand

Since you write with your hand above the baseline, you will experience some of the problems outlined above when you try to write with the pointed pen. Brush calligraphy will usually work fine for over-writers (since the felt tip will also sort of work when pushed), but for the pointed pen you will need to find an alternative.

The solution for over-writers and side-writers lies in shifting your hand and grip the pen holder like an under-writer. Since you are learning new movements anyway, this is a good time to relearn the way you are holding your pen. You can learn more about the details of this grip above.

I’ve also had some students tell me that they shift their paper to quite an extreme angle and actually write their letters 90° slanted towards their body. You might have to try out what works best for you.

More general tips

Another good practice tip (that’s also applicable to right-handers!) is to use a guard sheet below your hand to avoid smearing the paper below your wrist.

You can also try to place a smooth playing card underneath your hand so that it will glide more easily across the page.

All in all, don’t be afraid your hand position and movements might look different from what others do – embrace it and try to go with the flow.

Other left-handed calligraphy and lettering artists

There are many left-handers out there who are awesome letterers. Here’s a small selection:

Nicole Black

Younghae Chung

Matt Vergotis

Hope that helps all you left-handed calligraphy enthusiasts!

Now it’s your turn to practice. I’d love to know, are you a lefthanders, and if so, an over-writer or an under-writer? What grip do you find comfortable when writing with the pointed pen or with the brush pen? Do you have more questions about pen grip for left-handers?


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If you have any questions or comments on this topic, please feel free to contribute! Just leave a comment below.