My Set Up as a Left Handed Calligrapher

May 04, 2020

I often get questions asking "How do you angle your paper? Do you use a left oblique? Straight holder?", so I wanted to help answer those questions here. FYI- for my everyday handwriting, I underwrite (keep my wrist under the baseline) and hold the paper at about 45 degrees to the right.

Switching from Straight to Oblique
After taking my first Copperplate workshop in November 2014, I decided to stick to the straight holder because I could not find the right paper angle and felt extremely frustrated using an oblique. Even after writing with a straight holder for a year, I continually struggled with being able to execute smooth upstrokes (because it was going away from my body) and flourishes..but still pressed on and practiced.

In February 2016, I had an opportunity to meet Master Penman Michael Sull at the LA Pen Fair:

As I shared my struggles, he encouraged me to try the oblique again, but this time- the paper angle was at 90 degrees. One of the things that stayed with me from our conversation was that writing with an oblique may help increase my range of motion. He shared an analogy about swinging your arm that’s holding a ball vs. swinging my arm that's holding onto a string that's tied to a ball. Which one will go further? 

That's when I decided to switch to an oblique and to this day, I mainly write with a right oblique holder. Here is my current set up:

The paper angle is turned at 90 degrees (+/- 5 degrees)  and as you can see from the photo above, I write towards my body. It took time to get used to writing at this angle, but it helped to see the letters as separate strokes. 

I've personally found that changing to an oblique holder and turning my paper angle to this degree helped with both my struggles: smooth upstrokes and flourishing! With this paper angle, my upstrokes are now smoother as I make the strokes downward towards my body. I can fully see what I'm writing and don't have to worry about smudging!

I mainly write with this set up for Copperplate/Spencerian; however, I will occasionally use a straight holder for more upright scripts (Italian Hand, Uncial). 

Now that I've gotten so used to writing in this angle, I also write towards my body for brush lettering as well ❤️

In the end, find what works best for you. Everyone's hand is so different and there are other factors that come into play (ex: how you hold/grip the holder) that may affect your paper angle. 

This isn't about right or wrong, but preference. There are wonderful right handed calligraphers who angle their paper drastically, write with only a straight holder, as well as left handed calligraphers who use a left oblique or angle their paper at 45 degrees.

I hope that by sharing my story, it can lend a suggestion for you to try and see if it helps you!

Watch a video demo on Youtube HERE!

Happy writing,


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