Computer Calligraphy

A Text Program for Handwriting

Calligraphy is the artistically elaborated visual picture of a text. The aim is a peculiar aesthetic effect in order to contrast with the ordinary picture of a text, through a diverging appearance or placing of the characters. At one time calligraphy was synonymous with fine writing, but these days, when handwriting is only used for short and private notes, any serious use of handwriting may be called calligraphy.

Computer calligraphy is calligraphy made with a text processing program. There are two forms. In the one the characters are designed in the same way as the founts for book print and computer typescript, that is, carefully constructed, usually by using drawing instruments. However, the script deviates from normal script in that it is either an invention or out of use (for instance gothic or medieval script), or in that it has rich possibilities to decorate the characters. In the second form, the script is aimed to imitate handwriting. First the characters are written on paper, preferably with a spontaneous look and in several variants. Next they are transferred to the computer by scanning.

The Calligraphie program, which can be downloaded from this site, is primarily for handwriting, but it can also be used for designed script. The characters are reproduced in the authentic colours and they can be freely placed on the page and combined with pictures; for instance scanned letters for extra decoration.

The significance of the program is explained in this article (in Danish, and not to be translated): Nogle tanker om hndskriften og computerkalligrafien.

Decription of the program

Writing "handwritten letters" with a computer should be regarded as a special sort of calligraphy. This is because, in common with book print, that there must be harmony at all combinations of the characters, and although disharmony can be partly repaired by displacement of a character or substitution by a variant, this is troublesome and should be regarded as an unsatisfactory solution. For a complete script, besides the main script there must also be a bigger script for headings and possibly also a smaller script (for footnotes for instance). The script must also have variants corresponding to italic or bold - and there must be lines for underlining.

The program is anyone who wants to write more personally, but who prefers to invest a bit of time in the creation of a script that can be written with a computer, rather than using time-consuming real handwriting. The program can also be used by calligraphers for rough drafts or for text in which the beauty provided by the regularity of the computer is desired. Another application is for calligraphers who want to specialise in the production of hand-script to use on the computer. The program can also be used for large quantities of text - collections of poems, books on the arts, children's books - where handwriting is desired, but where consistent manual writing would be too expensive. As the program is free and easy to operate, it may prove useful in writing lessons.

The program can be used as a common text program by those who value an aesthetic layout or want more freedom in the picture of the text. It will also be attractive to users looking for a more advanced combination of pictures and text. When writing, only the "paper" is visible, it has no frame and there are no disturbing menus except for a panel to the right of the paper, used to activate some of the functions and to show selected information. This panel can be made invisible. The program has been arranged so that use of the mouse and other interventions are kept to a minimum. This means that the program works in another way than traditional text programs (still the instructions fill only three pages for the writing and three pages for the creation of a script).

The characters must be separated, or match each other, and for handwriting the characters ought to be written in several specimens, so that there can be variation in the text. Even slightly unsuccessful characters should be included.

To begin with, we can content ourselves with writing only the small letters, in order to see if they give a harmonic script when combined:

All the characters we expect to use are written on one or more sheets of paper. The program which produces the script file must have the characters in this order:

         1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0

         a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

         A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

         - _ , ; . : ! ? ' " ( ) < > + * / = %



A script from a text program can be acquired by copying these characters, insert them in a document of the program, choosing the script in a suitable size and taking a picture of the screen.

From such a picture or a scanned picture of handwritten characters, the single characters are fished out by drawing rectangles around them. This produces small pictures of the characters in which the superfluous space around is removed and which are numbered consecutively. On the basis of these pictures a script file is produced. Besides the pictures, this contains three numbers for each character that state the position of the character in relation to the others, and which initially are zero. The position numbers are determined by writing a text in which all the characters occur in various combinations, and then estimating how much the individual characters have to be lifted or lowered in relation to the writing line, and what the distance to the previous and the succeeding character ought to be. These adjustments are inlaid in the script file, but it is also possible to readjust the position of a character in the actual document. In many scripts there will be situations where a character looks wrongly placed in relation to the previous or the succeeding character. With the common text programs it is not possible to repair these defects.

As the characters with our program are reproduced as pictures, the text must be printed out in the same way as a picture: printing out means here that the text between two "dividing lines" is produced as a picture. As a calligraphic document can be very irregular, the distance between the dividing lines can vary through the document.

The paper can be made transparent, so that we can write on a picture on the desktop:

Several documents can run simultaneously, and one and the same document can be opened at several places. Complicated patterns of text can be created by working in layers. A picture can serve as writing paper, in this case the page automatically gets the same width as the picture:

A page can have an arbitrary length (this picture is 9000 pixels height):

You can alter the size of the characters of a script file. If you let the first script be rather large (by scanning the paper with a large resolution), you can get different script sizes by diminution. In this script, the large script is the original script (having capital letters of about 60 pixels), the main script is 70 pc of this and the small script is 50 pc:

Pictures for insertion are put in a folder belonging the document, and they can contain transparency:

The writing paper can be coloured, and also the script can get another colour (meaning that the original nuances are lost, and the script is coloured in the same way as common computer script):

In this text the paper is a blank page from a book from the 16th century and the script is a designed handwriting:

A picture can be made gradually transparent in a domain around a chosen colour and thus mixed with the background:

In this vignette, the white has been removed and it has been laid over a picture of a blue sky:

In this watercolour the light colour is lying around a colour with RGB values (250, 240, 200). The paper has been given this colour, the picture has been made gradually transparent around the colour, and then a text has been written:

In the past, when handwriting was common, people wrote compactly and the letters sometimes merged over each other. If a script imitating handwriting (here gothic script) is installed in a common text program (here Word), the distance between the lines will seem too large:

We transfer the script to our program and yellow the paper a little:

Handwriting is larger than printed script, and it ought to have its natural size. The pages should only be reduced in size when they are intended to be sent by mail, for instance (in this script there are four variants):

If real calligraphy is intended:

that is, a text where some characters (usually the initial letters) are very decorated, then either a script with these letters must be produced, or the letters may be omitted and replaced by scanned pictures or by manually writing on a print out. This demands some experience in calligraphy. Ideas can be acquired by studying ornamented texts or by experiments with a text processing program that has a rich assortment of decorated variants of the characters.

It is possible to write connected script, but this presupposes that the characters meet each other in the same height and direction. If the characters almost have this property, then they can be made to meet precisely by using an auxiliary program. The method presupposes careful drawing work, less care means the characters become too deformed:

The gothic script above has been drawn quite precisely. This can be proved by applying our auxiliary program to some of the letters: the picture in the middle shows than no change is visible - the last picture shows the letter when the angle is increased by five degrees:

With another auxiliary program a (narrow) picture of a text line can be made to bow:

A picture can be inlaid in the script itself. In the first example (a poem by William Blake) the text is coloured complementary to the writing paper, in the second a real picture is inlaid, this presupposes that the text is very dense - here it consists only of letters m:

The complete instruction consists of these documents:









Download Calligraphie

Start the program "Texte" and read the document

The program has been made on the basis of the procedures in Windows and it is written in Pascal. The uncompiled sub programs can be opened with any text program and they can be compiled with this simple compiler.

Established: September 2006

Updated: December 2011

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