Kana/kanji writing practice book recommendation please?

this and that are different things.

i have good pen control and neat writing in roman alphabet.

i found plenty resources for learning kana and kanji writing.

what i want is almost like a meditation colouring book if you will: i want a whole page of the same kana/kanji, in very light colour so i can trace over it without thinking. I don’t want to think. The thinking is a separate bit in the studying. I want to write pretty characters, i’m not trying to learn the shapes here. I would use it with different types of pens in different colours. I’m pretty sure it will also result in me memorising shapes better but you’re right, it’s not the best way for that particular purpose.

most of the stuff online is like this: http://www.syougi.net/pdf/hiragana_a.pdf

but i want a plain sheet like this:

with grey tracing until the end…

I can’t quite believe it’s not easy to find. I’d prefer to buy a physical notebook too with good quality paper.

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Ah, I see, in that case I can’t really recommend anything.

It should be pretty easy to make one youself though. Make a grid (I’d use a table table for this) in MS Word or a similar thing, paste the kanji you want to trace, change the character’s color to a shade of grey you want, and print out.

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Yeah lol, it’s the conclusion i came to. had a look at adobe indesign but probably can do it in excel, buy good quality paper. If i could make it into a spiral bound notebook ( my favourite), it would be great. But I’m working from home so no access to the binder.

I shall share the fruit of my labour if I’m successful…

Now to find good optical paper…

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well… this is work intensive. There must be a better way to get a kana in there repeatedly than copy pasting, grouping and copy pasting again!

Don’t know if i’m up for it! Looks like this and it’s not perfectly aligned either (can you believe it @shikaji?) , which annoys me because excel, unlike ppt, does not have alignment guides…

not trial printed yet so unsure whether washout is the right option for recolouring the image…

the bit at the tope comes from the book i purchased so i do not feel like a thief!

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I use these:


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i have a different excel-based solution (btw, did you know from somewhere that i’m a massive excel nerd or was that @-mention just coincidence? :smile: )

  • A1 = with IME written letter; in this case the font is the infamous “armed banana”
    (use this script as a resources)

  • A3:D14 are just =$A$1 with a grey font color. makes producing sheets for different kana or kanji real easy. you could use different fonts per row or column.

  • the dottes lines ----- are inserted shapes. in the picture i made them go over multiple rows / columns but it’s actually easier to fit them to just one cell and copy that one. that way the lines get stretched when you change width and height of the cell. like so:
    image image

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I love you!!! Be back with either results or questions…

Yeah I guess using four cells per letter is not as easy to handle as one perfect cell that can be copy pasted. Wish excel had draw borders for the inside like dividers…

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i just thought of another way:

  • page layout -> background [“work offline”] -> set image of a practice sheet and adjust the excel grid to it.

NEVERMIND. excel still can’t print background images :rofl:

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With 46 each kana… an efficient solution is needed!

Having a look at my spreadsheet now…

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much quicker but i can’t type japanese in my excel… IME works perfectly here: あ

but not in excel… looks like the language pack install has not worked well though…

image

Anyhoo, the letter is behind the lines and it’s pretty obvious so maybe an image on top is still the best.

still fast and also it’s now possible to adjust the position of the letter to the gridlines…
image

It’s just gonna be a pain saving a bunch of transparent background hiragana lol.

do you know a way to get the grabber when excel wants to pick the picture inside and refuses to find the grabber? My letter pic takes up a large part of the cell so i had to use copy paste instead of being able to drag it across and down.

like so
image

even selecting the cell is impossible without selecting the large one above and navigating to this one with the arrows…

I’m pretty pleased with this. Ordered some 120gsm smooth printer paper.

