Although in theory any of the brush or pen tools available in Photoshop can be used for creating digital calligraphy, in practice the most satisfactory effects will be achieved by using tools that can emulate the traditional calligraphic broad-edged pen.

If you start with this, and fully understand its dynamics, then you can have almost infinite control over the type of line that the tool will make. I have already hinted that Photoshop is not the ideal software for creating original formal calligraphy and that it is more suited to freer, creative work that depends much, for effect, on the overall visual impact. But that is not to say that Photoshop’s calligraphic tools are useless.

You will find that learning to set and use the Brush tool with the perspective of a calligrapher can add a new dimension to the functionality of the program.

The key to success is knowing where the range of Brush tool options can be found, adjusted, and applied. Clicking on the Brushes tab on the Palette Well while the Brush tool is selected will display the options window. One of the tool setting options will be highlighted, depending upon that used last. Select the Brush Tip Shape option and make sure that none of the others is selected.

This will display an array of brush tip types. You could start with any of these, but it will be simpler if you start with one that resembles the tip of a calligraphic broad-edged pen. Hard Elliptical 45 is a good choice. This will create thicks and thins like those that you will find in a good italic script.

There are several brush tip options that equate with those of a traditional pen nib and the way you use it. Diameter is the same as pen nib width and is set by the slider. Angle is the pen tip writing angle (the pen angle): you can either type this in directly or rotate the arrow in the pen angle thumbnail. Roundness is the thickness of the nib, which should always be set to zero. Setting Hardness at 100% will create a hard-edged calligraphic line. By reducing the percentage the line becomes ‘fuzzy-edged’.

With some restraint, this effect can simulate ink on paper. If Spacing is set to anything other than 1%, the line will be broken, rather than continuous. The brush shape preview tells you the effect of setting these parameters. Any brush that you create can be named and saved as a preset for later use.

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1: Many of the brush presets are calligraphic in form. Note that even if you name a new brush and it appears on the list, the thumbnail will have the label of the original brush that you modified. However, the pop-up will display the new name.
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