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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
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What You'll Be Creating

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".

This calligraphy font practice will teach you the basics of this art. Now, if you're looking for the best font for calligraphy to use in your digital project, scroll down after this tutorial and find our selection of premium calligraphy fonts from Envato Elements.

Elisabetta Copperplate Calligraphy FontElisabetta Copperplate Calligraphy FontElisabetta Copperplate Calligraphy Font
The Elisabetta Copperplate Calligraphy Font is available on Envato Elements

What You Will Learn in This Calligraphy Tutorial

  • How to pick the right penholder 
  • How to pick the right nib
  • How to dip and hold the pen
  • How to do the basic modern calligraphy strokes

What You'll Need

  • 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 silver part of the pen above)
calligraphy intro - suppliescalligraphy intro - suppliescalligraphy intro - supplies

1. How to Pick the Right Pen

This is an oblique pen holder. The nib is inserted on the left-hand side. These pens are great for getting the right angle for your calligraphy.

Intro to calligraphy- oblique penholderIntro to calligraphy- oblique penholderIntro to calligraphy- oblique penholder

This is a straight penholder. Just like a regular pen, the tip of the nib is inserted at the top.

Intro to Calligraphy- straight penholderIntro to Calligraphy- straight penholderIntro to Calligraphy- straight penholder

2. How to Pick the Right Tip

There are many calligraphy pen tips, called nibs, for you to choose from. To start out, it's best to have a nib that's not too flexible and not too sharp for ease and control when first trying out modern calligraphy.

I will be demonstrating with a "Zebra G" nib, pointy but not sharp, and sturdy not flexible. For beginners, sharper nibs are harder to control as they catch on the paper fibres, and flexible nibs are a little difficult to control as a beginner because you are not yet used to the expected pressure needed for particular strokes. 

calligraphy intro - nib to usecalligraphy intro - nib to usecalligraphy intro - nib to use

3. How to Dip the Pen

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.

4. How to Hold the Pen

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.

5. How to Do Calligraphy 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. Play around with the pressure you exert on the nib and see the difference in thickness. 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 pencalligraphy intro - playing with the pencalligraphy intro - playing with the pen

6. How to Do the Upstroke

In modern calligraphy, there are eight basic strokes that make up all letter forms: the upstroke, downstroke, overturn, underturn, oval, compound curve, ascending loop, and descending loop. So let's start with the  upstroke! 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.

Using your practice sheet, place your pen at the bottom line. Keeping the tip of your pen evenly flat against the paper, with the hole of the nib facing directly up, move your hand upward to the dashed line with very light pressure. You don't have to keep perfectly straight, but rather let your line slant right (like mine below) or not.

calligraphy intro - upstrokecalligraphy intro - upstrokecalligraphy intro - upstroke

7. How to Do the Downstroke

With the downstroke, it's basically the same motion as the upstroke. However, instead of starting at the bottom line, start at the dashed line, and with a heavy pressure pull down slightly to the right (or not). 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.

There you have your downstroke!

calligraphy intro - basic downstroke linecalligraphy intro - basic downstroke linecalligraphy intro - basic downstroke line

8. How to Do the Overturn 

The overturn is the upstroke and downstroke combined. Starting with an upstroke, as you get to the dashed line, instead of stopping, arch over, keeping in mind the pressure switch from light to heavy, and pull down with a parallel downstroke. 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 -overturn strokecalligraphy intro -overturn strokecalligraphy intro -overturn stroke

9. How to Do the Underturn

This stroke is the overturn stroke, just upside down! So, instead of starting with an upstroke followed by a downstroke, we want to start with a downstroke and as we approach the bottom line, curve under to the right and with light pressure create an upstroke.

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 - underturn strokecalligraphy intro - underturn strokecalligraphy intro - underturn stroke

10. How to Do the Compound Curve

This stroke is the overturn and underturn combined. As we are about to end our overturn stroke, we curve under, like with an underturn stroke, ensuring our lines are parallel with one another. 

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.

Intro to Calligraphy- compound curve strokeIntro to Calligraphy- compound curve strokeIntro to Calligraphy- compound curve stroke

11. How to Do the Oval 

This is the oval stroke. Starting just under the dashed line, we want to arch up and over to the left coming down with a curved downstroke, and coming back up closing the gap. This is a very tricky stroke, so do take your time, and use your pencils!

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.

Intro to Calligraphy- oval strokeIntro to Calligraphy- oval strokeIntro to Calligraphy- oval stroke

12. How to Do the Ascending Loop

Just above the dashed line, make an upstroke slightly out to the right up to the top line, and loop over with a downstroke all the way down to 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.

