How to: Fake Calligraphy

14th Jul, 2017

Just so we’re on the same page, here’s what I mean when I refer to ‘fake calligraphy’: lettering drawn with a normal pen, which is then coloured in so that it looks like it was drawn with a calligraphy pen or a brush pen! The end product can look a little something like this:

Finished Product

Making fake calligraphy is such a fun way to letter when you're getting started, as you don't need any special lettering pens. Let's get into it!


  • Surface to letter on (I’m using card)
  • Pencil & eraser
  • Two pens - one thin, one thick. As you can see in the below image, I'm using a 0.3mm and 0.8mm pen. If your lettering piece will be quite large, or you want a massive contrast between your thick and thin lines, use a thicker 'thick' pen. Sometimes I like to use a brush pen for this as it's easy to colour in with.



1 After you’ve refined your piece’s lettering style and layout (learn how to do this here), letter onto your final surface in pencil.

Tip: Draw your letters a little wider and further apart from each other than you normally would. This will help to keep your lettering from looking cramped when we colour parts in.

Step 1

2 Using the same thin pen, draw an outline on your letters’ downstrokes. Try to make these consistently sized for each letter. Don’t forget to thicken the dots on your ‘i’s too!

Step 2

3 Carefully draw over everything in pen, and erase the pencil marks underneath. At this stage, you can make sure that your downstrokes are evenly spaced and equally wide. Make any adjustments as necessary.

Step 3

4 Colour the letters in with your thicker pen, being careful to stay inside the lines.

Step 4

And that's it! Pretty simple, hey?

Tricky Letters

For some letters, it’s hard to know whether or not to make a vertical stroke thicker.

Letters with bowls: a, d, b, p, etc.

The bowls of these letters are downstrokes, so you should usually make them thicker. However, a letter like ‘o’ is made up of a downstroke and an upstroke, so its right side normally remains thin. As for the loops of letters like 'l', 'd', etc., they're an upstroke, but I somtimes thicken them if they look off-balance.

Capital N and M

My first instinct is to thicken the vertical strokes, rather than the diagonal - but this isn’t how it goes. For N, the diagonal stroke is thick, and the two vertical strokes are thin. And for M, the first diagonal and second vertical strokes are thick, and the other two remain thin.

Below is a little alphabet guide for you, to help you with these tricky letters. I hesitate to show you it, because it’s filled with my lettering eccentricities! It is by no means a definitive or perfect guide, and I don’t draw my letters like this every time. I’ll change which strokes are thick or thin depending on the situation. But I hope it’s a helpful starting point for you if you’re having trouble with certain letters.


Have fun making fake calligraphy! If you come across any difficulties with it, feel free to get in touch with me here; I'd love to help you with any questions you have. :)