Can’t wait to do a rainbow of kanas with all my pretty pens…

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well, that elimantes a major advantage of this method <.<’

i don’t see the difference at all though. can’t really tell what’s behind what here:
image

i’m not sure that’s possible or at least i couldn’t find a way, sorry :sweat_smile:

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I guess I’ll just try to explain the reason based on my experience with Chinese calligraphy: most natives who learn how to write (or how to write better) do so with the aim of being able to write independently and without guides. Most teachers of calligraphy, who are professional calligraphers themselves, tend to teach students with that same objective in mind. Also, I’m just going to say from my experience of learning how to write well (not to brag, but my profile picture is something I wrote. It’s far from perfect, but I think it’s pretty good) that tracing stuff over and over doesn’t help if you really want to write nicely: I had to do that at school at the age of seven, and I continued for at least three years. My handwriting didn’t get much better. On that note, tracing printed characters, even if they’re a good imitation of brush-stroke characters, will probably just frustrate you after a while, because it’s almost impossible to achieve the same look without a fountain pen. Imitating characters written by hand (like those in the illustrations for your ‘Hiragana Katakana Self Study’ book) is a much more rewarding and helpful experience.

I understand the desire to use these sheets like a colouring book, but you might eventually become frustrated by an inability to follow the lines perfectly (because let’s face it, we’re human/feline, but not divine), coupled with an inability to produce anything similar without the grey guides. I have pretty good handwriting in Latin letters – I spent 6 months learning how to write like my super neat and rapid classmate at the age of 14 –, but I only managed to reach the same standard in Chinese at the age of 21 or so (though, to an extent, for lack of trying).

Perfecting kanji and kana isn’t quite the same as perfecting the Latin alphabet (and I have to admit that my kana are probably still not perfect, because I haven’t managed to figure out how to write them quickly and neatly). You need to stare at the characters and ask yourself what makes them beautiful, and then write them again and again while keeping those principles in mind. Every character is a work of art. The reason I managed to learn some of those principles is because I bought a book from China that broke down the elements that made each type of character well-proportioned and elegant. It taught me how to write well over the course of about 2-3 months at the least, and thereafter, I had to practise. (I don’t think I managed to finish the workbook though. I really should find the time to go back to it.)

Anyway, please don’t misunderstand: I don’t mean to be a wet blanket, and I’m glad to see how excited you are.
:smile_cat:
I just wanted to give you a more realistic picture if you want to take this further or to try to attain perfection. It may not be easy to master calligraphy, but it’s not that hard to reach a decent standard. With that, here are a few of the general principles for making kanji/kana beautiful:

  • Almost all kanji (and kana) look like they can fit into a trapezium: flat at the base, vertical on the sides, and slanted at the top, a little lower on the left than on the right. Horizontal strokes act as though they’re on a ‘gradient’ – the higher you write a horizontal stroke, the more slanted (low on the left, high on the right) it is; the lower you write it in the character, the flatter it is.
  • Vertical strokes in kanji tend to like to be nicely aligned, so even if the stroke order shows you that you need to stack multiple vertical strokes on top of each other, if they’re all in the centre of the kanji, then try to make sure they’re flush with each other. Conversely, be aware that many ‘central’ vertical strokes shouldn’t actually be dead centre, because they really do make the kanji look ‘dead’. If you have to pick a side for a central vertical stroke, put it slightly off to the right.
  • The beauty of kanji is about proportions, and not only those of the strokes: you don’t want to have too much white space in a character. Observe characters that you find beautiful and see how much white space there is relative to the space occupied by the strokes: I’d say that it’s always about 50-50.
  • Common kanji shapes – you’ll find that many kanji still do have a unique shape that you can fit into the near-universal trapezium framework. Here are a few: circle (like 女 or 安), pentagon (要) triangle (土、生、星) and inverted triangle (重、下).
  • Paramount strokes – many (if not all) kanji have a particular stroke that deserves special emphasis, and which really brings out the kanji’s character if it’s exaggerated a little. Some examples: the central stroke in 中, the 丿in 左, the 乀 (there shouldn’t be that little stub on the left) in kanji like 水、東、人 (though the central vertical strokes are often about just as important), and the topmost 一 in 右
  • When kanji have multiple components, try not to let them spread out too much, and if at all possible, let strokes from one component poke into the nooks and crannies of the other. For example, in 撮, the slanted stroke on the left should enter the space under the topmost horizontal stroke of the 取.
  • This last one is honestly one of the most important basics, but I know it’s hard to achieve without fairly flexible wet-nib pens (e.g. fountain pens, gel pens, large-nib BICs) – if you get the chance to learn them, don’t leave out the finishing movements on each stroke, especially the long, dramatic ones. Some strokes are sharper because of a flick of the wrist or shaped in a particular way at their ends because of a rounded motion: for example, most 一 in calligraphy are an elongated S lying down.

