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Mastering Calligraphy: How to Write in Cursive Script

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This post is part of a series called Mastering Calligraphy.
Mastering Calligraphy: How to Write in Roundhand Script
Mastering Calligraphy: How to Write in Gothic Script

In this lesson of "Mastering Calligraphy" we're going to learn how to write like the great Jane Austen. Flowing, cursive lettering is still seen today on wedding invitations and menus at fancy restaurants. While it looks extremely difficult to ink, it's actually made of two basic strokes. Better yet, with the Cursive Script, you hardly ever have to lift your pen off the paper! 

Premium Options

Before we start with the process, here are some options for those of you who need extra help from a professional designer. If you want to get some lettering or calligraphy work done, perhaps for a logo design or for some elegant wedding invitations, check out some of the options on Envato Studio. Here are a few of the most popular services:

1. Custom Hand-Lettering - Phrases and Words

Venimo provides custom hand-lettering for logotypes or phrases for prints, t-shirts, and greeting cards. You will get the lettering in vector format with a high-quality image and raster image. You will get it in AI Illustrator, Vector EPS format, a high resolution PNG with transparency, and PSD Photoshop.

2. Hand-Drawn Lettering & Type

With DraStudio, you get custom hand-drawn lettering for single words, logotypes or phrases. Delivery is in one day, with two revisions possible. The main approach is to create a concise and unique overall piece.

3. Custom and Hand Lettering Logo

One way to create an absolutely unique logo / personal brand design is to craft the lettering by hand, as opposed to selecting an existing font. Fonts don’t work as logos because you’re forcing it to be something that it wasn’t originally designed for. With Yip87, you will get the source files in AI Illustrator, Vector EPS format, and a high resolution PNG.

4. Unique Hand Lettering Illustration

This service will make your name or anything else look like amazing. Kineticink will create a high-quality hand-lettered unique illustration. It's perfect for logos, wedding invitations, or promotional materials.

If these aren't for you, then read on for the full process of doing it yourself.

What You'll Need

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

1. Warm up with the Basic Strokes

Before we dive into Cursive Script, let's warm up our hands.

Step 1

Print out four or five of the practice sheets on a nice cardstock or Bristol paper.

Step 2

Practice the basic upward stroke for one or two lines to warm up. This stroke is a bit new but very easy. You start just above the bottom line. Then you curve down and to the right to touch the bottom line. Next, you shoot up to the top line.

cursive calligraphy - upward stroke

Step 3

Practice the basic curve stroke for one or two lines to warm up. This one hasn't changed but you may curl up a bit more than before.

cursive calligraphy - curve stroke

Okay! Now we're ready to start. In this lesson on mastering calligraphy, we're going to learn a very familiar alphabet called Cursive Script.

2. Cursive Script Lowercase Alphabet

cursive calligraphy - lowercase alphabet

Let's take a look at the Cursive Script alphabet. As you can see, it looks almost identical to the cursive you learned in elementary school. The blue arrows above show the directions of the pen strokes and the numbers below tell you how many strokes make up each letter. Most letters will be made with just one stroke as cursive is all about efficiency. We're going to start with the lowercase alphabet and break it up into two sections: upward stroke letters and curve stroke letters. So let's start with the downward stroke letters!

Step 1

Print out a copy of the alphabet above so that you have it handy for reference.

3. Upward Stroke Lowercase Letters

Step 1

The letters b, f, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, and z all begin with the downward stroke. Some have strokes that fill up the entire height of the line and others only reach to the dashed line. Some, like the 'f' even reach below the bottom line. To start, I'm going to show you the direction of each stroke plus how many stokes make up each letter. When you're writing out the letters yourself, you can sketch them out using your pencil first. Then you can simply follow the pencil lines with your pen.

cursive calligraphy - downward stroke letters

Step 2

Let's start with the 'u' since it's easiest. Place your pen tip on the bottom line. Make an upward stroke to the dashed line. Then make a downward stroke that dips to the bottom line and then swings back up again. Next, make another downward stroke and end with a little curl. Voila! You have a Cursive Script 'u'. It kind of felt like drawing waves on the sea, right?

cursive calligraphy - letter u

Step 3

Repeat making the letter 'u' three times so that you get the feel of it. Many letters, such as the i, j, m, n, r, v, w, and y are very similar to the 'u'. Once you have the 'h' down, it's easy to see how other letters are made.

cursive calligraphy - letter u multiples

Step 4

Let's try a harder letter: h. The 'h' starts the same as the 'h' but its stroke reaches all the way up to the top line. You then arc to the left and make a downward stroke to the bottom line. You'll cross over your previous line right near the bottom. Now arc up to the dash line and make a downward stroke back down to the bottom line, curling up at the end.

cursive calligraphy - letter h

Step 5

Repeat making the letter 'h' three times so that you get the feel of it. Many letters, such as the b, f, k, and l are very similar to the 'h'.

cursive calligraphy - letter h multiples

Step 6

Slowly make your way through the rest of the curved stroke lowercase letters, using the guide of the strokes as reference.

