How to Learn Calligraphy: The Complete Beginner’s Guide

Last Updated on June 19, 2024

Hello! It seems you would like to learn calligraphy. That’s awesome, you are going to love the ability to never use a store bought card again and create handmade gifts for your loved ones, or to write your crush a sweet note, ooooor when you are fully practiced, start your own business/store (shameless promotion :P). On this site I have tried to put together a step-by-step beginner’s tutorial that can get anyone started from not writing to learning calligraphy in just a couple steps so stick with me. 

If you already have your own tools and want to learn what calligraphy scripts you can learn with them I have a post for that here: A Simple Guide to Calligraphy Tools and Their Respective Calligraphy Scripts

Calligraphy (n) – decorative handwriting or handwritten lettering

How to Learn Calligraphy - Complete Beginners Guide
Various styles of Calligraphy.

Narrow Down Your Style of Calligraphy

It’s exciting that you are thinking of picking up a new hobby (the best one) but we first need to narrow what kind of calligraphy you are interested in learning first. For there have been many types of scripts in calligraphy over the ages. I will break it down into 5 basic and unofficial categories (but really there are so many different alphabets for each of the listed scripts). Below I have listed them with an incorrect name in quotations that I probably called each of the scripts before I knew the correct name (which is in brackets in the title). I hope that the pictures will give you a little idea of what is out there and then help you to find the script you are looking for!

Script (n) – handwriting as distinct from print; written characters.

5 Types of Calligraphy/Lettering to Learn:

“Basic” (aka Handwriting and Hand Lettering)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Basics-1024x1013.jpg
Top to Bottom: Monoline Serif, Serif Lettering, Monoline Script, Faux Calligraphy
Four 3-dimensional hand lettering names written in their respective styles.

For those who want to start slow and dip their toe in the water that is calligraphy, monoline calligraphy, handwriting or lettering is where I would start first. It doesn’t require any fancy tools or paper like some other styles of calligraphy. Just you, a piece of paper a pencil and getting right into practicing. Learning this first helps you learn the building blocks of calligraphy like letter structure to then transition into another style.

“Loopy Calligraphy” (aka Modern Calligraphy)

Modern Calligraphy Alphabet with Logos
Modern Calligraphy with Pointed Pen

I see modern calligraphy as the best beginner pointed pen script to learn, as consistency, spacing and formatting isn’t as important. Therefore, a beginner can rather focus on learning the letter forms themselves and how to properly use pressure to get the desired stroke shape. It is pretty popular among the Instagram community and has a sort of whimsical style to it that is unique to the writer. Though there are established scripts with the pointed pen I suggest getting used to the pen first.

Pointed pen: More commonly known as the “dip pen.” Contains a metal flexible nib (tip) that requires dipping in ink every so often to disperse ink.

However you can also do modern calligraphy with a brush pen or crayola marker:

Modern Calligraphy Alphabet with Tombow Brush Pen
Modern Calligraphy with Brush Pen

“Olde English Calligraphy” (aka Blackletter Calligraphy)

Lowercase Fraktur Alphabet Example With Pilot Parallel
Custom Fraktur Alphabet with Pilot Parallel Pen

These are blackletter scripts that I started with and therefore are my personal favourite. The pictures are to give you a basic idea of what is possible with broad edge tools. This family of scripts would be, in my humble opinion, the second easiest to learn but has a very high skill possibility and a LOT of different styles to pick from. The line variation is low compared to the pointed pen, as there is no difference in line thickness when you apply more pressure. It depends on the angle of your pen nib and the direction you move it in.

Blackletter: an early, ornate, bold style of type, typically resembling Gothic. Often created with a broad edge pen.

“Hardcore / Heavy Metal” – (aka Calligraffiti)

If you like more of a modern or hardcore style of blackletter calligraphy let me be the first to introduce you to Calligraffiti. It combines calligraphy and graffiti into a style that looks uniquely awesome. Check out the letter comparison of 3 styles of calligraffiti.

“Fancy Calligraphy” (aka Spencerian/Copperplate)

Copperplate Alphabet Calligrascape
Copperplate Calligraphy Alphabet

These are the classic dip pen/pointed pen scripts. Similar to the modern calligraphy that I first listed, but much stricter on size, spacing, consistency and formatting. I suggest taking either of these scripts on as a second or third script as they are a whole other beast to tackle. You have to learn the basics through some of the other scripts first then attack this one. When I was first gifted an oblique holder, it was like going back to square one in my learning. It is still doable though if you dedicate some serious time to practicing (as with all of these scripts) you will get there.

