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Design

Mastering Calligraphy: An Easy Introduction

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This post is part of a series called Mastering Calligraphy.
Mastering Calligraphy: Making Your Own Font
Learn the Art of Calligraphy in Our Latest Course

Calligraphy is an art that never dies. You see it coming back into style with hand-lettered invitations and in high-end magazines. It's a great way to jazz up your correspondence and impress people.

While most people think that calligraphy is difficult to learn, it's really made up of two simple strokes, which we're going to learn in this lesson before we start our series on "Mastering Calligraphy".

What You'll Need

calligraphy intro - supplies
  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Black Ink (preferably Speedball or Higgins waterproof ink)
  • Practice sheet
  • Pen holder (the black part of the pen above)
  • Pen nib (the shiny gold part of the pen above)

1. Pick the Right Tip

There are many calligraphy pen tips for you to choose from. To start out, it's best to have a flat tipped nib that is about 1/8" wide (the tip in the top left of this photo). This gives you a nice variation in your line work and it's bold enough to be very different from your normal ballpoint pen. Insert the tip into the pen holder and you're reader to go!

calligraphy intro - tips to choose from

2. Dipping

Dip the pen gently into the ink until the ink reaches 3/4 up the tip. Too little ink and you'll run out faster, leading to scratchy lines and constant interruptions. Too much and you'll overflow the tip and cause the ink to drip out in spurts.

calligraphy intro - dipping pen in ink

3. Holding the Pen

Step 1

Hold your pen like you would a pencil, gripping it gently. If you grip too tightly, you'll be more likely to shake as your hand fatigues.

calligraphy intro - holding pen

Step 2

Place the tip of the pen flat onto the paper. Placing the tip flat means you will get more variations in your lines and you won't scratch a hole through your paper with the corners of the tip.

calligraphy intro - putting pen to paper

4. Play With Strokes

Let's be honest: starting calligraphy is daunting. So for starters, I just want you to play on the back of your practice paper. Make some big loopy lines and some straight lines. Practice dipping your pen into the ink. There's no right or wrong here; you're just getting the feel of the pen.

calligraphy intro - playing with the pen

5. The Basic Downward Stroke

There are only two main strokes in calligraphy: the downward stroke and the curve. So let's start with the downward stroke! If it feels easier to you, you can draw each of these lines first with your pencil. That way you have a line to follow.

Step 1

Using your practice sheet, place your pen at the top line. Keeping the tip of your pen flat against the paper, move your hand downward to the bottom solid line. You don't want to keep perfectly straight but rather if you are right-handed, let your line slant right (like mine below) and if you're left-handed, let it slant left. You will have a little 'foot' on the bottom of your downward stroke as you finish.

calligraphy intro - basic downstroke

Step 2

Practice filling the entire line of your practice sheet with downward strokes. You'll be surprised by how quickly your lines will improve.

calligraphy intro - basic downstroke line

6. The Basic Curve

Step 1

The basic curve is essentially as simple as drawing a letter 'c' without its top. Place the tip of you pen flat on the middle, dashed line. Then make a curve moving down and left, pulling back up slightly after you reach the bottom line. If it feels easier to you, you can draw each of these lines first with your pencil. That way you have a line to follow.

calligraphy intro - basic curve

Step 2

Practice filling the entire line of your practice sheet with curves. Again, you'll be surprised by how quickly your lines will improve.

calligraphy intro - basic curve line

That's Your Basics, Ready to Move on?

Calligraphy is much easier than you think once you have the basic strokes down. With these two simple strokes, you can make nearly every letter in the alphabet. In future tutorials, I'll be teaching you several different alphabets using multiple pen nibs and showing you how to create your very own font.

calligraphy intro - filled in practice sheet

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