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Learning Calligraphy 101

Calligraphy is much more than just pretty handwriting. It’s a discipline, an art form and arguably, a type of meditation. If you’re interested in learning calligraphy, this article will run through the basics of what you need and how to begin to learn. We’ll offer information, tips and guidance for you to begin your calligraphy journey.

Before we go into that, why should you learn calligraphy? There are many reasons and the most important one is that it’s beneficial to your state of mind and mental health. Most calligraphy enthusiasts will tell you how soothing and satisfying it is. We also live in a world with lots of stimulation, distraction and stress. People are more stressed today than ever before and calligraphy brings a great sense of relief. It can be so refreshing to switch off from the world for a bit, put on your favourite music, make a hot drink and work on a calligraphy project.

Calligraphy is a relatively inexpensive hobby, but it can also be rewarding for personal projects. A lot of people take up calligraphy so they can save money on invitations for example a wedding by doing it themselves.

Can Calligraphy Be Self-Taught?

You don’t need the help of a teacher to get to grips with calligraphy. It can be completely self-taught. From online tutorials to calligraphy worksheets, there are plenty of ways to teach yourself the art form. All it takes is some self-determination, dedication and patience.

Don’t expect it to be easy and don’t think that it’s too hard. You can start with basic materials, techniques and tools and work your way up to more sophisticated scripts. There’ll be times when you get frustrated and that’s fine. When the muscle memory kicks in and you start to get the hang of it, which you will, it’ll make it all the more satisfying.

A question we often see is how long will it take to teach yourself calligraphy? In all honesty there is no set timeframe answer to this. Some will take to it like a duck to water and some may take much longer to get the hang of it. It really is a case of practicing and practicing until it’s ingrained in the brain. Perfectionists may also look for ways to improve their strokes and speed up their writing times so while you may pick the basics up pretty quick, there are always things to work on.

A really good place to start is by mastering the art of faux calligraphy. Faux calligraphy can be created with a standard ballpoint or rollerball pen. It’s not intimidating as everyone has used a ballpoint pen before and it’s a really good way to teach yourself the basic strokes, lettering and techniques. From there, you can graduate to a fountain pen and then move on to dip pens. We’ve put together a further article explaining which calligraphy tools to use in our useful information section.

Learning the Basic Strokes

It’ll be hard to teach you how to learn the basic strokes of calligraphy through written words alone, so we recommend watching this tutorial video for brush lettering by Jennifer Coyle. She’s a US-based designer and illustrator and this video is very clear, simple and easy to emulate. Take note of the paper that she’s using to help achieve consistent lines.

For an introduction to faux calligraphy, Loveleigh Loops have put together this video. Loveleigh Loops are twin sisters that share tutorials and product reviews with regards to calligraphy. To follow along to this one, all you need is some lined paper and any pen.

When you are confident enough to use a dip pen, MadeByMarzipan have made this video for using a dip pen. It will give you tips on how to assemble, choose and use your dip pen. Watch it here.

Common Beginners Mistakes & Pitfalls

There are quite a few mistakes, pitfalls and bad habits that calligraphy beginners fall into. We’re going to address five of them here, so you know what to look out for:

  • 1. One of the most common mistakes that beginners make is not moving the arm. Calligraphy is not done with your fingers and wrist, it is done with your arm. Using your arm allows for more free-flowing movement. Using your fingers not only restricts your abilities but can lead to you exerting too much pressure on the paper.
  • 2. Don’t assume that calligraphy is an extension of handwriting. It’s not handwriting, it’s a discipline. If you think it’s simply just writing with a dip pen, you are quite mistaken. Treat it like an art form and you’ll have a much better time trying to learn it. Having said that, remember that calligraphy is about letters and symbols so don’t forget that your work is supposed to be legible.
  • 3. It’s imperative to pay attention to the spacing between letters as well. Calligraphy is about how letters and symbols work in harmony with each other. If you focus too much on getting the lines right and neglect the amount of white space you’re leaving between symbols, you won’t be realising your full potential.
  • 4. Many beginners choose to start learning by mastering the letters of the alphabet. This is as good a place as any to start and if you’re trying out a new pen or a different letter style, the alphabet is always recommended, no matter what level you are. The mistake here is learning them in alphabetical order. Try and group letters together by shape and proportion and learn each group in a row. You’ll pick it up quicker and will be more consistent.
  • 5. And finally, following on from the last tip, simply writing whole pages of letters is not the best way to learn and improve. It’s certainly a good warm up exercise or, like we said, a good way to test out a new pen or style of writing. But in terms of trying to improve your technique and ability, we highly recommend having some exemplary material in front of you. By trying to emulate that you can really see where you’re lacking and encourages you to remember all elements such as spacing as well as strokes, form and rhythm.

Conclusion

Hopefully this guide will inspire you to give calligraphy a go and ideally allow you to pick up a new hobby. Calligraphy is a really therapeutic pursuit and there’s so much scope for what you can do with it. With so many different styles and scripts as well as a rich history to learn, it’s something that can keep you entertained and still surprise and excite you years and years down the line. If you eventually completely master Western calligraphy, you also have Arabic, Asian and Oriental calligraphy to tackle as well.

On our website, you’ll find everything you need to get started. We also have calligraphy equipment for beginners as well as intermediate and advanced hobbyists.