How to Create Ombre Calligraphy

Jun 20

Well-executed calligraphy can add a touch of sophistication and a flair of artistic creativity to a wide variety of pieces. From wedding invitations, to holiday cards, to logo designs, calligraphy is a traditional technique that will always have a place in modern design. Classic black ink calligraphy on white paper is dramatic. Replace the black ink with a vibrant color, and you’ve made the elegant ethereal. If you want to really take your calligraphy to the next level, however, try your hand at ombre calligraphy.


What is Ombre Shading?

In French, ombré means shading. In modern art applications, the term ombre refers to the gradual blending of one color hue to another, usually moving tints and shades from light to dark.

How to Create Ombre Calligraphy with Pen and Ink

Plan to use a dip calligraphy pen and a high-quality ink to master this technique. Then, follow the steps below, and as with all things pen and ink, prepare to practice.

1. Choose Your Colors. Once you master this technique, you can use several colors, blending and shading from on to another to create an almost tangible sensation of depth. For purposes of practicing, start with just two, like blue and purple.

2. Practice Shading from One Color to The Next. This test is just as much about making sure you picked two colors that nicely blend into one another to create an ombre look as it is about practicing your technique. If you choose colors that are two contrasting to blend from one to the next (like purple and yellow), the places in your ombre calligraphy where one color transitions into the next will look less subtle and more abrupt.

3. Create a Draft in a Single Color. Start with a version of your lettering that can serve as a lightbox reference underneath your final piece. Create a draft in a solid color, like black, for highest quality reference. 

4. Decide Your Shading Pattern. Decide the pattern you want your ombre shading to form. What effect are you trying to create? A shade from light to dark? Dark to light? Right to left? Light to dark from left to right at a 45-degree angle? To help you remember where within your letters the color should begin to change, draw a reference line on your lightbox draft.

5. Write While Changing Colors. On your good paper, start with your first color. Dip your pen in the first color. Since you’ll be switching back and forth between inks, plan to pick-up less ink on your dip pen than usual. Begin drawing your first letter. It may feel unfamiliar to have to stop half way through a letter, when your hand wants to carry the movement through in one, smooth, solid line, but you’ll need to pause to dip your pen into the next color, and then pick up where you left off. The process of changing inks using the same pen, will help create the subtle hue variation as you stop and start new colors within the same letter.

The process of creating ombre calligraphy requires more preparation, ink, and time, but the results, if well mastered, are well worth it.

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