What Are the Different Types of Custom Calligraphy?

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  • Written By: Maggie J. Hall
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 17 September 2019
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The different types of custom calligraphy originated in various cultures around the world, thousands of years ago. The main forms that are commonly replicated include Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Old English. Each style has numerous variations, representing different periods in history. Modern day calligraphers often mimic these historic styles of artistic writing, often adding unique characteristics that personalize each version of the visual art.

Custom calligraphy is a method of creating fancy lettering using a combination of broad and thin lines produced by specially designed pens. The pens used for custom calligraphy typically have a shaft and a steel head. The steel head portion flairs from a cylindrical shape and contains a central vent hole, which narrows to a slit that extends to the end of the pen tip. The steel head divides into two tines, one on either side of the vent, which narrow alongside the slit and form the tip. The slit and vent hole draw ink from a well into a bladder contained within the pen shaft or from a removable cartridge.


The tip of the pen typically produces a fine line of ink until the artist flexes the tines. Flexing or bending the tines opens the slit, releasing more ink, which creates broader lines. Modern calligraphers might also use markers or air brushes when reproducing the fancy writing, also known as script. The art form requires skill and practice, as each letter or number usually appears uniform in size and spacing. Depending on the custom calligraphy style and the artist, the writing can appears as bold, printed letters or extremely decorative, flowing cursive.

The Nabatean Arabs developed Aramaic calligraphy characters sometime during the 5th century BC. It evolved into the Arabic alphabet around 500 AD. Almost two dozen languages in the region use the Arabic alphabet, which contains 28 letters and 18 shapes, all depicted in cursive script. Calligraphers typically write the Arabic script from left to right. Islamic art and religious documents commonly use the cursive form. For example, the Quran was written using this unique style of calligraphy.

The Chinese developed one of the first forms of calligraphy around the year 2697 BC. Drawn with ink laden brushes, the first written language evolved from pictographs to characters that represented words. Within the Chinese culture, and over the centuries, many variations emerged, including the highly artistic forms known as Coashu and Xingshu. From China, the written language traveled to Japan. Numerous styles emerged in Japan, each named for social classes or genders, but kana and kanji remain the most recreated forms.

The word calligraphy comes from the Greek language and means beautiful writing. The art form began as the written Greek alphabet emerged around 2500 BC. The Romans borrowed these letters and developed the Roman alphabet around 1 AD. Stonemasons usually carved the capitalis quadrata calligraphy onto ancient Roman buildings while Roman cursive calligraphy developed three centuries later. During the 11th century, Europeans created the bold, black Gothic style, which became the decorative medieval or Old English.


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