Handwriting – Can we improve? and HOW?

Recently I was asked many times about my still clumsy handwriting or penmanship if you like. I am really pleased that you enjoy to watch it. Thank you! Many people who contacted me or commented my posts  in here, Instagram, FB and other social media I share asked number of very interesting questions. Among them there were always the same questions regarding technique I have, other techniques, where to start, are there any resources which help, or do I have any hints, etc?

I am working on my handwriting  bit more seriously over last two – three year or so. Beforehand I use to write but my handwriting was rather choppy and chaotic and even if I thought that it looked cool from my current perspective it was awful. Obviously, this is a  natural and self critique (if stimulating) is a good thing.

When I joined Fountain Pen Network group on FB there were always many people who already show excellent handwriting skills. The person who really inspired me at the very beginning of my journey was Hector Padilla. His handwriting with fountain pens is mesmerising. The most striking thing I picked up watching him writing is the rhythm and dynamics he has. His down strokes are slower, more elaborative, whereas up strokes are much quicker and lighter at the same time.

Check Hector’s funny sounding youtube channel at (Crappy Calligraphy with an Idiot) and follow him (Inkluminati) on Twitter and Flickr where you can find loads of his handwriting examples.

The rhythm and dynamics are very important. They are as important as in music but also in drawing and painting. We humans love rhythm and  patterns and most things around as is built this way. Just look around. In penmanship dynamic and rhythm give a flavour to written words. Very closely related aspect to his is consistency. By consistency I mean couple of things like spacing between letters  but also within letters, the height and width of the letters and and the way you write them so the particular letters will not differ from each other (shape, slant height and so one).

To learn this I would recommend to try ‘Spencerian Penmanship (Theory plus five copybooks) Package by Platt Rogers Spencer‘. Exercise books are easy to follow and contains number of drills of increasing difficulty. What this book teaches you is not only Spencerian script but more importantly the rhythm and consistency I just mentioned. It may feel initially outdated and exercised may give an impression of being extremely boring, but from my personal experience once it ‘clicks’ gong through it is really fun. Analogy to music and fine arts is here as well. To play music you need to learn basics which are boring but once your technique improves and your palette of tones grow that suddenly playing musics became extremely fun and satisfying. The same with drawing. When your built your technique, learn basic strokes and get idea of perspective, than you can draw everything. What we are working on for most of the time is so called a ‘muscle memory’ which is nothing else than an eye-hand coordination (well in music it included an eat too:). I can’t stress enough how important is to do this precisely in consistent manner. Do not cut the corners. Do it for couple of minutes every day, for instance watching TV on the background, and you will see how quickly your hand develops.

I also have a questions about pens I use to learn cursive handwriting. There is many myths about fancy semi-flexible fountain pens, which help you to improve your handwriting. I was in this trap too. The truth is, that you do not need any fancy pen to learn, and in from from my experience I would highly recommend not to use pens like this. Pens with semi-flexible nibs makes only your handwriting look more interesting and line variation you can achieve with such pens  give additional dimension to tour written text which is great, but at the early stages of learning many mistakes can be easily hidden by using them. In fact, I use very often sharpish, cheap  H or HB graphite pencil you can get everywhere to exercise.  The advantage of using pencils is the feel and a little bit of feedback or tooth they provide. Obviously, you should pick whatever you like and what you are the most comfortable with. I would also recommend to practice on different type of papers, because all of the give different writing experience with various media you decide to use. Again, good penmanship does not come from fancy pens but from exercises you do and your hard work. However, try to treat ell exercises, drill as fun and relaxing as possible. If you won’t enjoy it, then it is pointless. I can spend hours and hours playing with one or two words, sentence or particular letters combination you can imagine.

Other free resources are available at IAMPETH (The International Association of Master Penman, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting) website. Under ‘Rare Books’ tab you will find tons of instructional copied books from early 20th century (or older). They are free and and be downloaded in many available formats. Highly recommended and extremely inspirational since most of them were written by fathers of most common handwriting scripts and techniques. Another very informative with number of useful links and related to IAMPETH  Joe Vitolo’s  site is  zanerian.com site by Joe Vitolo.

Another great resource is Calligraphy Masters (both website as well as Youtube channel) where you may find tons of great videos on various types of calligraphy including Fraktur, Italics, Copperplate and many many others. Among many super skilful people there please check for instance Suzanne Cunningham, whose technique is just flawless. She uses mainly pointed dip nib pens but she has many many instructional videos available on her Instagram.


Social media like Instagram, Youtube contain mammy many helpful resources. Search for key words like Cursive, handwriting, Spencerian, Copperplate and you will get loads.

The one I found very helpful is OpenStand Inks & Calligraphy channel on Youtube. In fact today there were many instructional videos uploaded which explain in details various aspects of handwriting using ‘business’ type of handwriting which is very close to me. Schin Loong covered in detail and on examples many aspects I just briefly mentioned in this quick post. 

Here is the example



I hope this is helpful.  Enjoy!



Posted in handwriting.
  • Carolyn

    Nice! I am always inspired by Hector, too.