I guess that’s a lot to take in, but you don’t have to follow all of it. I just dug up whatever I could remember from my calligraphy course and tried to think of what I apply when I write now. In any case, all the best, and I hope you have fun. :smiley:

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Thanks for taking so much time to write this. Although i write with a fountain pen, i write with cheap ones so variation in width is not easy to get. I do own one medium nib fude pen (i think it’s called). I’m scared to squish it though.

Reading up what you said made so much sense and i kept thinking “yes indeed”. I’ve noticed how easily the shapes come out of proportion and I’m only doing kana and very simple kanji. And i already struggle with putting too much space and messing up vertical lines.

When i started learning japanese, a lot of it was because i love the writing but i ended up doing almost none because well… as you know, just learning the kana and kanji keeps one busy for a long, long time!

I started examining my own writing as well, especially as i write faster and i noticed the spacing becomes uneven before other things give. Especially with letters like l, d followed by a small letter like a or e. I don’t write that much anymore which does not help.

Funnily, I also improved my writing from copying a classmate whose lettering was incredibly neat. I learned in frnace, then did my uni studies in the US so my writing went from french style to script style and kinda settled in the middle. It’s very inconsistent now.

I’ll have to think hard about the reason why kanji are so pretty and find a way for myself to strike the balance when writing because as you say, imitating does not work when you have no model in front of you.

I still like the idea of mindlessly copying letters though. Probably a habit I have to follow shapes with my fingers and whatever object i have in my hands. I find it soothing!

Thanks again for all the tips :kissing_heart:

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I have a Lamy Safari, which is relatively cheap (probably the cheapest ‘quality’ fountain pen on the market, frankly). You don’t need a flex nib, even if it might help. It’s more that you need enough ink to flow out so you can shape the characters. Fude (筆) pens are good! I’ve got one from Zebra that’s on the larger side that’s basically a miniature brush with its own ink reservoir. (I’m about to run out of ink though…) I think being afraid to squish it is a valid concern. Hahaha. However, it should be fine as long as you vary pressure gradually and make sure the tip bends into the stroke (i.e. you don’t want to end up with a weird kink halfway down the tip). It’s probably best if you find some Japanese calligraphy videos to watch, which should give you an idea of how to move. (There are quite a few under #shodo or #kanji on Instagram, and possibly on Twitter. Kayo-sensei on Twitter is pretty good and produces clean characters, even if I don’t entirely agree with her aesthetic sense, possibly because I learnt from a Chinese calligrapher’s book.) A lot of Japanese calligraphers seem to use a regular three-finger pen grip instead of the traditional Chinese vertical brush hold, which should be much easier for someone used to Latin letters to imitate.

Hahaha. I guess it’s kind of natural, especially when you need to write more quickly. I learnt French cursive before coming to France so my handwriting would ‘fit in’, but frankly, I regularly switch between French cursive and my previous handwriting, which was in print/script, because I find it easier to read. Cursive is for taking rapid notes. I also tried to learn the American Palmer Method at some point, so I still have another ‘font’ in my arsenal (but I’m not very good at it).

Mhm, it’s pretty time-consuming. Learning the kana was probably a bit faster for me as a Chinese speaker, but I still had to pour in lots of time over the few weeks I spent on them in order to pick them up quickly. As for copying letters, I guess it’s true that imitation and tracing is rather pleasant. I used to draw ovals and lines for hours while trying to pick up the Palmer Method, and there was something rather mesmerising about the mechanical motions.

