You’ll start with your pencil, first you’ll give some thought as to how the words should appear on the page.

Pencil Thumbnails

  • write small thumbnail sketches of the quote in pencil to see how the words can be arranged together in different positions. This helps you establish a hierachy. Break up your words in logical pieces – which words should be in the focus of attention, which words can be grouped together or written smaller?
  • Think of the important words that should stand out – if someone else only had a brief glimpse on your artwork, what would you want them see first?
  • Even pieces with a lot of body text written in the same size (like poems or vows) probably have a visual hierarchy – think of the header or the author’s name that should be written in a slightly different size.

Different Layouts

  • Arranging all the words around a middle axis can be a bit tricky, but it looks very elegant. In order to have the same space around the edges on the left and the right side, carefully plan where your words will go, or print out your text in a font of your choice (text fonts are fine) at a big size so that you can get a feeling how the different text chunks will be grouped together.
  • If you only have two or three lines of text, an asymmetrical layout can look nice, too.
  • Even if your text calls for a block layout, it’s better to write everything out in pencil first to see how you can make that block as even as possible and where to add flourishes or swirls.
  • When you’re dealing with a certain shape – let’s say a round layout or the shape of an object you want to fit your calligraphy in, draw it in pencil and write your calligraphy inside to see how it fits best. Often this can take multiple attempts to get it right.

Tips and Tricks for Your Layouts

  • When positioning your text in the vertical middle, put everything just slightly above the absolute middle. Otherwise it’ll look like your text is sinking. This has to do with the way our brain is interpreting white space.
  • Remember that the white space on a page is just as important as the written words – maybe even more. You should balance everything out in a harmonious way.
  • You can fit more text into a space written in arcs or in a diagonal because the baseline will be longer. Also those parts of the text will receive the most attention.
  • Draw light guide lines if you want to write on a curved or undulated line. It’ll be much easier this way.

When you’re finished and absolutely certain of the placement of every text element, get your pen and ink and a light box and write your piece. Hopefully, at this point, you won’t discover any surprises when the piece is finished!

If you want to go more in-depth with this topic and get to know all the pro tricks, I have created an entire course on Creating Layouts. The course will teach you all the essential basics for creating a successfull (and beautiful!) layout, and demonstrate with many different examples how to create a finished piece!



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