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Top 10 Tips for Calligraphy Beginners

Updated: Apr 12, 2022

Looking for top tips for learning calligraphy?

I started learning calligraphy two years ago now, and I know that although learning calligraphy is generally fun, it is also challenging at times. I'd therefore like to share my top ten tips that I think will make your learning experience easier.

Top tips for calligraphy beginners

Tip number one - Learn the basic strokes first

If you don't know what the basic strokes are, I actually have a blog post based on these if you want to check that out.

Essentially they're the movements you make with your brush pen that form the foundation of your calligraphy letters.

You need to practice these quite a lot to build them into your muscle memory, but once they're drilled into you things become so much easier.

Tip number 2 - Don't invest in expensive supplies yet

When you're starting to learn brush calligraphy, part of the learning process involves understanding how much pressure to apply to your brush pens and how to hold the brush pen correctly; your brush pens will fray more quickly during this learning process so you therefore don't want to be buying more premium supplies in the early stages of your learning.

I'd also recommend smaller brush pens such as the Pentel Fude Touch for this reason as they seem to be more durable.

On a similar note, don't buy a more expensive brush pen brand just because you're seeing it pop up everywhere, there are lots of affordable brush pen options out there and you'll find your own preferences with time.

Want to know the best brush pens for beginners? Read more here.

Tip number 3 - Take Instagram with a big pinch of salt

Just like the rest of Instagram, calligraphy and lettering pictures are not exempt from lots of editing.

What Instagram also doesn't show you is the amount of time it took to create that piece, how many attempts it had taken, and also how long that artist has been learning their craft for.

Now Instagram is great for finding artists that have styles that you love, but for starting out I recommend looking to gain inspiration from Youtube instead as work is often accompanied by tutorials.

You can see the gallery below for examples of editing on Instagram, with before and after pictures. These are my own pictures and as you can see, they have been brightened to make them more visually pleasing. There were also a few versions of some of these pieces and I picked the one that I liked the most.

Tip number 4 - Keep your work!

I recommend that you keep a folder of everything, even work you're not particularly happy with or deem to be scrap work.

I have a folder with calligraphy from when I just started learning up until now and I'm so glad that I kept my practice work. When you look back you'll realise how much you've grown and how your calligraphy has improved.

One of the benefits of calligraphy is that you can see your improvement in a really visual way. You can also reflect and understand mistakes you were making.

Pointed pen calligraphy messy early work by Calligraphy Gems
Work from 2018 when I started learning calligraphy

A tip within a tip is to date your work. Although I have a vague idea of when my previous work was created, I'd have liked to have seen a more detailed timeline of my progress.

You may find that there's times where you feel like you're not progressing and that's a good time for you to reflect on your progress so far and keeping a folder of your old work is great for this.

Tip number five - Go Slow

One of the most common pieces of feedback I give students in my workshops is to slow down. It seems like such a small thing but it really makes a difference to the quality of your work.

You might find that your work shaky at first whilst you learn how slow to go but shakiness reduces with practice. It's also worth knowing that a lot of videos of calligraphy you watch are probably significantly sped up so isn't always an accurate reflection of the speed you should be going.

Tied in with this is taking your pen off the page after each stroke, it makes you think more about what you're doing and stops it from feeling like normal handwriting and more like drawing.

Tip number six - Participate in the community

This is a big one - make sure to participate within the lettering and calligraphy community.

I'm part of a a few Facebook groups centred around calligraphy and the community is honestly SO lovely.

The people in the groups are kind and positive but will also offer feedback to help you grow if you ask for it. One group I'm part of also offered a mentoring scheme where you get paired with people with similar interests or specialities. Search for "calligraphy" in Facebook groups to find lots of options.

Because I enjoyed participating in the community so much, I've set up my own Facebook communities. One for learning calligraphy and one for running a calligraphy business.

Tip number seven - Stay persistent

When learning calligraphy your growth is most noticeable at the beginning.

Once you've practised a bit more you may hit a bit of a 'wall' but don't feel that that is where your ability ends.

I remember feeling a bit frustrated at a lack of obvious growth but you need to stay persistent. I promise you'll get through it and start to see a noticeable difference again.

Something that might help you break your wall is to draw out the alphabet in a style that feels comfortable for you. Now go back through the alphabet and shake up your style, really looking at each individual stroke, wondering if there's a different way to go about it. This will help break you out of your comfort zone and with time, help you get past that wall.

Tip number eight - Practice whenever + wherever you can

For example, I practice whilst I have the TV on in the background so that I can practice without it feeling like something extra that I have to squeeze into my schedule; instead it goes side by side with what I'm already doing.

I really wanted to avoid it feeling like a chore so working it into my schedule in this way worked for me.

Have a think about your current schedule and when there are times that you can fit calligraphy in with those activities.

Here are some tips for practising calligraphy regularly.

Practice takes patience, written in a brush calligraphy style.

Tip number nine - Don't worry about flourishing yet

I recommend that you don't worry about adding fancy flourishing yet. It's very easy to get intimidated by images of incredible calligraphy with beautiful flourishing but you really don't need to worry about that yet.

Get your basic strokes and alphabet nailed down first and then look at starting to learn if that's something that you're still interested in.

Once you start learning calligraphy, you'll learn that certain styles of calligraphy will call to you more than others e.g. with or without flourishing/ bouncy or traditional.

I therefore recommend not being too hasty until you know what style you want to play about with after learning the basics.

Tip number 10 - Try different mediums

I recommend that you try a different calligraphy supply if the first one doesn't quite fit.

I was kindly gifted a beautiful dip pen set for my birthday a couple of years ago and it resparked my love for calligraphy. I enjoyed learning something new but found it quite challenging and would always end up covered in ink. It also required much more focus so it wasn't as easy to fit in with my current schedule.

However, when I picked up a brush pen and it kind of clicked and felt much more my style.

Now I'm not saying to give up on the learning process, but you might find that one just feels more your style over the other.

If you have the time and budget, why not give both a go and see which is more your style?


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