Mastering Calligraphy: A Beginner's Guide
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 11 min read


  1. What is calligraphy?
  2. Calligraphy tools you need
  3. How to prepare your calligraphy tools
  4. Basic calligraphy strokes
  5. How to form letters
  6. Joining letters to make words
  7. Practice exercises
  8. How to clean and store your tools
  9. Tips to improve your calligraphy
  10. Calligraphy styles to try

Imagine picking up a pen and creating beautiful, flowing letters that seem to dance on the page. This is the magic of calligraphy art, and it's a skill you can learn! From elegant invitations to personalized gifts, calligraphy adds a touch of class to any project. If you've ever wondered "how to calligraphy art", you're in the right place. This beginner's guide will walk you through everything you need to know to get started.

What is calligraphy?

Calligraphy is the art of creating decorative handwriting or lettering with a pen or brush. It's more than just writing—it's about making each letter a work of art. It's like drawing with words. Calligraphy has been around for centuries, used in everything from ancient religious texts to modern wedding invitations. It's a timeless skill that never goes out of style.

The word calligraphy comes from the Greek words "kallos" meaning beauty, and "graphē" meaning writing. So, calligraphy literally means beautiful writing. And that's exactly what it is. But don't let that intimidate you. With practice, anyone can learn how to calligraphy art.

Here's a fun fact: Did you know there are several different styles of calligraphy? Some of the most popular ones include Gothic, Italic, and Copperplate. Each style has its own unique characteristics and charm. In this guide, we'll focus on the basics that apply to all styles—so no matter what style you're drawn to, you'll have a solid foundation to build on.

Learning calligraphy isn't just about creating pretty letters, though. It's also a great way to relax and de-stress. The act of drawing each letter requires focus and can be incredibly calming. So not only will you be learning a new skill, you'll be giving your mind a break too. Sounds good, doesn't it?

Okay, now that we know what calligraphy is, let's dive into the tools you'll need to get started on your journey of how to calligraphy art.

Calligraphy tools you need

To start your journey into the world of calligraphy art, you'll need a few specific tools. Don't worry, though—you won't need to break the bank. Here's a list of the basics to get you started:

  1. Nibs: This is the part of the pen that touches the paper and makes the ink flow. There are many types of nibs, and each one will give your letters a slightly different look. Some are pointed for fine, delicate lines, while others are flat for bold, sweeping strokes. As a beginner, you might want to start with a medium-sized pointed nib.
  2. Pen Holder: This is what you'll attach the nib to. It's essentially the 'body' of the pen. There are two types: straight and oblique. A straight holder is what you're probably used to, while an oblique holder has a bit of a slant to it, which can make certain calligraphy styles easier.
  3. Ink: Calligraphy ink is different from regular writing ink. It's thicker and more pigmented, so it flows smoothly and stands out on the page. Black ink is a good starting point, but feel free to experiment with colors as you progress!
  4. Paper: Smooth, high-quality paper is best for calligraphy. Rough paper can catch on your nib and cause the ink to splatter, which we definitely don't want. Look for paper labeled as "calligraphy paper," "layout paper," or "marker paper."
  5. Practice Sheets: These sheets have guidelines printed on them to help you keep your letters straight and even. You can find printable ones online, or you can make your own with a ruler and pencil.

Remember, the best tools for you will depend on your personal preferences and the style of calligraphy you want to learn. There's no one-size-fits-all answer. But these basics will give you a great start on your journey to mastering how to calligraphy art.

Got your tools ready? Great! Let's move on to preparing your calligraphy tools.

How to prepare your calligraphy tools

Now that you've got your hands on the necessary tools, it's essential to prepare them correctly. Trust me, it'll make a world of difference in your calligraphy art journey. So, let's get started:

  1. Preparing the Nib: Most nibs come with a protective coating to prevent them from rusting. Before you start using your nib, you need to remove this coating. An easy way to do this is by sticking the nib into a potato for a few minutes. Yes, you read that right—a potato. Just push the nib in about halfway, leave it for 15 minutes, then pull it out and wipe it clean. Your nib is now ready for some calligraphy action.
  2. Setting up the Pen Holder: This is where your nib will live. If you have a straight holder, the nib fits into the end. If you're using an oblique holder, the nib goes into the flange (that's the part that sticks out at an angle). It should fit securely, but not so tight that you can't remove it later.
  3. Preparing the Ink: Give your ink bottle a good shake before you open it. This will ensure all the pigment is evenly distributed. Be sure not to dip your nib too far into the ink. You only need enough to cover the hole in the center of the nib, not the entire thing.
  4. Setting up the Paper: Always keep a spare piece of paper nearby to test your strokes before you start on your calligraphy paper. This is especially useful if you're using a new nib or a new color of ink.
  5. Warming up with Practice Sheets: Before you start forming letters, it's a good idea to warm up with some basic strokes on your practice sheets. This will help you get a feel for the pen and the flow of the ink.

