How to Practice Calligraphy – Tips and Habits

Last Updated on June 12, 2024

Whether you are learning something for the first time, or it’s been a while practice is a huge component to learning. Repetition is the key to improvement for any skill and calligraphy is no exception. I know from experience that you get rusty pretty quickly from lack of practice. From switching in between scripts, or taking a break; everyone can use a quick touch-up on their skills. So if you want to keep those clean and crisp letters consistent you will have to learn to practice regularly. So first we must learn how to build a good habit.

7 Best Tips to Build a Habit (General)

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In life, it is very important to know how to build good habits for yourself, so first I will describe these tips, and you can use them in your life, or whatever you want to put your efforts towards. However, in this blogpost, we will later apply them to learning calligraphy. All these tips are from the amazing book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear (Amazon Links: AudioBook or Book). So I *heavily* recommend this book to anyone wanting to improve their life with better habits, but I will give you a hyper-condensed version.

3 Ways to Promote the Preferred Habit

Make it obvious.

Increase the visibility of desired habits by creating obvious cues that prompt the desired action. For example, lay out workout clothes the night before to encourage morning exercise.

Make it attractive.

Associate positive feelings with the desired habit to increase motivation. Pair an activity you enjoy with the habit you want to cultivate. For instance, listen to your favorite podcast only while doing household chores.

Make it easy.

Simplify the process of performing desired habits to reduce friction. Break down tasks into smaller steps and remove obstacles that hinder progress. For example, keep a water bottle nearby to make hydration easier.

Make it satisfying.

Reward yourself for completing desired habits to reinforce behavior. Choose rewards that are immediate, satisfying, and specific to the habit. For instance, treat yourself to a piece of dark chocolate after completing a writing session.

2 Ways to Discourage Habits that Inhibit the Desired Habit

Make it unattractive.

Create consequences for undesirable habits to deter repetition. Associate negative feelings with the habit to decrease motivation. For example, donate money to a charity you dislike each time you indulge in a bad habit or one that gets in the way of the one you are trying to build.

Make it invisible.

Reduce exposure to cues that trigger unwanted habits to decrease temptation. Modify your environment to make it more difficult to engage in undesirable behaviors. For instance, store junk food out of sight to reduce mindless snacking.

For Continuous Improvement:

Make it challenging

Continuously push yourself to improve habits by setting progressively higher standards. Set specific, measurable, and achievable goals that stretch your capabilities. For example, aim to increase the duration of your daily meditation practice by one minute each week.

Now that we know some helpful guidelines on how to build and maintain good habits, let’s apply some of them to learning calligraphy.

How to Regularly Practice Calligraphy

1. Keep a Designated Space for Calligraphy – (Make it Obvious)

Keep a space clean and ready to write. (Ignore the typo if you can)

This is a very important step and should be done near the beginning of your learning to ensure the quickest progression within it. If you have a space set aside, you can quickly get into writing by removing one barrier (cleaning up) to picking up the pen.  Let me put it this way, instead of having your guitar in its case in the closet it was out on a stand a few seconds from reach. Maybe you have a half hour of free time you’ll play a few chords. Making it easier to just sit down and write will increase your frequency of practice. So clean off that desk space, or head to Ikea/thrift shop for a simple table for the house. Above you can see it is my workstation and I *try* to keep it as clean as I can.

2. Keep your Tools Clean and Have Writing Prompts Ready – (Make it Easy)

It is very important to keep your tools clean so that when you have the motivation to practice, you don’t spend it doing a less enjoyable task. If you are learning modern calligraphy, you must make sure to clean your nibs. If you are learning blackletter calligraphy, Pilot Parallels need to be rinsed out with the provided tool to ensure there isn’t any clogging. Organizing your tools, or in my case drawer space, can remove a barrier to getting started.

