Learning Modern Calligraphy: Create Exquisitely Beautiful Letters

calligraphy lettering

Do you want to learn calligraphy? If so, you have come to the right place! In this blog post, we will provide a step-by-step guide on getting started with calligraphy. We will also discuss some of the basic rules you need to follow to produce stunning lettering, as well as some of the benefits you can get from this craft.

So what are you waiting for? Read on to see how you can apply these notes for your skills to progress over time.

What is Calligraphy?

Before we get into the step-by-step guide, let's take a moment to discuss what calligraphy is. So what is it, and what are its origins? Calligraphy is a form of visual art that involves using specific tools and techniques to create letters. It has been used to write religious texts, documents, and other important messages for centuries.

The word "calligraphy" comes from the Greek words "kallos" and "graphein," which mean "beautiful" and "to write," respectively. As the world has become more globalized, calligraphy has experienced a resurgence in popularity.

Many people enjoy the art form because it is visually appealing and relaxing. You can now use it to create invitations, cards, letters, and many more. It's a beautiful way to add a personal touch to your correspondence. And best of all, it's not as difficult as you might think!

What You'll Need

Calligraphy may seem daunting, but it's quite simple. All you need are a few basic writing tools. To start practicing calligraphy, you will need:

  • Pen Holder
  • Nibs
  • Ink
  • Paper
  • Pens and markers

Pen Holder

Calligraphy pen holder on the wood table

If you choose to use a nib to write, you need a pen holder. You might be wondering why you a pen needs a holder; here's why. Calligraphy pens are held at a specific angle, usually between 30 and 45 degrees.

This allows the nib to contact the paper at the right point, creating beautiful thick and thin lines. Although you can technically use any pen holder, we recommend getting a calligraphy-specific one.

They're designed to be comfortable and easy to hold for long periods. Without a pen holder, your hand will quickly start to cramp up! There are many different kinds of pen holders that you can find online. No matter what pen holder you choose, affordable or luxurious, as long as it's comfortable to use, that's all that matters.

Nibs

Nib of a calligraphy pen

Nibs are the small, metal part of the calligraphy pen that touches the paper. They come in various sizes and shapes, each with a different line width. When you're just starting, we recommend using a nib with an ink reservoir. This means that the nib will hold more ink, so you won't have to dip your pen in ink while writing constantly.

We also recommend getting a nib that is not too flexible. A more flexible nib will produce thinner and thicker lines depending on how much pressure you apply, which can be difficult to control when you're first starting. A less flexible nib will give you a consistent line width, making it easier to produce even letters.

Pens and Markers

different kinds of pens

As mentioned above, calligraphy has broken into many styles, and you can use different pens for each. A brush pen is great for lettering because it gives you more control over the thickness of your strokes. Most beginners start with a nib and ink holder, but you may want to try a brush pen instead.

You may also use markers if you want more affordable writing tools. They also come in different colors, making your calligraphy more appealing. Fountain pens are also available if you want a pen that will last longer.

Ink

colorful ink in cans

Once you've chosen a nib, you'll need to find some ink. You can use any liquid ink with a calligraphy pen, but we recommend using ink specifically made for calligraphy. This type of ink will flow more smoothly from your pen and produce cleaner lines. Your ink doesn't have to be black; you can find colored inks made specifically for calligraphy.

Paper

calligraphy paper

Calligraphy on paper - Image by Seven Brush Strokes

The type of paper you use is also important. You'll want to find a smooth, heavyweight paper that won't bleed when you apply ink to it. This will make the entire process easier and give you cleaner lines. However, if you're starting, any paper will do.

Step-by-Step Guide 

Now that you have all the writing tools you need, it's time to get started! Follow these simple steps, and you'll be on your way to creating beautiful calligraphy in no time.

Prepare the Workplace

calligraphy supplies on the white surface

First, you need to find a proper and comfortable workplace. Make sure the surface you're working on is flat and has good lighting. However, it is said that a slightly inclined work surface makes it easier to produce nice, consistent lines.

So, feel free to try both until you find what works best for you. You'll also want to have a few sheets of scrap paper handy in case you make any mistakes.

Prepare Your Nib

calligraphy nibs

Calligraphy nibs - Image by Creative Feel Designs

Once you have all of the tools you need, it's time to prepare your nib. Please be advised that a new nib has oil on it from the manufacturing process, and these oils can prevent your ink from flowing evenly.

As a result, you'll want to clean your nib before using it. You may clean it by wiping it down with a paper towel or lint-free cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol. Once you're finished, dry off the excess liquid with a clean towel.

Hold Your Pen Properly

a woman holding a calligraphy pen on the tracing paper

Calligraphy pen and tracing paper - Image by LHCalligraphy

Before you start writing, you'll want to feel how your nib and pen work together. You can do this by practicing on scrap paper. Start by holding your pen properly! This may seem easier, but many people struggle with it.

You must hold the pen at a 45-degree angle, with the nib pointing downwards. It is important to keep a consistent grip on the pen so that your letters are even and consistent in thickness. This will help you control your strokes and produce neater letters.

Now that you know how to hold your pen and what angle to use, it's time to start writing! Let's start with the basic calligraphy strokes.

Start with the Upstroke

woman writing upstroke

Woman writing upstroke - Image by Lettering League

This is the most basic of all calligraphy strokes and perhaps the easiest to master. The upstroke is any stroke that starts at the bottom line and moves upwards. You see this thin line in letters like 'h,' 'n,' and 'm'.

Hold your pen at the 45-degree angle we talked about earlier to create an upstroke. Gently place the nib on the paper, then apply pressure as you move the pen upwards. Remember to release the pressure at the end of the stroke.

