Everything you need to learn calligraphy for beginners
Calligraphy is an ancient art whose popularity still exists today. Centered around letters and symbols, calligraphy celebrates the written word in many different ways, from the way the individual letters are arranged to the rhythm and flow between them.
An ancient art with a modern revival …
The European iteration of art first appeared in Latin script around 600 BCE in Rome. There it was painted on the walls and eventually used to copy the bible and other religious texts. Its influence survived the fall of the Roman Empire and continued to evolve until around the 15th century. After this point, calligraphy became less used thanks to the advent of the printing press; illuminated manuscripts began to decline as a result – they just weren’t as convenient as automation.
At the end of 19th century, there was a “modern revival” of calligraphy. Letterer Edward johnston began to study calligraphy manuscripts and coupled with the competitor Arts and Crafts Movement, there was a renewed interest in calligraphy. Johnston has produced a number of publications on the subject, and he has taught calligraphy to others as well. During this time, he also developed his own calligraphic style written with a large pen. Called the Fundamental hand, it uses an inclined feather angle to achieve rounded shapes.
With the advent of modern technology, it seems that calligraphy has found a special place in the hearts of creators. While it’s often imitated by digital fonts, those who enjoy writing things by hand know how special and personal this practice is – and it’s something anyone can get started with with a few tools.
How to practice and learn calligraphy
The calligraphy looks complicated, but by learning the basic techniques you can start to create your own beautiful letters.
To get started, you will need several tools (a quill, a straight pen, ink, and paper) as well as other useful supplies. Here’s a list to get you started.
feathers: Nibs are an essential part of your calligraphy supplies. Sold individually, they allow you to create the wide lines and fancy flourishes for which calligraphy is famous. Nikko G nibs are recommended for beginners, as are the Brause brand, especially Arrow, Rose and Bandzug. Of course, finding your favorites will take some trial and error, so it’s best to experiment with a variety of brands and tips before deciding what to use in your daily calligraphy.
Straight pen: The nibs are interchangeable and all fit in a single straight pen holder. This tool is less picky than feathers, but you’ll want to find something that’s comfortable for you. Look for brands with a “universal insert” that can hold any type of nib.
Ink: Choose a rich black ink such as India Calli Jet Black ink; it is opaque with a nice fluidity neither too thick nor too watery.
Paper: To avoid problems such as overflows or smudges, look for ultra-smooth paper, this will allow your pen to glide gracefully across the paper. Sennelier paper is specially designed for lettering and comes highly recommended by calligraph artists.
If you’d rather buy your supplies completely, the Speedball Calligraphy Set and Pilot Enso Plumix Hand Lettering Calligraphy Set are considered some of the best calligraphy sets for beginners.
Calligraphy courses and online courses
Understand the basics and techniques Calligraphy will only help your practice, as they allow you to gain a foundation in the art. Instructions in calligraphy notebooks, textbooks, and online courses are a great place to start. Once you’ve completed them, you can develop your skills with a lot of practice.
Books with calligraphy for beginners
Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy: A Step-by-Step Manual
This book is a âhow-toâ manual that provides step-by-step instructions in copperplate calligraphy, a style inspired by copperplate prints. It explains in detail how to form the letters, including the pressure to be applied on the up and down movements.
Modern calligraphy: everything you need to know to get started with script calligraphy
Author Molly Suber Thorpe offers a plethora of lettering examples for every occasion, along with an overview of the tools and the story.
The Calligrapher’s Bible: 100 Complete Alphabets and How to Draw Them
David Harris’ book has 100 sections that show a complete calligraphic alphabet from A to Z. Another useful feature: Tips for avoiding mistakes!
Online courses for on-demand learning
Craftsy and CreativeLive e-learning sites offer calligraphy courses. Here are a few to try out now!
Modern calligraphy in sharp pen, handcrafted: Explore ways to build letters, words and symbols with instructor Laura Lavender.
Using calligraphy to address envelopes, CreativeLive: Learn to put your calligraphy skills to good use with this course, taught by Bianca Mascorro. She will show you how to address a beautiful envelope that will always be delivered by post.
Plus, Lindsey Bugbee from The Postman’s Knock has a series of great tutorials that cover everything from the basics to specialist techniques. She also sells printable practice sheets on her website.
Need inspiration for calligraphy?
See the creative possibilities of calligraphy below!
See more from Seb Lester.
See more from Tolga Girgin.
See more from Jake Weidmann.
See more from Melissa Esplin.
Lindsey Bugbee (aka The Postman’s Knock)
See more from Lindsey Bugbee.
This article has been modified and updated.
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