3 Tips for Centering Text

Centering text is hard. Even if it seems like other people get it right all the time, it’s still challenging. The hints I’m about to share will help you to plan ahead for placing your text.

Before you even pick up your pen, make sure you give yourself enough time to draft up your calligraphy the right way.

Beautiful cursive calligraphy in white ink on black paper with rough edges. The name reads, "Luciel".

At the end of the day, it’s just ink and paper. Remember that no one is going to look at your work as critically as you are. Your best is good enough! In the end, it comes down to practice, repetition, and having patience with yourself even when you don’t get it quite right.

In this post:

1. Notice Your Tendency

Take a look at your previous attempts and practice pages. What do you do consistently? For example, I tend to begin writing pretty far from the left margin. Another way to say this is that I start writing closer to the center of the page, so the final text is close to the right margin, and not centered!

Knowing this, I make an effort to start closer to the left margin that I’m comfortable with, resulting in more centered text. Use your awareness of your tendency as a tool to make decisions while centering text.

2. Make a Draft

Practice the text you plan to write. Use the pen you plan to use and write it at the size you think you want. This gives you an idea of how the text will actually look on the finished piece. It also takes the pressure out of trying to do it perfectly the first time.

After you’ve created your draft, you can assess what changes you need to make for centering text and making it fit. Do you need to use a different pen? Change the size of the text?

I wrote the draft for this poem on graph paper to make it easy to measure the width of each line of text. Then I divided this width by 2. I measured the resulting number from the center of my final piece to the left margin and made a light mark where the text should begin. I actually did this piece twice because I made a math error :)

Make another draft to make sure these elements will work for you. Doing drafts also warms your hand up for writing and familiarize you with the text.

When I’m happy with my draft, I measure how long the lines of text are. Then, on the guidelines on the final piece, I mark where I need to begin the line of text to center it.

3. Make a Template

This is something I do when I’m writing duplicates of the same text: thank you cards, gift tags, and labels. I’ll write the text the way I want it to look with guidelines and everything. I then use this as a guide for the duplicate pieces.

Using a lightpad for centering text on a final calligraphy piece
Using a lightpad to transfer lettering to watercolor paper. In this example, I’ll fill the letters in with watercolor. At the top left of the photo, there’s an outline of a circle. Just to the right of the letter a, you can see the vertical guidelines I used to center the text in the circle. I taped both pages in place to avoid shifting as I transferred the calligraphy.

Then, I use light to make the draft design visible through the final paper. I rely on a lightpad, but you could also tape the original to a window. Then, place your card or tag over the original and use it as a guide for centering text. Depending on what method you’re using, either mark your guidelines where the text begins, or write the calligraphy directly onto the final paper.

Now that you have a few hints for centering text, what will you write on?!

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