Project Sample: Calligraphy Stroke Tattoo

Project Sample: Calligraphy Stroke Tattoo - student project

Hi everyone! Here's my tattoo and a quick overview of the steps I used to create it. 

In this class, we start out easy, but move through three pages of pen exercises, each one building on the last and slightly more challenging. This leaves you with a "library" of pen strokes that you can use and expand upon to create your tattoo. Here are my exercises:

Project Sample: Calligraphy Stroke Tattoo - image 1 - student project

Next, we'll look at four suggested approaches to designing your tattoo. This sample illustrates the second approach, "Filling in a Shape", particularly well-suited for tribal style tattoos. In the Exercises and Guides PDF, I have provided a variety of shapes that you can fill in – and of course you can always create your own shape. Then, working slowly, with the Pilot Parallel pen, "weave" together strokes to create your design. My goal was a generally even texture, but with a few bolder areas to move the eye around the design. 

Project Sample: Calligraphy Stroke Tattoo - image 2 - student project

I recorded a timelapse of this freestyle drawing and you can see it here:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvalewfRPqw

This process took about 5 minutes in realtime. It was fun to do and felt like a natural beginning for my tattoo design, but the result was a bit awkward in some areas. Also, there was too much white space in the center. It looked like this:

Project Sample: Calligraphy Stroke Tattoo - image 3 - student project

To refine the design, I worked on transparent bleed-proof marker paper, re-working the parts of the design that I wasn't happy with. Gradually, it began to come together. But, this did not happen right away – and there is no erasing ink once it is down! At this stage, I created lots of unappealing marks, but I know that exploration is an important part of the process.

Project Sample: Calligraphy Stroke Tattoo - image 4 - student project

I tried a few symmetrical options that didn't work that well:

Project Sample: Calligraphy Stroke Tattoo - image 5 - student project

I used my LightPad as well, but you really don't need that if you're working on translucent papers. I made parts of the design symmetrical by repeating patterns from one side to the other, but it is a loose symmetry – not perfect. I wanted a very natural look. 

Project Sample: Calligraphy Stroke Tattoo - image 6 - student project

Almost there, but the pattern is a little too "spacious" at middle left.

Project Sample: Calligraphy Stroke Tattoo - image 7 - student project

Here's final design inked onto watercolour paper. 

Project Sample: Calligraphy Stroke Tattoo - image 8 - student project

I was pleased with this version, but it was quite lacy and delicate, and lost some of the weight of the original sketch. I decided to do a second, bolder version. This one took far few iterations to get to the final. But it wasn't instant - here's a beginning stage where I was searching for the solution:

Project Sample: Calligraphy Stroke Tattoo - image 9 - student project

Almost there - 

Project Sample: Calligraphy Stroke Tattoo - image 10 - student project

Final on watercolour paper:

Project Sample: Calligraphy Stroke Tattoo - image 11 - student project

The "family" with the "parent" at left and two final two designs on right: 

Project Sample: Calligraphy Stroke Tattoo - image 12 - student project

 And finally, some mockups to see how they might look when applied.

Project Sample: Calligraphy Stroke Tattoo - image 13 - student project

Alice Young
Calligrapher & Designer
Teacher