The Annoying Struggles of a Left Hand Calligrapher

August 13 is Left Handers Day! We all share the same frustrations as lefties, living in a world where most tools are made for the right hand. While some left-handed tools are available in the market, they are often scarce and pricey.

I have been writing calligraphy for years using brush pen, watercolor, dip pen, and broad nibs. I do not claim myself as an expert but more of an advanced beginner. I practice from time to time just so my skills don’t get rusty.

I enrolled in workshops, watched Youtube tutorials, and looked at Tiktok videos, and I can see that there’s a difference between right and left-handed calligraphy. Being part of the minority, of course, lefties have some disadvantages, but of course, these do not matter in the long run.

I would like to remind everyone that calligraphy is not only challenging for left-handed people; right-handed people have their own challenges as well. What we find difficult can be easy for them, and vice versa. Every new skill learned needs practice and repetition to master the art. No matter what skill to try out, both lefties and righties can excel in their hobbies!

Here are some struggles I faced in my calligraphy journey:

Calligraphy is not only challenging for left handed people; right handed people have their own challenges as well.

You can smear your work with your hand…

I remember hating how I tend to smear and erase what I have previously written with my palm at a young age.

Back in grade school, writing on chalkboards and whiteboards were a huge inconvenience. As I continue to write sentences, my hand would unintentionally smear some of what I have written, and I had to start all over again. I learned that I had to lift the palm of my hand in order for my palm not to rest at the board as I write. Thankfully over time, I was able to write on both boards without smudging.

That old struggle came back to me (and often still does) when dealing with calligraphy. While brush pens and broad nib markers don’t pose a problem, dip pens using ink or watercolor and some wet markers can be tricky to use. Since they have not completely dried as they set on the paper, they can be very prone to smudging.

If you are used to writing while your palm rests on the paper, you may often experience smudging as a beginner. With practice and trial and error, you will eventually get the grip that you are most comfortable with…without having to smudge the paper.

…and your hand picks up the mess

Have you ever heard of Silver Surfer Syndrome? 100% of lefties have or had experienced this, but fortunately, it is preventable and curable. All lefties go through this phase when we started to practice writing with pencils.

We all had Silver Surfer Syndrome.

This silver hand came back to haunt me as I began to write calligraphy, just much worse. Inks and watercolors staining your hand are just terrible, especially when waterproof ink stains your hand.

Adjusting your grip to avoid all that smudge

It takes a lot of practice and trial and errors to get that writing grip that you find most comfortable and convenient.

Photo by Kelly Creates. Photo found at http://www.kellycreates.ca/2017/07/04/lettering-for-left-handed-artists/

I personally am an underwriter when writing with dip pen, and a horizontal writer when writing with brush pens. There is no right or wrong way to position yourself when writing as long you find it the most comfortable and the most convenient.

Left oblique pens are a pain to find

Unlike straight nib holders where both left and right-handed people can use, oblique pen holders can only be used by one hand. Right oblique pens can only be used by the right hand, left oblique pens can only be used by the left hand.

Most ready-to-buy and affordable oblique pens at the market are right-handed. Most left-handed oblique pens I could find online are artisan-made holders found on Instagram and Etsy. I could not find a single left oblique pen in Shopee. As much as I love artisan-made nib holders, they often can leave my pocket burning.

But once you hold your artisan nib holder, you feel like you made an investment of a lifetime.

Some nibs are made for right-handed people

I remember buying broad nibs for my straight and oblique pens when I was a beginner. I bought it out of impulse and wanted to try to self-learn other forms of calligraphy. When I tried it out, I could not seem to write properly. It was actually even a mess.

While some nibs can be used for both left and right hands, some are not. It turns out that broad nibs like Speedball have nibs for left-handed people. There are left-handed nibs available in the market, but of course, it is scarce.

I honestly haven’t tried doing it again so I am not sure if certain nibs can really be used for one hand only or lefties can make their way through these nibs.

Learning Gothic/Blackletter Calligraphy is like re-learning how to write…backward

I took a workshop on gothic calligraphy years ago. My instructor was surprised to find out that I was a leftie. I could not seem to write like how my classmates did so he taught me a very different technique on how to write.

I still write the same way: writing letters from left to right, but the difference is writing the letter the opposite way. For example, in writing a vertical line, most people write from up to down. I had to write it down to up.

I am honestly thankful that broad nib pens exist for gothic calligraphy. If I had to write this using a dip broad pen, I wouldn’t know how to write. And I will need to adjust my grip and practice all over again just to get the grip that works fine…while not smudging my work.

Filming can be frustrating

When watching right-handed people write in their videos, the letters come out fine as they write along. One reason why I don’t film my writing is that it can be frustrating filming a good angle where my hand won’t get in the way.

While we may be able to manage to find out how to avoid smudging, filming will be the next hurdle. When filming straight above, our hands obstruct the view of my writing. It is a huge disadvantage, but don’t lose hope there.

At angles right handed people can’t pull off, that’s where we can get good angles!


There may be a lot of things that left-handed people may find difficult to do, but everything has its ups and downs! Just remember that there are some tasks that right-handed find difficulty doing that we find easier!

Are you a leftie too? Share with me your frustrations as a fellow leftie!

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Published by Miss Butterball

A Nursing graduate in the so-called mid-life crisis, currently pursing her dreams of becoming a pilot. Exploring her creativity through creative planning, painting, calligraphy and other crafts.

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