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Calligraphy Products and Advice for Beginners

Calfskin Manuscript Vellum 

Is white or light cream in colour and is prepared for use on both sides.  The surface is abraded to raise a nap or key providing a velvety writing surface. There are four grades or depth of finish available depending on individual preference. ‘Finish 1’ is not abraded and generally favoured by painters and botanical artists. Calligraphers primarily use Finishes 2, 3 & 4 which are progressively coarser. Experienced practitioners will then finely tune their preferred writing surface using pumice or Sandarac powder.

Calfskin Classic Vellum 

Exhibits subtle natural characteristics and variations in surface colour between light and dark cream; for use on one side only.

Sheepskin Parchment   

White or light cream in colour and usable on both sides. Generally lighter and thinner than vellum and not recommended for beginners as the surfaces can vary in absorbency due to varying amounts of natural fat (lanolin). The membrane remains intact throughout the parchment making process giving the writing a unique structural integrity. This produces a soft and smooth surface that works well with ink, natural pigments, paint and gold leaf.


If you are new to Parchment or Vellum, off cuts or smaller pieces with which to experiment can be purchased cheaply before embarking on a calligraphy masterpiece! In order to work on a firm flat surface many calligraphers (& painters) will dampen their parchment, stretch it onto a board and then allow it to dry. Please feel free to ring us if you need advice on this.

You can then buy ready prepared pieces, cut to size, and go ahead without any more knowledge.  There is no need to worry about making a few mistakes as this a forgiving media which will allow minor errors to be erased with a sharp blade.

You may also find useful ‘The Calligraphers Handbook’ by Heather Child or for further information try the ‘Society of Scribes and Illuminators’ who run courses and workshops See: