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Review: Calligraphy Art for iOS

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The term “digital calligraphy” seems to have become more applicable to creative typesetting of decorative fonts than skilful hand lettering, but it is actually possible to come close to traditional calligraphy using a tablet computer and a stylus. In this review, I am looking at Calligraphy Art for iOS, and app that is remarkably good within the limits imposed by not using an actual pen. A complete review of the app would result in a very long article, so I will limit myself to the most important features.

On opening the app, you are briefly presented with the splash screen before going into the main menu:

The majority of the icons take you to practice pages where you can learn and practice the different hands, complete with applicable ruling. The example below shows the practice page for what the developers call “Foundational Italic”.

Tapping the left-most icon on this page takes you back to the main menu. However, there are actually
additional lessons, which you can access by tapping on the right-most icon.

For me, the most useful feature is the “free-writing” page accessed via the left icon in the bottom row. This presents you with a 1024 X 768 pixel “digital practice sheet”. You can change both the background texture and the width of the guidelines in this view. The screenshot below also shows the pen nib selection menu.

From left to right, the icons along the top of the screen have the following functions:

* main menu
* nib size (I assume in pixels)
* nib angle
* flat nib type
* round nib
* brush type
* eraser
* cut-and-move tool (allows you to move a selected are to a different position, resize it, flip it or copy it).
* background and grid selection (it is possible to import your own backgrounds)
* decoration (flourish) selection (again possible to import your own)
* undo
* “ink” colour
* redo
* options and settings
* “ink” textures and effectsAmong the nib types, there is something almost like a copperplate nib (bottom row, right; I think the developers call it a flourish nib). This I've found to be counter-intuitive, because quick movements create a thicker line and slow movements a thinner one. I would have preferred it to work the other way around.

And that’s about that – you select your pen (or brush), its width and angle and you write away. The “ink” and the backgrounds are treated as separate layers, so erasing the “ink” doesn’t affect the background, and changing the background doesn’t affect the “ink”. On the downside, the app is a little aggressive with the anti-aliasing of some pen types which results in a lack of sharpness. However, it saves your work as a standard .png file, so it is possible to sharpen it in an image-editing app.

The image below shows a quote I wrote using the default background, which I changed to an image of a scroll before saving my work.

Unfortunately it is not possible to change the defaults, so if you prefer a different background or nib, you have to change it manually each time you open the app.

The app is inexpensive, costing less than a decent fountain pen, but worth every cent of the price in my opinion. I credit Calligraphy Art not only with rekindling my interest in calligraphy, but also with allowing me to practice, experiment with layouts and design flourishes with the benefit of being able to undo and erase with ease.

If anybody else has experience with this or other calligraphy apps, I would love to hear about it.

Technology is amazing! I wonder what the screen is like for the pointed pen script?

Brad franklin:
I have this app. The pointed pen stuff is not that good. The flourished script is not bad. I like it for broad edge.

Brad franklin:
here is the copperplate screen

Hey that's not too bad!  ;D


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