If you don’t have tools yet, select from the below links:

Another way to ensure it is easy to practice is to have word prompts to write. Sometimes, you can the motivation to practice, but not any ideas on what to write. Below are some examples on what you can write when you are drawing a blank:

  1. Colors: red, blue, green, yellow, black, white, etc.
  2. Numbers: one, two, three, ten, hundred, thousand, etc.
  3. Family members: mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, etc.
  4. Seasons: spring, summer, autumn/fall, winter.
  5. Body parts: hand, foot, head, eyes, nose, mouth, etc.
  6. Basic emotions: happy, sad, angry, surprised, scared, etc.
  7. Common animals: dog, cat, bird, fish, lion, etc.
  8. Shapes: circle, square, triangle, rectangle, etc.
  9. Directions: up, down, left, right, north, south, east, west.
  10. Weather conditions: sunny, rainy, cloudy, windy, snowy, etc.
  11. Time-related words: hour, minute, second, today, tomorrow, yesterday.
  12. Basic shapes: oval, star, heart, diamond, crescent, pentagon.
  13. Common fruits: apple, banana, orange, strawberry, grapes, watermelon.
  14. Basic body actions: walk, run, jump, sit, stand, sleep, eat, drink.
  15. Simple weather descriptions: hot, cold, warm, cloudy, breezy.
  16. Basic clothing items: shirt, pants, dress, shoes, hat, socks.
  17. Elements of nature: sun, moon, tree, river, mountain, ocean.
  18. Common household objects: table, chair, bed, lamp, clock, mirror.

For more interesting prompts to keep you motivated, check out my email list the “31 Days of Prompts” for daily writing prompts. Subscribe with the button below.

Once you consent to emails from me in the “Request for Information” email. The second email sent will allow you to get the 31 days of prompts by clicking SEND ME THE PROMPTS under step 3 of the email.

3. Listen to Your Favourite Music, Book or Podcast – (Make it Attractive)

serious student writing in document for studies
Photo by Armin Rimoldi on

Another reason calligraphy is great, is that your ears are free for whatever you like to listen to. You can enter the highly sought after “Flow State“, which lowers anxiety and boredom.

4. Join a Community to Stay Consistent – (Make it satisfying)

Over on the Calligrascape Discord Server (an online community web app), we have a 31 day prompt challenge that sends a new email every day with new things to write and learn interesting things along the way. If you are interested in practicing new words every day, and/or contributing to our “31 Days of Prompts” posts, subscribe to the email list here:

Once you consent to emails from me in the “Request for Information” email. The second email sent will allow you to get the 31 days of prompts by clicking SEND ME THE PROMPTS under step 3 of the email.

5. Set Time Aside for Practice

person in red shirt wearing watch
Photo by Tran on

Ah the most important tip, setting aside time. I get a lot of emails with people saying “thanks for the practice sheets but hopefully I have the time…. etc.” With anything new in your life you’ll have to make time for it as I know you are probably really busy, setting aside a half hour to an hour once a week is valuable for your progression. With learning any skill, practice time feels a little laborious at first, but the mind is so incredible that you get the hang of it suddenly the time just flies by because its now a pleasure. I know for me it is my favourite thing to relax with, whether it be making cards for loved ones or experimenting with art. It is so worth it for you to get started now so you can enjoy the benefits of this wonderful skill.

6. Practice the Basic Strokes of Calligraphy

Now on to the main way to practice. Depending on what style of calligraphy you want to learn you will have different methods and strokes to learn. If you are not sure what kind of calligraphy you want to practice, check out the Complete Beginners Guide or the Calligraphy Roadmap.

Below you will see the two most popular styles of calligraphy: Modern Calligraphy and Blackletter Calligraphy. These pictures include the basic strokes that every calligrapher should practice if they are interested in learning the script. All of the strokes are the most popular strokes of the letters (lowercase and uppercase) so if you can master these then the letters come real easy. It just comes down to memorizing the stroke order.

Basic Modern Calligraphy Brush Strokes
Basic Blackletter Strokes

For more of a specific post (and Video) on each style check out their own posts here:

7. Download, Print and Practice with FREE Practice Sheets here!

What the title said. If you didn’t already know, I have two posts for free practice sheets: Blackletter and Brushpens and Modern Calligraphy. You will find them there with videos showing me go through them. This will be your fastest path to start practicing and therefore start improving your calligraphy abilities.

Thanks for reading!

Now Over to you!

Did this list help you? How or how not?
What things help you learn that I didn’t include?
Where do you practice?

Let me know in the comments!
Take care! and remember that Progress>Perfection

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