Image by Love Knot Photo 

**Update! We now offer a video tutorial with detailed demonstrations of the various methods shown here. You can find the video in our shop here.**

One of the most frequently asked questions that we receive in our beginner calligraphy workshops is “how do I write straight when I’m not writing on gridlines?” And this is a very good, and very important question! There are a few options to help you out when working on envelopes, and these can be applied to other items as well.

The first option is to simply draw lines with a ruler and erase them afterwards. While this option is financially free, it is not strategically free {nor is it free for your sanity!} as you need to be sure to schedule enough time to draw the lines themselves, but equally as important, time to erase all of your lines. When going this route, we recommend waiting a full 12-24 hours for your ink to dry to avoid ruining any of your completed envelopes {if you are worried about running out of envelopes, check out our previous post on making sure you have enough from your clients!} as well as using a quality art eraser. Also take care to not draw your lines too dark to begin with…you only need a faint guide for yourself.

Another option is to use a stencil like the Lettermate. This is a simple option that works well with smaller scripts staying in a condensed area. Just be sure you don’t forget to add your descenders as needed! You can also make your own template out of cardboard or other materials if you are feeling crafty!

If you are writing on light colored envelopes/paper, you can always use a lightbox or a simple light pad and put your grid lines down first and the envelope over it to write. This of course does not work when using dark colored papers! Light pads are a great tool for calligraphers in general as well.

Next you have the popular Slider Writer which works similar to how you would use a level/laser to hang a photo on the wall but it is for your desk! Full disclosure: we have not actually used this ourselves, so we don’t have any photos, but have heard wonderful things about it amongst the Modern Calligraphy Summit group & our workshop attendees that have tried it out. Definitely seems like a pain free, time-saving investment. There is always the question of return on investment, and with a tool like this, you want to remember that you might be able to get one and a half orders completed in the time it would take to draw lines, do the calligraphy, then erase lines, and the tool will pay for itself very quickly.

Here is an alternative to the Slider Writer.

Lastly is the tool that Laura herself uses, which might be considered a bit “old school” and that is the Phantom Liner.  The Phantom Liner is two pieces of plastic, one with lines, one without, and basically instead of looking at the envelope she is writing on, Laura looks at the reflection of lines on that envelope. It takes a lot of practice to be able to write in a straight line that is not going diagonal {albeit straight} up to the right hand corner.

So there you have it! A few options for writing in a straight line as you get going with taking your calligraphy practice to the next level. All of the inks used in this post can be found in our shop here.

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Pink & Grey ink
Art eraser
Light pad | Another light pad
Slider Writer
Phantom Liner

If there are any topics you’d like to see covered on the blog, let us know in the comments below, as well as your experiences with any of these tools!