Calligraphy iPad app

I’d be the first to admit that my Italics in the above screenshot are pretty poor. But if you consider that I created each letter by sliding my fingertip directly across my iPad’s screen, I think there’s an excuse for my sloppy serifs and inconsistent spacing. Despite my embarrassment, you can click the image to magnify my poor penmanship. Or should that be poor fingermanship?

I was able to create this digital calligraphy courtesy of a newly released iPad app called “Calligraphy Art,” now available on the iPad app store. It’s intended as a digital instruction guide to learning calligraphy, but it has a few shortcomings in that respect (although all is not lost, as I will explain.)

More of my fingertip lettering. I think my Gothic is a slight improvement on my Italics, although the decorative flourishes are not fluid, and need some more practice (click to enlarge).

Being a calligraphy tutor, I was quite excited to discover the app, and purchased it purely out of curiosity. Having tested it for a few hours (it is quite addictive) I would suggest that it is definitely not a substitute for a good calligraphy manual or formal tuition. Some of the instructions on how to create strokes are definitely wrong (eg. see the instructions for creating an Italic “a” in the screenshot above). And it refers to “Italics” as “Foundational Italics” which is a contradiction as far as I’m concerned (unless anyone out there can enlighten me). But the one thing it has in its favour…it is FUN!

By simply touching the screen, you can instantly vary nib thickness, stroke texture, pen angle and “ink” colour. You can also choose a pointed nib for adding hairlines. You can use an “eraser” to rub out small mistakes, undo your previous stroke, or wipe the screen clean with a single click. You can also choose from a variety of backgrounds, including vellum and parchment, then email your calligraphic masterpiece to yourself or anyone you might want to impress.

When working with a normal calligraphy pen on paper, I tend to manipulate the nib angle constantly… flattening and steepening the nib to get a desired effect, and tipping it onto its corner to produce spontaneous hairlines. Frustratingly, but understandably, the app’s nib angle is rigid… so if you start with a 45 degree angle, you’re pretty much stuck with it till the end. But not everyone will regard this shortcoming to be a hinderance.

Although I created passable letters using my fingertip (producing calligraphic letters by this method offers the same precision as threading a needle while wearing boxing gloves), I expect a stylus would produce better results. Before you purchase the app, however, keep in mind that it is unlikely to improve your calligraphy skills, since working with pen on paper is the absolutely only way to learn the craft. But as a simple fun tool for creating “fancy writing” on the go, it’s definitely worth the £1.99 asking price.

So, in conclusion, as a guide to learning calligraphy the app really can’t be taken too seriously. But there’s no denying that it’s a fantastic achievement despite its shortcomings. And during those idle moments when a calligraphy pen and paper aren’t available, it’s a much more therapeutic use of the iPad than a game of “Angry Birds.”

If you own an iPad, and enjoy creating calligraphy, you should treat yourself to this app now. As long as you don’t expect to be transformed into a master scribe overnight, I’m confident you won’t be disappointed in what it has to offer.

Find out more about the Calligraphy Art app, including videos of the app in action, at the official Calligraphy Art blog.

Or download the app from the app store here for £1.99 (at time of writing).

Comments welcome.


10 Responses to Calligraphy iPad app

  1. Etienne says:

    Great thanks for the review. You are right, writing calligraphy is more therapeutic than using the iPad for playing games.

    After paying only a few hours on this app, your drawings are really impressive.



    • Thanks for your comment, Etienne. I’m delighted that you found the review helpful.
      I would definitely recommend that any iPad-owning calligraphers should purchase the app, particularly when the cost is so low. Creating letters with a fingertip is awkward, particularly when your finger tends to hide the strokes you are trying to create, but the letters do improve with a little practice. If you do purchase the app, I hope you find it as fun to use as I do.
      Thanks again for taking the time to get in touch.

  2. ipad 2 free says:

    GREAT REVIEW! I agree with all your thoughts you said in your post, especially at the beggining of your article. Thank you, your post is very useful as always. Keep up the good work! You’ve got +1 more reader of your great blog:) Isabella S.

    • Hi Isabella
      Thank you for your kind words about my review. You didn’t say if you’ve actually bought the calligraphy app, but I can assure you that it’s definitely worth every penny of the asking price (you can’t buy much for £1.79 these days). There are some new updates in the pipeline for the app, so I’ll be sure to do a new review once the updates filter through to the app store. Glad to have you aboard. Duncan

  3. Dalia says:

    I did save my work and i cant find it anymore? Where should i look for gallery?

    • Hi Dalia

      I’m sorry to hear that you can’t find your saved work in the iPad calligraphy app.

      Although I have no official association with the developers of the app, I’ll do my best to help you to find your missing work.

      In the app, whenever you press “save,” you are presented with four choices…

      1. Save to photo gallery with background

      2. Save to photo gallery without background

      3. Share by email

      4. Cancel

      Unless you want to email the work, you should choose either option 1 or 2.

      After making your choice, close down the calligraphy app and open an app on your iPad called “Photos” (its icon features a bright yellow Sunflower).

      When “Photos” opens, choose “Albums” from the top menu. You will then see various photo albums, one of which should be called “Camera Roll.”

      Open “Camera Roll”, and scroll down until you see your saved calligraphy images.

      If you can’t see any of your previously saved images, go through the above process with a new piece of calligraphy. Hopefully your work should be accessible.

      I hope the above process makes sense, and I hope you are able to access your missing calligraphy. Please let me know if you are successful in finding it.

      Best wishes,

  4. Paul Siegel says:

    After 33 years its nice to know that all of my calligraphic experience has been “replaced” by an
    app. Now, I no longer need to understand complex letter design, spacing, layout and design,
    or continue to belong to any lettering organization. Its nice to know that my current understandings of letter disciplines have been replaced with some lines of code. The end
    is quite near!

    • Thank you for your impassioned comment, Paul, but you definitely don’t have to fear being replaced by “lines of code.”
      As I tried to explain in my post, I regard the app as little more than a toy, geared to those iPad-owning individuals who won’t put the time into learning the craft properly (unlike you and me). There is no way it will ever replace the skills that we have honed over the past few decades.
      Just last week I learned about the release of another “calligraphy” app for the iPad. I take it as seriously as I do its predecessor.
      Thanks again for getting in touch, and for sharing your view on the app.
      Best wishes, Duncan

  5. Dries van der Walt says:

    Hi Duncan

    Interesting review. I practiced calligraphy when I was younger, but over time my priorities changed and calligraphy became too time-consuming to fit into my schedule. Fast forward twenty-odd years later – shortly after buying an iPad, I came across, and promptly bought, Calligraphy Art. I credit this app with rekindling my interest in the elegant art of lettering, to the extent that I went out and replace my (long-lost) calligraphy pens.

    I haven’t regretted the decision because not only does it allow me to relax by practising my lettering, but it also works well for prototyping designs before committing pen to paper. And contrary to the experience of others, I have definitely seen my skills improve since I have restarted the hobby. I ignore the “lessons” part of the app, and only use the full-page “free writing” feature.

    I agree with your comments about the limitations, such as rigid pen angles, but once you learn to work around those the app becomes surprisingly useful. Think of it as your practice pad rather than a sheet of parchment, and you may agree with me 🙂

  6. Barbara Walters says:

    Hi, The description says iOS 6.0 needed. I tried to upgrade my 5.1.1 but message came up saying “Software is up-to-date.” is there a Calligraphy Art app that 5.1.1 can handle ?

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