Spencerian Alphabet
Spencerian Calligraphy

Modern Versus Copperplate Breakdown

Differences between Modern Calligraphy and Copperplate Calligraphy

If you still aren’t sure about whether to pick modern or copperplate calligraphy, here is a video showing the differences between them and below is a letter breakdown between the different pointed pen scripts.

Calligraphy Roadmap – Styles Ordered by Difficulty

Still unsure of what calligraphy style you want to learn? I have a full clickable mindmap/diagram ordering each calligraphy script you can learn from meby difficulty. Check it out below:

Simple Guide to Calligraphy Tools and Their Scripts

If you already have calligraphy tools, below is a guide to teach what tool makes what letters. Very helpful to get you started learning calligraphy.

Calligraphy Tool Types
Simple Guide to Calligraphy Tools and Their Scripts

That’s all folks!

Thanks for reading until the end! I hope you found a type of calligraphy to learn in this post. If you did tell me which one! If not, bookmark this page and come back later, I will be adding to this page as I go. Maybe you will find something then. Got a script or style not mentioned in this post? Leave a comment and let me know!


33 thoughts on “How to Learn Calligraphy: The Complete Beginner’s Guide”

  1. I just ordered the Pilot Parallel set you mentioned and as soon as it arrives, I’m going to start with a gothic (blackletter) script first!

    Any chance you’ll be doing a tutorial on Hobbit calligraphy in the future? Is there a more official name for it than “Hobbit”?


    • Hi Genevieve,

      That’s great to hear, I love it when someone is picking up calligraphy for the first time! Great choice, as that’s the alphabet I started with too. “Hobbit” calligraphy is a version of “Uncial.” Google Uncial alphabet to get what you are looking for.

      I plan on adding to these posts as I go, so that’s a great suggestion and I’ll definitely make an alphabet for it. As per a tutorial, maybe in the future. Thanks!

  2. I have a Parallel Pen so will be having a few practices of the Old English scripts. But I do like using my dip pen too.

    • Same here Valerie!

      I personally love all pens that can make Blackletter/Old English scripts, but nothing beats the classic dip pen and ink.

  3. Thank you for an interesting article. I was always told by my school teacher, friends and colleagues that I have a very nice handwriting. Recently I have been thinking how to learn calligraphy and today I have come across your article. I did not even know that there are so many types of calligraphy. After reading your article I decided to give it a try. I think it might be useful and, definitely, It’s interesting. We use a Cyrillic in Mongolia so I have more opportunity to learn calligraphy.

    • Hey Batjargal!

      Glad you enjoyed it! Calligraphy is very handy, if you learn how to letter you can apply it to anything: wood burning, sign painting, card making, wedding calligraphy… you name it! If you want video tutorials on these styles, search “calligrascape” on youtube. 🙂

  4. Can you suggest the optimal size of the Pilot Parallel pen? I going to use it in the A5 notebook for the gothic style. Thanks in advance.

  5. I already got my 6mm parallel pen to learn italic, I wanna try all the letters but I wanna go slowly, so far I think I´m doing it good, thanks to your page I´m improving every day.
    I have a question for you, Do you recomend to refill the parallel cartridge? If so, which ink should be appropiate?
    Thank you, keep doing a great job. 🙂

    • If you have the proper ink to refill, by all means do that. (Saves you money if you have an eyedropper and buy the ink in bulk)

      My all time favourite ink to refill is Ecoline liquid watercolour, It allows mixing of all kinds of colours and flows better than the Pilot Parallel ink (and doesn’t bleed as much)

      It can be found here:

  6. I am anticipating that I am part of those who want to learn, but run into a primary roadblock. As a 76 year-old LEFT hander I have found that I am not helped at all by video of right handed teachers making letters or righties guideline arrows attached to printed sheets and being told “just do them in reverse.

    The one complete (I have come to understand) guide for lefties by Shepherd) is no longer in print and even used copies are selling for $79 AND UP! The very few IAMPETH offerings are basic, but do not have specific tricks and techniques outside recognizing that there are underwriters, overwriters and along the line smearers. For me, it is easy to figure many pressure changes for Copperplate and Spencerian in theory and use some creative movements to make them work.

    BUT, simple Gothic and Fractur are seemingly the root of sinister problems (yes, the evil root of the word). Underwriter and smearer wrists do not bend to properly adjust the angle of nib width on the Pilot Parallel pens, and constantly shifting between under and hooked-over positions to make proper strokes for each element in each letter is impossible in my opinion.

    Now you may be a righty, and I mean no insult when I say that a righty trying to give lessons to a lefty is like a Great Dane Dog giving barking lessons to a Persian Kitten. BUT. a right handed Calligrapher who knows a good (maybe one or two) left handed Calligrapher could make a large step into our unserved part of the market writing and and videoing Calligraphy lessons that go beyond buying pen and ink by solving or offering multiple ways of solving the problems left handers have.

