Calligraphy on Parchment Paper

decorated certificate for donor written on real parchment

Parchment paper for writing calligraphy is what so many people think of when ordering calligraphy services online. And, so many people ask for their text to be written in custom calligraphy in black ink on that parchment paper. But most people don’t realize that parchment is not paper at all. It’s actually animal skin! Before there was paper, people had to find a surface to write on.

The Declaration of Independence

When people think of "parchment" they refer to the look of the Declaration of Independence. There have been claims that it was written on paper created from hemp, which is now being made again. However, when the surface was investigated it turns out that it too, was written on animal skin. 

Did you realize that parchment is animal skin? Parchment is a great surface to write calligraphy, but it is VERY expensive. And it has to be prepared to be able to write on it. You can see stretch marks, and places where hair came through the skin. For people who are vegetarians, I would expect they wouldn’t want their calligraphy written on parchment skin!

The Best Surface To Write On Is Parchment

Writing on parchment is a calligrapher's delight. The pen glides, but doesn't slip. And if you make a mistake you can take an exacto-knife and VERY CAREFULLY scrape off the paint. Calligraphers I know use paint instead of ink because paint stays on the surface. Whereas ink sinks into the surface and makes it very difficult to repair when you make a mistake.

I had to really take my time and be so careful! This parchment is Kosher as well! 

About Parchment

Parchment is a general term for an animal skin which has been prepared for writing or printing. Parchment has been made for centuries, and is usually calf, goat, or sheep skin. The term vellum from the French "veau" refers to a parchment made from calf skin. The manufacture of parchment is quite involved. After the skin is removed from the animal and any hair or flesh is cleaned away, it is stretched on a wooden frame. While it is stretched, the parchment maker or parchminer scrapes the surface of the skin with a special curved knife. In order to create tension in the skin, scraping is alternated by wetting and drying the skin. The parchment is scraped, wetted, and dried several times to bring it to the right thickness and tautness. Sometimes a final finish is achieved using pumice as an abrasive followed by chalk in order to prepare the surface of the skin to accept ink.

Parchment has traditionally been used instead of paper for important documents such as religious texts, public laws, indentures, and land records as it has always been considered a strong and stable material. The five pages of the U.S. Constitution as well as the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the Articles of Confederation are written on parchment.

The terms parchment and vellum are also used in the paper making industry. Parchment paper is made from cellulose fibers prepared from fir trees or plants such as cotton or flax. Paper can be made which mimics the thickness and smooth surface of parchment. The terms refer to the finish of the paper and should not be relied upon as an indicator of its long term stability.

Parchment Main

Imitation Parchment Paper

There is a paper which is an imitation of the look of parchment. It’s made from vegetable protein called cellulose. Cellulose parchment paper which is unstable, thin and sometimes even greasy. Sometimes my pen slips on the greasy surface and it’s hard to get nice uniform calligraphy letter forms. I really resist writing on any paper like that! I want you to have the most beautiful results of the calligraphy your order.

Whereas writing on animal skin actually provides a great surface for writing, the paper version of parchment is more slippery. It's also not as thick and can almost be see-through. Writing calligraphy demands a surface that will hold "hairlines" which are thin parts of letters. And it should be resistant to "bleeding" or spreading of the paint or ink. Parchment paper really doesn't do either of those functions well. 

Alternative to Parchment Paper

I have the perfect solution so that you don’t have the expense of animal parchment, or the imitation of vegetable parchment paper. Rather that using actual parchment from animal skin, I use a high resolution photograph of actual parchment and print it on archival paper. In fact, I have a variety of photographs of different types of parchment you can choose from. All of the paper is heavy weight and archival and comes with a variety of choices of texture. It’s very stable and will not shrink or fade.

Your hand written calligraphy text or poem is then scanned and superimposed on this paper background. Then it’s printed with a high resolution giclee printer. And I can also add your own photography and superimpose it on that parchment looking background. Don't you love the look of the old photo from WW 2? I was also able to improve the color of the photo and clean it up.

The “parchment” looks very real – but without taking the life of an animal! If you are a vegetarian or vegan, no worries! The result is calligraphy on paper that looks just like parchment!

Choices of Parchment Backgrounds

Adobe stock has a multitude of choices of images of parchment that you can pick to find exactly your favorite look of parchment for your calligraphy text. Although there is a small fee for the use of their images, it will be well worth it when you get to pick exactly what you like! Make sure you put in keywords when you search on this site. There are thousands of choices and you want to narrow down the scope of your search! It can be like going through a huge museum when you start looking at all the images that are available. Have fun and MAKE SURE you save the images you like in a library so you can find them later.

choices of parchment images

Parchment Paper Looks Even More Real

Now available: Your calligraphy printed on heavy weight, textured, archival paper is now available with a "deckle edge" finish. It makes it look even more authentic! It costs a little extra, but if you like that traditional look of parchment paper this is a great option for you! Just let me know that's the look you want when you contact me

Calligraphy can be printed on paper with Deckle edge, especially nice  for parchment  paper