Next, the Downstroke

woman writing downstrokes

It is the opposite of upstroke — it starts at the top line and moves downwards. You see this thick line in letters like 'b,' 'd', and 'p.' Again, start by holding your pen at that 45-degree angle. Place the nib on the paper and apply pressure as you move it down. Remember to release the pressure at the end of the stroke.

Aside from those basic strokes, there are several additional strokes that you'll need to learn to create letters. The video below shows how each of these new strokes looks. Remember to keep your pressure light as you practice these!

Modern Calligraphy vs. Typical Calligraphy

People are becoming more creative with their calligraphy. This has led to the development of two main types of calligraphy: modern and typical. Modern calligraphy is a more free-flowing style that doesn't adhere to traditional rules.

This writing style is often used for invitations, cards, and other decorative purposes. On the other hand, Typical calligraphy is a more traditional style that follows all the rules of calligraphy. This type is often used for letters and other documents where a more formal look is desired.

Benefits of Learning Modern Calligraphy

So now that you know a bit more about calligraphy, you might be wondering why you should bother learning it. After all, isn't it just a fancy way of writing? Well, there are quite a few benefits to learning calligraphy like the following:

  • It Improves Your Writing

For starters, learning modern calligraphy can help improve your handwriting. This is because focusing correctly on forming each letter forces you to slow down and pay attention to your writing. This, in turn, helps you become more intentional as you write out a letter for letter. 

  • It Helps You Relax

The deliberate, methodical motions can help clear your mind and give you a sense of calm. In a fast-paced world, taking the time to slow down and appreciate the little things can be very therapeutic.

  • It Can Have Sentimental Value

It's a great way to add a personal touch to cards, invitations, and other correspondence. A handwritten note always makes a big impression and shows that you took the time to make something special.

  • It Saves You Money

As we all know, invitation cards may be expensive, especially when you order them in bulk. So, why not add a personal touch and design your invitations using calligraphy? This can save you a lot of money, and it's a great way to show off your creative skills.

  • It’s Good for DIY Home Decoration

Calligraphy is also an excellent way to decorate your home. You can frame your favorite quotes or poems and hang them on the wall. You can also use calligraphy to create unique artwork for your home–the sky is the limit! 

  • You Can Earn Money

These days, you have to be creative to earn extra money on the side. But whether you opt to do it as a part-time project or a full-on business, it’s great to know that you can use calligraphy and build a business out of it, giving so many opportunities for calligraphers these days.

Basic Rules to Remember

Before we get through, we'll just quickly go over some general rules to keep in mind as you write. These rules may help you achieve a more consistent result in your calligraphy. Let's dive in!

Be Consistent

When learning something new, it's easy to get excited and want to try out all the different variations of each letter. But when first starting, it's important to be consistent in forming your letters. This will help you internalize the muscle memory needed to write quickly and accurately.

Don't Forget the Space

One common mistake is focusing so much on the downstrokes and upstrokes that they forget about the space between them. The white space is just as important as the strokes themselves!

Keep a Light Touch

If you press too hard with your pen, you'll find that it's harder to make thin upstrokes. A light touch will also help you increase your writing speed. However, it also depends on the strokes you are doing. If you are working on the downstrokes, you may press harder but not too much. This will make your downstrokes perfect while eliminating ink from bleeding on your paper. 

Use a Guide

Don’t be hard on yourself if it takes a little longer to master the strokes without a guide. Using a guide won't make you a bad calligrapher; it'll help you learn the basic strokes faster. You can find printable guides online or in calligraphy books.

Choose the Right Paper

Not all papers are created equal. Some are too smooth, and your ink will bead up on the surface. Others are too rough and will cause your pen to skip. Look for a nice, medium-weight paper with some texture that isn't too rough.

Also, consider the weight of the paper when you're buying calligraphy supplies, too, because a lighter paper will require a thinner nib, and inks will behave differently on different weights of paper.

Calligraphy for Beginners FAQ

1. What kind of pen should I use?

You can use any writing pen you like, but a felt-tip calligraphy pen is a good place to start. They have tips that come to a nice point, and they're easy to find in stores. Ultimately, feel what’s comfortable to you and how it performs when put to paper. Weigh your options and decide.

2. How do I make the letters look consistent?

A big part of calligraphy is making sure your downstrokes and upstrokes are the same thickness. You can practice this by drawing lines of different thicknesses and then going over them with a consistent stroke.

3. What's the best way to practice?

The best way to practice is by doing it as often as possible. Write out your grocery list in calligraphy or send a friend a handwritten note. The more you do it, the better you'll get. You can also watch Youtube tutorials while you have a go with it for a more visual approach to your practice.

4. This seems like a lot of work. Is it worth it?

Calligraphy is an art form that takes time and practice to perfect, but it's definitely worth the effort. The result is beautiful and unique lettering that you can use for projects. So if you’re into nice things and don’t mind putting in the effort, you’ll find this worth your while. 

5. What if I make a mistake?

Mistakes are part of the learning process! So, if you make a mistake, start over and try again. With time and practice, you'll be able to produce clean, stunning calligraphy. You may also try using washable markers or pencils so you can easily erase any mistakes.

Conclusion

Calligraphy is a beautiful and unique art form that is not difficult to learn but may take time to perfect. However, the result is definitely worth the effort. If you make a mistake, don't worry! Everyone makes them, and they're simply part of the learning process. With the right tools and practice, you'll be able to produce clean, stunning calligraphy.

To learn, first, go ahead and give it a try. If you found this article helpful, check out our other calligraphy-related articles. Until next time, happy lettering!

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