The photos below show several of the styles of calligraphy I like to do. These were each done early in my journey with each style.
Brush calligraphy with brush pens
How to Improve Your Calligraphy (Hint: Practice a Lot!)
I’ve had several people tell me they don’t believe they are “talented” enough for calligraphy and hand lettering. Or that they just can’t seem to really grasp how to get better at it.
But, calligraphy consists of learning strokes and then putting them together to form letters and then words. It’s a skill that will improve with practice. While it will come more easily to some than to others, I think everyone can learn beautiful writing.
There are many things that can hinder your progress with lettering and calligraphy, so I thought I’d share with you some thoughts today about how to improve and, hopefully, give you some confidence, too.
- Decide which style you want to emulate. These days, there are many many different styles of lettering and calligraphy. And, gone are the days when following strict rules dominated calligraphy. That is so freeing and wonderful! It also makes it a little more difficult to choose a style to learn first. Modern pointed pen calligraphy and brush calligraphy are really popular right now, and there are many versions and flavors of them, depending upon who is teaching. Pick one you like from a book or online tutorial, and then get started. (Eventually, your own style may develop, too.)
- Perfectionism can be a real obstacle to growth, so try to practice freely and purposefully, and enjoy the process. (I am speaking to myself here, as well as to my readers.) You will find some “mistakes” in the images above, as these are early photos in my calligraphy journeys with each style. And, that’s absolutely fine!
- Slow down. With so many videos and tutorials online, learning hand lettering can be intimidating. Keep in mind, when you see those videos on Instagram, many times they are sped up for time’s sake. When you see them in real time, you might be surprised at how incredibly slowly the person is actually writing. This was one of the best tips I heard when I started calligraphy, and it remains true.
- Use the right tools. When you’re first learning about lettering and calligraphy, the tools can be confusing. What is a pointed nib and how does it differ from a broad edge nib? Which brush pens and markers are the easiest to use for which purposes? But, while it’s true that tools can be important (you won’t get great results if you try pointed pen calligraphy with an italic nib, for example), don’t feel pressure to spend a lot of money. You can pick up just a pencil and start learning basic strokes. And, Crayola markers are fun to use for brush lettering.
- Don’t rush the process. Lettering and calligraphy are learned stroke by stroke. It’s best to practice the strokes before you even begin to make letters. It can feel tedious, but practicing with drills will help you get the feel of your pen before you begin to start making letters and then words.
- Use a lightbox (lightpad) or tracing paper when you’re practicing. With these, you can trace over letter examples, and you can re-use your guidesheets over and over. You’ll develop muscle memory, and that helps your lettering improve.
- Use a laser level as a simple way to ensure straight lettering.
Most of all, enjoy the process and beauty of it all.
If this post has helped you, I’d love for you to pin it.
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