4. Curved Stroke Lowercase Letters

Step 1

The letters a, c, d, e, g, o, and q all begin with the curved stroke. To start, I'm going to show you the direction of each stroke plus how many stokes make up each letter. You can always sketch out the letters using your pencil first to feel more comfortable. Then you can simply follow the pencil lines with your pen.

cursive calligraphy - curve stroke letters

Step 2

Let's start with the 'o' since it's easiest. Place your pen tip just below the dashed line. Arc down and around to the right, returning to the starting point. Then make a little curl to the right. Voila! You have a Cursive Script 'o'. Not too hard, was it?

cursive calligraphy - letter o

Step 3

Repeat making the letter 'o' three times so that you get the feel of it. Once you have the 'o' down, it's easy to see how the other downward curve letters are made.

cursive calligraphy - letter o multiples

Step 4

Let's try a harder letter: g. Make the same start to the 'g' as you did the 'o' but go up past the starting point. Then make a downward stroke and go past the bottom line. Curl to the left and make an upward, diagonal stroke that goes a bit above the bottom line. It should intersect the downward stroke of your 'g' right at the bottom line.

cursive calligraphy - letter g

Step 5

Repeat making the letter 'g' three times so that you get the feel of it.

cursive calligraphy - letter g multiples

Step 6

Slowly make your way through the rest of the curved stroke lowercase letters, using the guide of the strokes as reference.

5. Write the Lowercase Alphabet

Step 1

Now that you've written each letter multiple times, it's time to put it all together and write out the lowercase alphabet.

cursive calligraphy - lowercase letters

6. Cursive Script Uppercase Alphabet

cursive calligraphy - uppercase letters

The uppercase alphabet always plays by different rules and is generally much more elaborate. The curved strokes are much bigger and the upward strokes have more curls and slant to them. Besides that, the uppercase letters are just as simple to write as the lowercase. You can always sketch out the letters using your pencil first to feel more comfortable. Then you can simply follow the pencil lines with your pen. When it comes to uppercase letters, I prefer to pencil mine out beforehand.

Step 1

Since most of the letters begin with a curved stroke, I didn't divide the alphabet into groups. Instead, we'll simply work our way through it, using the guide above to see how many strokes each letter is made of and what direction the strokes go.

So let's start with an easy letter. We'll start with the letter 'l'. Place your pen tip on the top line. Arc down and around to the right, coming up to the top line and making something like a bad 'o' shape. Then make a downward stroke to the bottom line. Your line will be slanting to the right. When you reach the bottom line, curl up and around. Finally, sweep your line out to the right, making a nice gentle curve. Voila! You have a Cursive Script uppercase 'l'. Remember, it's all about curls and slants. The bigger, the better.

cursive calligraphy - capital l

Step 2

Repeat making the letter 'l' three times so that you get the feel of it. Like I said before, when it comes to uppercase letters, the more flourish, the better so don't be scared to make some big curls and sweeping lines. Once you have the 'l' down, it's easy to see how other uppercase letters like the c, e, g, o, and q are made.

cursive calligraphy - capital l multiples

Step 3

Let's try a harder letter: r. Start with your pen tip on the top line. Make a downward stroke to the bottom line, arcing slightly to the left and ending in a fancy curl. Then lift up your place and place it on the dashed line. Make a curved stroke up and around to the left toward the top line. Then curve down to the dashed line again. You make a lopsided 'o' in the top half of the writing space. Now make another curved stroke out to the right and down to the bottom line, again ending in a fancy curl. A bit superfluous but not too hard, right?

cursive calligraphy - capital r

Step 4

Repeat making the letter 'r' three times so that you get the feel of it. The letter 'r' is very similar to the letters b, d, f, i, j, p,  and t. So once you have this one down, you can do the rest!

cursive calligraphy - capital r multiples

Step 5

Slowly make your way through the rest of the uppercase letters, using the guide of the strokes as reference.

7. Uppercase Cursive Script

Step 1

Now that you've written each letter multiple times, it's time to put it all together and write out the alphabet.

cursive calligraphy - capital alphabet

7. Putting it All Together

Step 1

Let's write something a bit more exciting! Most people use Cursive Script for invitations so let's write out some celebratory phrases.

cursive calligraphy - putting it together

You've Mastered the Cursive Script!

This style of calligraphy is the one most often used for wedding invitations and party announcements. You might also think of Jane Austen when you see it. I hope that you've discovered it's actually quite a simple font to write, despite looking very fancy. The more you practice, the easier it will be to ink the letters and the faster you'll be at writing. In future tutorials, we'll learn a slightly more complicated script that looks even fancier.

Extra Resources

If you're interested in getting some help with your lettering or calligraphy, Envato Studio has a great collection of Lettering and Calligraphy Services that you might like to explore.

Or if you prefer a digital solution that lets you create elegant invitations with that hand-written look, browse the selection of calligraphy fonts on Envato Market.

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