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I have one of these unbranded but good ones but I actually use cheap korean ones - olika: super light with a grip and felt to dispense the ink to the nib so they write dry: exactly what i don’t need for kana lol!

Yeah, there’s no way i can do the vertical holding! My fingers have been shaped by how i hold my pen. It’s gorgeous to watch calligraphy with a vertical hold though.

I remember reading up before i started WK on time needed to learn japanese and there was a special case for chinese natives so yeah, you have a clear advantage. The only alphabet i know is the roman alphabet and the only other letters i use regularly are greek letters for math. All those characters are much easier because they are all the same combination of height and width and i’ve written them thousands of time!

In france we use this paper to learn how to write as well:

image

Years of writing between the lines sure show up in the consistency i see now in my writing.

I was kinda shocked when i saw lined paper in the US and UK. My kittens’ handwriting is abominable: huge letters in all different sizes lol.

I only use graph paper nowadays. I love it. Works for me.

Thanks again for all the advice. It changed the way I looked at my kanji in my new lessons today.

Hahaha. Yes, this. I bought some Séyès paper for myself before leaving for France so I could get used to it. It’s funny how common it is even at the prépa level, but I guess it’s a good way to encourage people to write well (even if not everyone follows the lines).

Hahaha. In primary school, I vaguely remember having some paper with two or three subdivisions per line. It was meant to remind us how big we should make capital letters and small letters. We only used them for handwriting practice though, so you can imagine what happened after students stopped using them. :stuck_out_tongue: They’re non-existent at higher levels of education. (Say, from age 10 onwards?)

I switched to graph paper this year so my diagrams and calculations in maths and physics would be easier to see when I take notes. Much easier on the eyes. I write in blue, and the Séyès grid is blue too, so… yeah, not so great. Hahaha.

You’re welcome! I hope you enjoy yourself. :slight_smile:

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Watching everyone come up with ingenious solutions for this (e.g. using Excel) is breaking my heart - I have a bunch of python scripts I wrote back in February that generate practice sheets like this for arbitrary kanji using the KanjiVG stroke order dataset, no real effort required. KanjiVG stroke order isn’t quite as calligraphic as the beautiful fonts we’re accustomed to, but that’s where your brush pen comes in.

Here are some I made of the WaniKani “pleasant” set for another user here to give you a sense of what the original program output looks like.

It’s on midnight here, but I would be happy to bash something together tomorrow that gives you something like this for the full set of kanji that WK teaches - please let me know if you would prefer it to be landscape / portrait, paper size, grid preferences, or other small adjustments you might require.

edit: should probably put the red ball that indicates the start of the stroke back on too, and corrected a small typo in the stroke order drawing code - now I really have to sleep.

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That’s amazing and so elegant! I was gonna print on A4 and leave a box at the top with the info for the kana/kanji so tables like you have them that cover the bottom 3/4 of an A4 would be perfect.

Just saved your stroke order doc as well. Thanks for sharing. I can’t do python but I’d be curious to see the script. It’s on my work list to learn it but I’m ignoring it… It would be an incentive to learn a bit!

I’d made cells 15 x 15mm for the kana. I’m not sure what standard kanji size is but 15 x 15 is pretty small for a big kanji already!

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edit: see my reply further down for a better version of this

Here is a pdf with tracing pages for the 2136 常用 kanji. It is unfortunately really big - 127mb or so.

I will share my code for it eventually, but I feel like it needs a rewrite first - to make it neater, to make the process faster (the pages took about five hours to generate) and to make the resulting SVG files that are then converted to PDF smaller. At the moment, every box / guideline / kanji on the page is drawn independently, which makes for very big SVG source files. It really should use a proper grid made of lines and SVG’s support for reusing elements.

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I read somewhere that kanji usually do get written a little bigger than the kana, yes.

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