How to Learn Calligraphy: Complete Beginner’s Guide

Hello! It seems you would like to learn calligraphy. That’s awesome, you are going to love the ability to never use Hallmark cards again and create handmade cards for your loved ones, or to write your crush a sweet note, ooooor when you get good 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. Throughout these posts I may bold a word here and there and define it later as I definitely did not know these definitions when I started.

Calligraphy: decorative handwriting or handwritten lettering.

It’s exciting that you are thinking of picking up a new hobby (the best one) but we first need to know what kind of lettering you are interested in learning. For their have been many types of scripts in calligraphy over the ages. I will break it down into 3 categories but really there are so many different alphabets for each of the listed scripts. There are more that I haven’t got to yet but I will add to this post at a later date. 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!

Scripts: handwriting as distinct from print; written characters.

Now to Learn Calligraphy:

1. “Loopy” (Modern Calligraphy)

Learn Calligraphy - Modern

Above is a common modern calligraphy alphabet, and below is a modern calligraphy alphabet done with a brush pen.

Learn Calligraphy - Brush

I see this as the best beginner 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. Above is my take on it though I am still relatively new to the pointed pen.

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.

Here is a list of recommended tools for this script: Recommended Tools for Modern Calligraphy

If you would like to learn calligraphy in a modern style click here: Learn Modern Calligraphy

2. “Olde English/Heavy Metal” (Gothic, Uncial, Fraktur)

Learn Calligraphy - Fraktur

Above is one version of a Fraktur alphabet and below is an Italic alphabet, both done with the Pilot Parallel.

Learn Calligraphy - Italic

These are blackletter scripts that I started with and therefore are my personal favourite. Now each of these alphabets are not done the best and may be redone later (I really needed to have guidelines) but the pictures are to give you a basic idea of what is kind of possible with the tools listed below. This script 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 when you apply more pressure. It depends on the angle you move in.

Blackletter: an early, ornate, bold style of type, typically resembling Gothic.

Here is a list of recommended tools for this script: Recommended Tools for Blackletter Calligraphy

If you would like to learn calligraphy in a Blackletter style click here: Learn Blackletter Calligraphy

3. “Fancy” (Spencarian, Copperplate)

Learn Calligraphy - Copperplate

Above is an example of a Copperplate calligraphy alphabet and below is a Spencarian alphabet.

Learn Calligraphy - Spencarian

These are the classic dip pen/pointed pen scripts. These are also things I cannot do…. yet. Similar to the modern calligraphy that I first listed but much more strict on size, spacing, consistency and formatting. I suggest taking either of these scripts on as a second or third task 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. I was just gifted an oblique holder and it is like going back to square one. It is still doable though if you dedicate some serious time to practicing (as with all of these scripts) you will get there.

Here is a list of recommended tools for this script: Recommended Tools for Copperplate Calligraphy

If you would like to learn calligraphy in a Copperplate style click here: Learn Copperplate Calligraphy (Coming soon)

 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!

-Richard

 

17 thoughts to “How to Learn Calligraphy: 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”?

    Thanks!

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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. 🙂

    1. 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: http://calligrascape.com/calligraphy-tools/

  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

    1. 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. 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 🙂
    Jose

  8. 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.

  9. Hello I love the hand that rocks the calligraphy cradle, it’s so exciting to watch and read of others challenges!! I don’t feel alone, thank Yu very much… I was trying to download your calligraphy sheets, I’ve really in need of those iconic practice sessions… I’m selecting the download but nothing is there in my email?! carlastew665@gmail.com
    I’ll take all I can get!!
    Thanks so much for your attention

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