There you have it—your calligraphy tools are all set up and ready to go! Now, let's dive into the art of calligraphy and learn how to make those basic strokes.

Basic Calligraphy Strokes

Before you jump right into creating beautiful letters, it's important to grasp your basic strokes. Think of it as the backbone of how to calligraphy art. It's not as daunting as it sounds, so don't worry. Here we go:

  1. Upstroke: A light, thin stroke that goes upward from the baseline. You should apply minimal pressure to the nib for this stroke. It’s a gentle, upward glide—like a feather drifting up into the sky.
  2. Downstroke: This is a heavier, thicker stroke that descends from the top. Here, you'll need to apply more pressure to the nib to get that bold, dramatic line. Think of it as a determined march down a hill.
  3. Overturn Stroke: This stroke starts with a light upstroke and transitions into a heavier downstroke. It's a smooth, wave-like motion—imagine a dolphin leaping out of the water and then diving back in.
  4. Underturn Stroke: It's the opposite of the overturn stroke. This one begins with a downstroke and shifts into a light upstroke. Think of it as a roller coaster ride, starting with a thrilling drop and then gracefully climbing back up.
  5. Oval Stroke: This stroke forms a complete oval shape. It starts with a thin upstroke, thickens into a downstroke, and then thins out again to meet the starting point. Imagine drawing a perfect egg with your nib.
  6. Compound Curve: This stroke combines an underturn and an overturn in one single, fluid movement. It's like a scenic, winding road on a hillside.

Remember, practice makes perfect. Don't rush, take your time with each stroke. It's okay if they don't look perfect on the first go. Keep practicing, and soon enough, you'll see improvement. Once you've got these basic strokes down, you'll be one step closer to creating stunning calligraphy art!

How to Form Letters

Once you feel confident about your basic strokes, you're ready to move on to forming letters—another fun step on your journey to mastering how to calligraphy art.

Each letter in calligraphy is a combination of various basic strokes. Think of them as building blocks. But don't worry, you don't need to be an architect to figure this out. Let's break it down:

  1. The letter 'a': Start with an upstroke, then a downstroke, followed by an underturn stroke and finish it off with a small, downward stroke. Voila! You've just created your first letter.
  2. The letter 'b': Begin with a downstroke, add an underturn stroke, and cap it off with a small upstroke. And there you have it, the letter 'b'!
  3. The letter 'c': This one is pretty simple. Just make an overturn stroke and finish with a small downstroke. And that's 'c' for you!

Continue this process for the rest of the alphabet. Remember, it's all about combining those basic strokes you've already mastered. It might feel like learning a secret code at first, but with practice, it will start to feel natural.

And guess what? You're not just forming letters—you're creating art. Every stroke, every curve, every line is a testament to your creativity. Don't be too hard on yourself if your letters don't look perfect right away. Calligraphy is a journey, not a destination.

So keep practicing, keep experimenting, and most importantly, keep having fun with it. Because that's what calligraphy art is all about!

Joining Letters to Make Words

Now that you've mastered forming individual letters, it's time to make them socialize. Let's learn how to join these solo artists to form a harmonious band—words!

Joining letters might seem like a big leap from creating standalone letters, but it's not as tricky as you may think. Let's break it down:

  1. Joining 'a' and 'b': Start by writing 'a' as you've learned. Then, without lifting your pen, create an upstroke that leads into the downstroke of 'b'. You've just transformed 'a' and 'b' into 'ab'!
  2. Joining 'b' and 'c': Begin with 'b', and instead of ending with the usual upstroke, extend it to flow into the overturn stroke of 'c'. And voila, 'b' and 'c' have become 'bc'!

As you can see, the key is in the transitions. A small upstroke or downstroke can act as a bridge, connecting one letter to the next. It's like a secret handshake between letters!

Remember, it's okay if your words don't look flawless at first. It's more about understanding the process and getting the hang of it. As with any art form, practice and patience are your best friends. So, don't hesitate to fill pages with different word combinations. The more you practice, the more natural your word formation will become.

Before you know it, you'll be creating beautiful, flowing words and phrases, taking your calligraphy art to the next level. And who knows? You might just find your next favorite hobby in the process!

