I’m writing this as a complement to my previous post about how I got my start with modern calligraphy; I want to provide some guidance and tips to help you get started yourself! This is going to be a quick overview of the supplies that you will need and recommended resources and starting points, not a super in-depth tutorial. (Those will come later! ;)) I do link to a few other blog posts of mine to expand on some of my points, in case you’re interested in a deeper dive on topics.
I do want to preface this with a few things. First, I want to briefly define “modern calligraphy”. Modern calligraphy uses a certain technique for drawing and connecting letters – thick lines are used for downstrokes and thin lines for upstrokes. Within that set of parameters, you have the freedom to put your unique spin on how you draw letters and form words. In contrast, traditional calligraphy requires letterers to adhere to more stringent rules on how to draw each and every letter. That said, it is important to note that modern calligraphy is NOT the same as handwriting. I go much more in depth in this post if you’d like to learn more, including where “hand-lettering” comes into play.
Second, there are several different mediums you can use to do modern calligraphy – such as a dip pen and ink, paint, or digitally just to name a few. For this post, I am going to focus on using a brush pen and paper because I think this is the best way to start out.
1. A brush pen or marker I go in-depth about my favorite tools for beginners in this post. If you want to start with just one pen, I suggest the Tombow Fudenosuke Hard Tip.
2. Paper The right paper is just as important as the right pen. In order to achieve clean strokes and preserve the life of your pen, smooth paper is a must! Fortunately, there are lots of options out there. My favorite practice paper is the HP 32# Premium Choice Laserjet. While this paper is pricier than standard printer paper, printer paper is way too rough and will fray your pens. As far as smooth paper goes, the HP is the best value for the quality in my opinion! If you want to go all-out, the Rhodia dot grid is the Rolls Royce of practice paper. Alternatively, any paper branded “marker paper” will work, and you also may want to grab some tracing paper if you want to use a pre-made guide.
3. A writing surface. This may sound obvious or silly, but your setup is an important part of good practice. You will want enough space to comfortably hold your pen and have bandwidth to move your arm – you don’t want to be confined by a small area or knock over clutter. You may also find it helpful to use a clipboard so your paper doesn’t shift around (a big pet peeve of mine!).
Okay, I have the supplies. Now what?
1. Start with strokes. Like I mentioned, modern calligraphy is built on the principle of drawing each letter with thick and thin pen strokes. Before jumping into words or even letters, start at the stroke level. It will be MUCH easier to create your letters and words when you have the “thick down, thin up” muscle memory built up. Start simple and draw a thick angled line down and a thin angled line up, forming a ‘V’ shape. Keep at it until your lines are consistent. Then move onto curved lines, like an ‘O’ or ‘U’. (And there you go, you’re already drawing letters!)
2. Watch and learn. There are myriad free resources available that show you the proper technique. A couple of my favorite modern calligraphers for beginners are The Happy Ever Crafter and Pieces Calligraphy. They both have blogs and YouTube channels and do a great job demonstrating the technique and providing resources, tips, and tricks for beginner calligraphers.
3. Get inspired (not overwhelmed). Poke around Instagram and Pinterest to get ideas of styles that you like and things you want to letter. (I love looking at agate slices!) There is so much beautiful modern calligraphy out there, written on any surface you can think of, and it is so cool to see what you can do with this skill! This should inspire you and motivate you to practice frequently and try different tools, mediums, styles, and color combos. If you start to feel overwhelmed or discouraged, though, step away. Comparison is the thief of joy.
I hope this helped you get started doing modern calligraphy! Once you start, stick with it and keep practicing. 🙂