Express Your Artistic Self With Calligraphy

Being a vector graphics tool, Inkscape is all about strict mathematical values and measurements that underly the shapes positional, rotational and colorization characteristics. If there’s one tool in the software that breaks free from this context (at least phenomenally) it is Inkscape’s calligraphy. This feature allows users to draw in a more natural and smooth way, which is quite useful in some cases. It is also very handy for designers who are using pens on tablets to draw their creations as some writing characteristics like the brush width and velocity can be determined.

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To access Inkscape’s Calligraphy tool, all you have to do is press the quill icon on the left, or hit Ctrl+F6.

Once the calligraphy tool is selected, a corresponding menu of settings will appear right above the main drawing area. These settings will allow you to customize your quill and get the result that you want. Note that there are presets available on the upper left of the menu that help you quickly change from the writing of a pen, a marker, a normal brush or a splotchy one. While drawing with your digital quill, you will notice that Inkscape uses a node-based technique, auto-filling parts with ink based on your calligraphy settings.

The first setting is the brush width that needs no explanation really. If you have a Wacom tablet though you need to leave this setting to zero and enable the “pressure of the input device” option and the width will be given automatically. The same goes for the next setting that is the thinning of the drawn line based on the velocity of the cursor. It is often the case that an artist wants to vary the width while drawing the line. You can do this through the keyboard arrow keys and thus draw a continuous line of varied width.

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The angle of the quill is a special setting that needs some trial and error in order to get the most out of it for what you want to achieve. Keep in mind that a 90 degrees angle basically means that the quill is held completely sideways and a 0 degrees angle means that it is held straight upward. This of course induces different thinning in different directions. You may also use the keyboard up and down arrow to change the angle while writing which is a common thing for calligraphers.

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The 90 degrees is quite thin when drawing vertically, but significantly thicker when trying horizontal.

Directly connected to the angle is the fixation. This next setting is in regard to the quills fixation to the angle you set. Setting the fixation to zero means that your “imaginary” hand will change its angle according to the direction of your strokes, so there will be no thinning induced by the angle setting. If you set it to 100, then expect lines that correspond to a firmly fixed quill.

Leaving the tremor and wiggle settings to your own discovering, I will move onto the mass of the brush. This is a very important factor for your end-result as it adds a delay between the movement of the cursor and the actual drawing on your screen. It is used to induce some smoothing to your lines and thus I suggest that you never leave this option to zero unless you know what you’re doing.

As a last tip, I will say that Inkscape also supports engraving that allows designers to draw parallel lines to existent ones. The only limitation is that this may be performed immediately after the line that is to be engraved is drawn. You may engrave a line by holding the Ctrl button pressed and moving the mouse in order to choose the desired distance from the line. Once you press your mouse the engraving begins and follows the path in the set distance.

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Among the many things that a vector artist can do with Inkscape’s calligraphy tool is the realistic ink filling, free drawing with variable fidelity, or brush stroke drawing that is especially useful for the depiction of realistic reflections on water surfaces etc.

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