Intro to Calligraphy-  Ascending loop strokeIntro to Calligraphy-  Ascending loop strokeIntro to Calligraphy-  Ascending loop stroke

13. How to Do the Descending Loop

Like many of the other strokes, this is also another upside down. With this stroke, we start at the dashed line coming down with a heavy pressured downstroke, and as we get to that bottom line, curve up to the left and loop back, closing the gap.

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.

Intro to Calligraphy- Descending loop strokeIntro to Calligraphy- Descending loop strokeIntro to Calligraphy- Descending loop stroke

14. Strokes in Practice

Here we have an upstroke, oval, and underturn stroke. All these together create the lowercase letter "a". Fun, right?

Intro to Calligraphy- strokes that make lowercase aIntro to Calligraphy- strokes that make lowercase aIntro to Calligraphy- strokes that make lowercase a

Here we have an upstroke, ascending loop, and compound curve. And there is your "h".

Intro to Calligraphy- strokes that make lowercase hIntro to Calligraphy- strokes that make lowercase hIntro to Calligraphy- strokes that make lowercase h

Here you have a "g", made up of an upstroke, oval, descending loop, and upstroke.

Intro to Calligraphy- Strokes that make lowercase gIntro to Calligraphy- Strokes that make lowercase gIntro to Calligraphy- Strokes that make lowercase g

The lowercase letter "n" is composed of an overturn and compound curve.

Intro to Calligraphy- strokes that make lowercase nIntro to Calligraphy- strokes that make lowercase nIntro to Calligraphy- strokes that make lowercase n

Your Basic Calligraphy Font Practice Is Done

Calligraphy is much easier than you think, once you have the basic strokes down. With these eight 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 - all strokes togethercalligraphy intro - all strokes togethercalligraphy intro - all strokes together

5 Best Fonts for Calligraphy From Envato Elements

I hope you liked this calligraphy font practice tutorial. Next up, I'll share with you a hand-picked selection of the best fonts for calligraphy from Envato Elements.

If you're working on multiple digital creative projects, you'll love our subscription-based marketplace. 

Envato Elements gives you unlimited access to the best calligraphy fonts. Envato Elements gives you unlimited access to the best calligraphy fonts. Envato Elements gives you unlimited access to the best calligraphy fonts.
Envato Elements gives you unlimited access to the best calligraphy fonts.

For a low monthly fee, enjoy unlimited downloads of the best modern calligraphy fonts. You can also get unlimited premium fonts, graphic templates, actions and presets, and more.

1. Metalurdo Copperplate Calligraphy Font (OTF, WOFF)

Metalurdo Copperplate Calligraphy FontMetalurdo Copperplate Calligraphy FontMetalurdo Copperplate Calligraphy Font

Looking for a classic copperplate calligraphy font? Matalurdo is an elegant calligraphy font, perfect for logos, invitations, stationery, and more. This copperplate calligraphy font includes swashes, alternates, ligatures, and multilingual support.

2. Elisabetta Copperplate Calligraphy Font (OTF)

Elisabetta Copperplate Calligraphy FontElisabetta Copperplate Calligraphy FontElisabetta Copperplate Calligraphy Font

A nice copperplate calligraphy font never goes out of style. Check out Elisabetta, a nice mix of copperplate calligraphy and hand-lettering style. This is a contender for the best font for calligraphy as it features more than 340 glyphs and 160 alternative characters, along with multiple language support. 

3. Makise Japanese Calligraphy Font (OTF, TTF, WOFF)

Makise Japanese Calligraphy FontMakise Japanese Calligraphy FontMakise Japanese Calligraphy Font

Japanese calligraphy fonts are a hot trend. If you're a fan of the Asian calligraphy style, you'll love Makise. This Japanese calligraphy font was created with a natural handwriting brush, and you can use it for many types of projects.

4. Oriental Chinese Calligraphy Font (OTF, TTF, WOFF)

Oriental Chinese Calligraphy FontOriental Chinese Calligraphy FontOriental Chinese Calligraphy Font

Continuing with the Asian calligraphy trend, check out this Chinese calligraphy font. This strong typeface features an authentic Chinese traditional calligraphy feeling. This Chinese calligraphy font includes a normal and bold version, along with numbers and punctuation. 

5. Bouncy Calligraphy Font (OTF,TTF)

Bouncy Calligraphy FontBouncy Calligraphy FontBouncy Calligraphy Font

The Bouncy Castle is a modern calligraphy font that will look great on your stationery. This bouncy calligraphy font includes four sets of alternative letter styles for maximum creativity. The fun and modern calligraphy font family includes the original style, three stylistic sets, a bold style, and more!

Discover More Fonts and Resources

You've learned the basics of calligraphy fonts practice and checked some of our top modern calligraphy fonts. Now, if you're hungry for more fonts and interesting resources, we've got these for you:

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