    Some of those problems include:

    1. Pointed (flex) pens scratching furrows or digging holes in the paper.
    2. Controlling broad nib angles in blackletter without the subtle right handed wrist changes. (Rotating pen in fingers is not accurate.)
    3. Defeating smear. A bane of sidewriting that some quick dryng ink can solve some of the time while clogging nibs
    4. Coping (for side and under writers) with the lack of ability to pull the pen for what righties get for downstrokes and lefties find themselves pushing against the nib inless lifting the pen and changing hand position completely.
    5. Some basic exercises for Lefties that help them make letters look as good as written by righties.

    Even if you do not answer or do not wish to pursue these ideas, thank you for reading my consistent plaint as a plow through life at an all too quick pace.

    Gregory Chmara
    Tucson, AZ USA
    Where Ink Dries Fast

    • Hi Gregory,

      I appreciate your feedback and well thought out response. I would really like to help out lefties, I will try to reach out to anyone that may want to collaborate on a project such as this.

      Sorry for the late response.

  7. Bom meu amigo, esse conhecimento que estou procurando em busca de uma caligrafia melhor ,bem trabalhada, esta diretamente ligada ao trabalho que realizo hoje,atualmente sou cartazista de supermercado,faço banners com adesivos e o corte é todo manual>Pinto camisas com processo de Silk- screen e eu preciso fazer nos cartazes letras manuscritas,letras tipo bastão usando pincel de pelo e pincel do kit escrita que tenho,vendo seus videos me despertou o interesse de buscar uma teccnica de puxada de letras que ficasse bonita e que fosse realizada com rapidez.Então amigo eu vou em busca do aprimoramento aprendendo cada alfabeto dentro da minha necessidade,quanto mais alfabeto eu aprender será melhor pro meu aperfeiçoamento profissional dentro da área de cartaz.Quero agradecer por você compartilhar seus conhecimentos, lhe desejar um feliz natal e que nós nos encontremos sempre ,para que eu possa aprender muito mais com Você.Obrigado.

  8. Hi Richard,

    Your posts, videos and the whole stuff that you make available for us is of a great help for beginners (ont only by the way).
    Keep up the great job!
    Gratins for South of France 🙂

  9. To Gregory Chmara , the 76-year-old lefty learning calligraphy – I feel your pain. I am a 70-year-old lefty learning also. The one best advice I found that really helped me was to turn my paper to the right 90 degrees (or close to that). That made it possible to pull my strokes instead of push them, and it kept my hand out of the ink I had just put down. When I use a broad nib, I hold the edge at the same angle as a right-handed person would and make the stroke. Hope this is of some help.

  10. _ Thank you hoping to contact in the short time.
    Nasr A,Alla
    Arabic Calligraphy
    Ras Gharib- Red Sea- Egypt

  11. Hi Richard,

    I lived in Italy for 15 years, 11 of them just an hour away from Venice. I picked up a trove of glass pens and love o write and do art work with them. They hold the ink better than a dip pen and are easier to clean. I would recommend them.

  12. Calligraphy plays a vital role in your education career, And this article is great for the person who wants to learn new skill. Such blogs are really necessary for a student who are looking for new hobby, it can really help a lot in improving.

  13. I’d really try my hand at Copperplate calligraphy, but I’ll start with the basic one first given that I don’t have a particularly neat handwriting. Thanks for putting this guide together!

  14. Ready to dive into the art of calligraphy? This beginner’s guide has everything you need to get started! 🖋️

  15. Thanks so much for sharing these teaching skills. I am 74 and have Tremers. I have tried to learn Calligraphy off and on for years but inspired by you to try once more.

  16. I haven’t yet found any beginners’ calligraphy course which discusses the difference between using fountain pen ink and calligraphy ink. The difference was certainly not obvious to me. As a beginner, my first port of call for ink was fountain pen ink as I had a large stock. I wish I had read somewhere that fountain pen ink will not work with a dip pen nib on average weight paper, and why.

  17. Hi Robert,
    I am a middle school teacher from China. We (students and teachers) tried to explore a way for the Chinese students to write in English calligraphy. Their handwritings are in different styles, and until now, we kind of find and can do the Chinese Xingkai (literarily, easy modeling)style English handwriting. To my surprise, I find the calligraphy you listed here followed the denition of decrotive but the Chinese one is ethical, musical and esthetical based writing. The authorized and popular calligraphy (historical fronts, traces and styles)are clearly recognizable without decoration. I also seached the database for the calligraphy literature but unfortunately, I can’t find any. I wonder as you are interested in English calligraphy, can you help us for the English calligphy for Chinese students? English is a compulsory course from elementary school to university.


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