Calligraphy centering

One of the difficult parts about calligraphy, is trying to center the lettering in your work piece, only to find that your words are going to be off center, giving your work piece an unbalanced look.,

Centering your work

It is hard to get the centering of your work piece correct the first time as it does not come naturally, but through consistent practice and time it will become easier to eyeball the letters placement. (speaking for myself I have not reached that level yet). But there is an easier way to help you in the centering out of your work piece.


In the following example: Look at the term “light speed”, you would most probably place the words evenly on top of each other as shown, thinking that since they both consist off five letters they will line up evenly.

But as you can see from the image this is a wrong expectation because the letters are not consistent in width, which causes the word “speed” to use up more space.

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Since the letters “m” and “w” are the widest letters in the alphabet and the thinnest letters being (i, j and l) with the rest of the alphabet letters occupy the same amount of space.

So by studying the alphabet, you will see that each letter can be located in one of the three specific categories of width units

1.5 units: m, w

1 unit: a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, k, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, x, y, z

0.5 units: i, j, l

Note: Not every letter occupies the same amount of horizontal space

Note: The letters “m”, “w”, “i”, “j”, and “l” are the letters that tend to cause alignment problems.

Note: Do some practice layouts before you start on your final work piece.

With some understanding about how these letter widths can affect your layout, you can use the above unit system to precisely layout the complete amount of space that each word will occupy in your work piece.

So if we use the example of the word “light, you can see that it has two of the thinnest letters (“l” and “i”). since each of those letters represent a half of a unit, we know that the word “light” can be calculated to be four width units in length. (0.5 + 0.5 + 1 + 1 + 1). Using the same system for the word “Speed” it can then be calculated to be five width units in length. (1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1)

Now that we know that the word “light” is four units wide and the word “speed” is five units wide, we can be sure that there is a one unit difference between the two words.

This means that the word “speed” is going to start 0.5 units to the left of where the word “light” starts.

The phrase “light speed” is a simple example for centering purposes, with the system scaling perfectly when you start to add more words and lines.

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Note: You may have some difficulties when you start adding in things like flourishes, letter spacing, punctuation, or capital letters

Note: It may be helpful if you group the capital letter forms into groups in a separate width unit system.

Finally the amount of planning required for laying out your work piece is up to you, as every piece is unique in its own and may require some adjustment, It also could mean practicing the piece several times before you are comfortable with it. Just remember practice makes perfect.