I still see spacing flaws in a “finished piece”

Even after many years of practice, I still look at a “finished” piece and see flaws particularly in spacing between letters. Do you have any tips for correcting this?

There are two issues here.

The first is that I don’t believe you’ll ever get away from seeing the flaws…

It seems to be a fact that we view our own work as a collection of all the things we’re displeased with, whereas when we look at others’ work, we see the “whole”, and even if we see something that’s not quite right, we very often don’t mind, because we’re enjoying the whole piece.  Think about how you view the calligraphy of someone whose work you admire – do you really start by looking at individual letters and spacing…?

It’s not just calligraphy – I imagine it’s true in all arts, and even something as mundane as decorating a room – you’ll know where the painted edge isn’t quite straight, or the wallpaper doesn’t quite match, and that’s all you can see!

Of course it’s excellent that we’re able to see things we’d like to improve, otherwise we’d never get better, but it’s OK to give yourself a break too – especially if it’s a finished piece on which you’ve lavished care and attention.   Try showing it to 10 people – if they all say it looks fabulous then perhaps you should consider that they’re right and it DOES look fabulous!

But let’s see if I can offer some “make it better” advice too.

With spacing, try taking a piece of good practice work.  Now, really focus on the spacing by comparing the space between 3 adjacent letters.  For example, let’s take the word HINDLEGS.

Firstly, cover up everything except the first three letters HIN.





Now ask yourself – does the I feel like it is closer to the H or the N?  The perfect answer is that it should feel equally distant from both, but if it’s not, make a note of which space you think should be adjusted.

Now cover everything exempt the letters IND and ask yourself the same questions about the letter N.





Now NDL, DLE and so on.

Using what you noted about the spacing, try writing the word (or sentence depending on how much you analysed) and write it again – do you think it is better?

You might want to have a look at other people’s work – maybe their spacing isn’t as perfect as you though, and yet the piece is still beautiful.

This is really good for getting familiar with your own foibles for spacing (you might learn for example that you typically leave too much space after a capital T) but definitely not to be done as you are writing – it would kill off any flow and vitality you were bringing to the lettering.


3 thoughts on “I still see spacing flaws in a “finished piece”

  1. Very interesting article… As a Commercial Artist but originally a hand and machine compositor in the print industry, it was always a thing of pride being able to letter space correctly. Using the composing stick and lead type faces, combatting some type styles, you had to learn by eye adjustment. That and the fact it was upside down. Font were in reverse, to read from left to right you had to turn it upside down. Right from the start, mirrors were out. It was a lesson so important in later life designing. It was just not on to not letter space to compensate. The main signwriting I was involved with was Honour Boards. Gold leafing School honour boards and Lawn Bowling Honour Boards. Sadly here in Australia, they have resigned to putting Club Honours on electronic boards. Every bowler loved to see his name up on the board as a winner IN GOLD. (1983). I hope clubs refrain from electronic boards and keep the Honour Board. The real gold just lasts forever. Looks so professional. Regards, Patrick Deegan, Mackay, Queensland.

  2. I hear you. I haven’t done much calligraphy but can see every flaw. Oops. Keep on writing.

  3. Very interesting and thought provoking article.
    Since turning professional, after poodling around doing the odd wedding calligraphy for friends or acquaintances, this is something that I am very aware of.
    I have been creating calligraphy as far back as I can remember, starting off with 2 pencils sellotaped together, to now having far too many pens and nibs that I will admit to, I am more aware that my work needs to be as ‘perfect’ as possible.
    I am concentrating on copperplate and Spencerian as that appears to be the styles that customers are trending towards. This has changed the way that I look at spacing than I was when using broader nibs.
    Practise day tomorrow I think…. and analysis!!!!

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