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.

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