Painter How-To: Use Modern Methods for an Ancient Art

Calligraphy is an art form that’s been around for thousands of years. Wacom’s 6D Art Pen, Corel Painter IX, and Corel’s Art Pen Brushes are decidedly more recent. But with this modern trio, you can create more natural-looking brushstrokes. Sometimes the effect is subtle, but serious artists will notice the difference.

The Wacom 6D Art Pen offers exciting new control and expression to artists and designers. The Art Pen Brushes were designed to work with the Wacom 6D Art Pen; they include the Thin Smooth Calligraphy, Grainy Calligraphy, Soft Flat Oils, Tapered Gouache, and the Square Grainy Pastel. (You can download the entire pack at Corel’s Web site.)

The Art Pen Brushes take advantage of the 6D Art Pen’s six dimensions: the X-Axis (left and right), Y-Axis (up and down), pressure, tilt, bearing, and rotation (a new capability). With the Art Pen and the Thin Smooth Calligraphy brush or the Grainy Calligraphy brush, you can create expressive strokes by simulating “rolling the nib” of a traditional calligraphy pen.

I used the Art Pen and Art Brushes to create a calligraphic title for a restaurant menu. My client wanted a classic relaxed look, with subtle texture in the strokes. My hand lettering was inspired by an ancient calligraphy style called Rustic Capitals used by the scribes and sign painters in the early Roman Empire about 100 AD. I created a variation of the Rustic Capital R and then improvised when drawing the lower case letters.

Using the 6D Art Pen and a modified Art Pen Brush, I drew this title for a restaurant menu.


To get you familiar with the power in the Art Pen and Brushes, I’ll walk you through drawing the capital R from the menu.

1. Build a textured paper background.
To begin, set up a new file with a colored background and then add texture to create your paper. Choose File > New. In the New dialog box, click the Paper Color square and when the Colors dialog box appears, choose a light cream color. Click OK to accept. Choose Painter’s default Basic Paper texture from the Paper Picker in the Toolbox. Now give the colored background the look of textured paper: Choose a darker cream color in the Colors palette, and then choose Effects > Surface Control > Color Overlay. In the Color Overlay dialog box, click the Dye Concentration button, and set the Opacity at 100%. Click OK.

2. Choose the brush.
Next, choose the special calligraphy brush. From the Brush Selector Bar, choose the Art Pen Brushes category from the Category picker. Now, from the Variant picker, choose Thin Smooth Calligraphy variant. The Thin Smooth Calligraphy brush paints thick or thin strokes depending on how you hold the 6D Art Pen.

3. Customize the brush to align it with the shape of the pen.
For this technique, I set the Angle of the brush to correspond exactly to the oval shape of the 6D Art Pen. Open the Brush Creator (Window > Show Brush Creator > Ctrl/Cmnd-B) and click the Stroke Designer tab. Now, click on Angle to open the Angle section and set the Angle slider to 90°. Notice that the Expression pop-up menu is already set to Rotation. Make a practice stroke in the Scratch Pad area to try out the edited brush. To save your variant, choose Variant > Save from the menu in the Stroke Designer, and name and save your new variant. (I named mine “Thin Smooth 90.”)

Check to make sure that your new brush appears in the variant list. To return the original brush to its default setting, choose the default Thin Smooth Calligraphy and then choose Restore Default variant from the Variant menu in the Stroke Designer. Now choose your new brush variant. When you’re finished with the Stroke Designer, you can press Ctrl/Cmnd-W to close the Brush Creator window.

4. Set up guides and make a new layer.
Painter’s Ruler and Guides will help you to position your letters as you draw them. Choose Canvas > Rulers > Show Rulers, or type Ctrl/Cmnd-R. Click on the vertical ruler to add a horizontal guide. Click the tiny arrow and drag to position the guide.

For easier editing, I set up a layer for my calligraphy. To add a new layer in Painter, open the Layers palette (Window > Show Layers, or Ctrl/Cmnd-4.) Click the New Layer button at the bottom of the Layers palette. The new layer will be active.

5. Pull the vertical stroke.
Hold the 6D Art Pen so that the wide side of the pen is between your thumb and forefinger, similar to how you would hold a flat drawing pencil when using its thin side to draw a thin line and its broad side to draw a thick line.

Now you’re ready to begin drawing the title. Keep in mind that hand lettering takes practice. Relax and enjoy experimenting with the 6D Art Pen and your customized Thin Smooth Calligraphy brush.

It’s easiest to begin by drawing the slightly slanted vertical stroke on the capital R. Touch the pen tip to the tablet. With the pen shaft tilted to about 80° (nearly vertical) press down and then pull the pen toward you to draw the stroke. You should have a thin vertical stroke. If your stroke is wider than mine, experiment with the orientation of your pen until you achieve the thin vertical.

6. Draw the top curved portion of the R.
Now use the wide side of the pen to pull a curved stroke that tapers from thick to thin. Hold the pen so that you’re using the broad side of the nib and tilt the top of the pen to about 50 to 60°. Touch the pen to the tablet, make a sweeping curved stroke, and then subtly rotate the pen to taper the stroke from thick to thin as you complete the curved stroke.

7. Draw the sweeping lower curve.
Begin this next stroke at the intersection of the first two strokes. Rotate the pen so that you are drawing with its wide side, and pull a sweeping curved stroke down and to the right. End the stroke just past the bottom guide.

8. Add the foot.
The foot will intersect the bottom of the vertical. Begin with the pen’s front tip oriented to about 12:00 on an imaginary clock face. With a short motion, draw a thin stroke and then transition into the thicker stroke by rotating the pen to about 2:00. Finish the stroke by rotating the pen back to about 12:00.

Congratulations! You’ve drawn the R. Continue practicing until you can draw the other letters in the Rustica title.

An award-winning artist, author, and educator based in San Diego, California, Cher Threinen-Pendarvis has always worked with traditional art-making tools. Also a pioneer in digital art, Cher has been widely recognized for her mastery of Painter, Adobe Photoshop, and the Wacom pressure-sensitive tablet. Her most recent books are The Photoshop and Painter Tablet Book: Creative Techniques for Digital Painting, and The Painter IX Wow! Book. She is principal of the consulting firm Cher Threinen Design.


Posted on: July 22, 2005

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