Practice Exercises

Got the hang of joining letters to make words? Awesome! Now, let's move on to some fun practice exercises. These will help you refine your technique and build confidence in your calligraphy art skills.

Here are some exercises for you to try:

  1. Alphabet Soup: Write out the alphabet in lowercase and uppercase. This simple exercise will help you familiarize yourself with each letter and its unique curves and strokes.
  2. Word Weaving: Choose a word—any word—and write it out. Then, write it again but try to make it look different. Play around with the spacing, strokes, and style. You'll be amazed at how many ways there are to write a single word!
  3. Quote Quest: Find a quote that you love and try to write it out in a creative way. This exercise isn't just about practicing your letters, but also about layout and design. Think about how you can arrange the words to make the quote visually appealing.

Remember, the goal of these exercises isn’t perfection—it’s progress. So, don't be too hard on yourself if your first few attempts don't turn out as you'd like. Even Van Gogh didn't paint Starry Night in a day! Just keep practicing, and with time, you'll see your calligraphy art skills improve.

So, ready to get started? Grab your calligraphy tools, find a comfy spot, and let's start practicing!

How to clean and store your tools

After a great session practicing how to calligraphy art, it's time to clean and store your tools. Proper care ensures your tools last longer and perform better. Here's a simple guide to help you:

  1. Cleaning: Gently rinse your nibs and brushes under lukewarm water. Avoid hot water as it can damage the materials. Use a soft cloth to wipe them dry.
  2. Storing Nibs: Place your nibs in a small container or nib box. Keep them in a dry area away from humidity which could cause rusting.
  3. Storing Brushes: Let your brushes air dry upside down or lay them flat. This prevents water from soaking into the handle and causing the bristles to lose their shape.
  4. Storing Ink: Close your ink bottles tightly and store them upright in a cool, dark place. This prevents the ink from drying out or getting exposed to sunlight that may alter its color.

By taking a few extra minutes to clean and store your tools properly, you'll make your calligraphy journey smoother and more enjoyable. Plus, you'll save some money by extending the life of your tools!

Ready to get your tools sparkling clean and neatly stored? Let's do it!

Tips to improve your calligraphy

There's more to mastering how to calligraphy art than just forming letters and words. It's about honing your skills, pushing your creative boundaries, and constantly striving for improvement. Here are a few tips to help you along the way:

  1. Practice Regularly: Practice, practice, and practice some more. Consistency is key in mastering calligraphy. Even just a few minutes each day can make a huge difference.
  2. Experiment With Tools: Don't be afraid to try out different nibs, brushes, or inks. Each tool offers a unique experience and can help you discover your personal style.
  3. Learn From Others: Watch tutorials, read blogs, or join a calligraphy community. Learning from others can provide new perspectives and techniques.
  4. Patience: Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day. Keep a positive mindset and don't get discouraged if you don't see instant results.
  5. Have Fun: At the end of the day, calligraphy is an art. It's meant to be enjoyed. So, make sure you're having fun while you're at it!

With these tips in mind, you're sure to improve your calligraphy art skills. Remember, the journey is just as important as the destination. So take your time, enjoy the process, and watch as your calligraphy art skills flourish.

Calligraphy styles to try

Once you've got the basics down, the next step in learning how to calligraphy art is to explore different styles. Each style has its own unique character and charm, and experimenting with them can add depth and versatility to your calligraphy journey. Here are a few styles you might want to try out:

  1. Copperplate: Known for its elegant and formal look, Copperplate is one of the most beloved styles in the world of calligraphy. It's characterized by sharp contrasts between its thick and thin strokes.
  2. Brush Lettering: This is a more casual and playful style that uses a brush pen. The pressure you apply to the brush can create a beautiful variety in line thickness.
  3. Italic: Italic calligraphy is a classic style that's recognized by its slanted letters and flowing lines. It's a fantastic style to start with as it's straightforward yet elegant.
  4. Gothic: If you're up for a challenge, try the Gothic style. It's known for its intricate details and heavy use of black, giving it a dramatic and historic feel.
  5. Modern Calligraphy: Modern calligraphy is a more free-form and expressive style. It's less about following strict rules and more about personal expression and creativity.

Trying out these different styles can truly enrich your calligraphy art experience. Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone—after all, variety is the spice of life! Happy lettering!

If you're eager to learn more about calligraphy and want to add a splash of color to your creations, check out the workshop 'Using Watercolours to Create Colourful Calligraphy' by BlinkLettering. This workshop will teach you how to incorporate watercolors into your calligraphy, adding a vibrant and unique touch to your art.