Tips to Avoiding Calligraphy Mistakes

I do everything I know how to letter a neat clean scroll, but it happens. I’m half done, or more, and I splatter the ink, leave out a text word, or some other goof. 
The neatest way to handle this is to start over. The best way is to avoid making the mistake. Corrections, some very silly ones, are period, but they don’t completely hide my error. At least I know when it’s there. 
What can I do to prevent mistakes? Here are the tricks I already use.


When I’m working I use scrap paper over the area I have yet to letter. I may also cover the area I plan to illuminate. This will avoid smears and splatters.
I keep my ink to the right because I am right handed. This cuts down reaching over my working area. I want my ink in a container I won’t spill, handy, but not too close.
I don’t eat in my studio either. And keep beverages in a covered cup.


I check the spelling of all names: Monarchs, recipients, local groups, orders and anything with unusual spelling.

I practice my chosen script, spending extra time on letters I find tricky.
I work up spacing on my computer, using the mockup to reduce omitted letters.

I don’t often use an unfamiliar support or ink, but when I do I practice with it first. Papers feel different to the pen depending on their sizing and other texture. Ink density may vary. I want to know what I’m using so I test first and adjust if necessary.


After designing a mockup, I do the lettering, gilding, and painting. 

Russian-style Scroll

Usually, I begin with lettering. It is the most difficult to correct and has a long tradition of being done before illumination. There are so many possibilities for errors. I think I’ve made them all. If I have more support I prefer to start over. It’s time-consuming, costly, and sad to not be able to use a gilded and illuminated border because of a lettering error.  

Gilding is done next. When I’m gilding I cover areas I’m not working to prevent pesky gold flecks attaching to unwanted places. It doesn’t take much for them to do this either.

Finally, I get to the illumination, the most fun. It’s also the easiest to correct. Depending on the support I can gently scrape off errors and repaint. I might turn the flaw into an artistic motif.

I’ve been doing calligraphy and illuminated scrolls over 15 years and I still make mistakes. I take every precaution I know. If you know of others I would enjoy learning them as would other readers. My biggest joy is providing a well-done scroll for Their Majesties to present. 

Related Prior Post:
Calligraphy Mistakes, Making and Managing Them

Categories: Tips

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