Leftie Lettering: 3 Tips for Successfully Learning Calligraphy

Updated: Dec 2, 2019

I have always been incredibly left-hand dominant. At various points in my childhood, adults tried to get me to try different activities with my right hand. First, my dad thought I might be able to learn guitar right-handed...but that didn't work. Next, my very first golf coach tried to get me to learn to swing right-handed....I obliged, and when I took a divot the size of grapefruit out of the tee box, he quickly decided I should go back to my leftie clubs!

Unfortunately, my left-handed problems didn't end with sports. I have always had pretty neat handwriting, but my cursive was atrocious as a child. I hated that essays were required to be written in pen (again, I'm old and this was before the days of typing your homework!). I loathed writing with pens, because the ink would always skip, and I would have to re-trace my letters to fill in the gaps (anyone else feel me on this one??).

My point is, I am a true blue left-handed calligrapher. And I'm here to encourage my fellow lefties that calligraphy isn't any harder for us to learn than it is for our right-handed friends! We just have to approach it a bit differently.

With that in mind, here are my top 3 tips for lefties who are trying to learn calligraphy:

1. Watch yourself write normally. How does your hand/arm look?

The first step to successful lettering is to learn where we're starting from. Handwriting is as unique as a fingerprint, and each of us has a slightly different grip, hand position, and paper orientation when we write. For example, I write directly to the left of my text. This means I am usually pushing the pen when right-handers would be pulling it, and my hand is always traveling over what I just finished writing as I continue across a line.

Most lefties fall into one of three categories: left-side writers (like me), hooked writers (where your hand is actually above your writing, and your "hooking" back down, writing upside-down, or angled writers (whose hand rests below where they're writing, and angles up to write). Take a bit of time to figure out which category you fall into (or something in between!), and you'll find it easier to adjust from there.

2. It's all about angles.

Once you know how you naturally write, then it's time to start adjusting! Calligraphy is all about angles. We always want our nib angled with either the text slant (pointed pen), or the required angle for the script (broad edge), to make ink flow easier and achieve correct thickness for each line.

For example, traditional Copperplate slants at a 54 degree angle. In order to make sure you can get even and consistent downstrokes, your nib needs to angled to 54 degrees.

If this angle doesn't feel natural right away (and for 99% of people it won't!), then start adjusting things to make your letting more comfortable, and closer to your natural style of writing.

Tilt your paper, and then try again. Keep adjusting it. Sit closer to the table. Move the paper to the left or right slightly. Keep making minor adjustments until you feel comfortable!

3. Try different scripts and tools.

Generally speaking, most lefties find pointed pen scripts to be easier to learn than broad edge scripts. I certainly do! Copperplate (which is the most widely-used pointed pen script) is slanted to the right, which means we left-handers already have the advantage, coming from the correct angle without much adjustment needed!

A right-hander must use an oblique holder (pictured below) to help them achieve this right-hand 54 degree slant. We lefties (because we're already able to slant our text to the right) have the choice to use either a straight holder, or an oblique one. I personally use a left-handed oblique holder, which is uncommon. The extra angle helps me to correct my slant, which is naturally way too steep.

Try out different nibs and holders, and find what feels best! Similarly, if you're finding pointed pen to be especially difficult, try out a broad edge script (Foundational or Italic are a good place to start!) and see if that feels easier.

I hope you found my 3 tips helpful! If you're a leftie, what's your biggest struggle in learning calligraphy? Shout out in the comments below!

Thanks for reading! If you like what you see, here are a few other posts you might enjoy!

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