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Calligraphy Writing for Beginners

Calligraphy Writing for Beginners

Calligraphy is simply the art of decorative handwriting.  The name is greek in origin and means beautiful writing.  Most people are familiar with traditional calligraphy that is usually on wedding invitations (Add WOW to your invitations HERE), decorative gifts or artwork.  Modern calligraphy is a bit harder to define but tends to be the writing that doesn't follow the traditional scripts like Copperplate or Spencerian.  

Traditional vs modern calligraphy

What is Calligraphy for?

Calligraphy is an art form in its own right with letters and symbols laid down with an artistic flourish. It tends to follow a consistent style that is reproducible by the writer that can convey meaning through the text and the style the letters take on.

How do you do Calligraphy?

You can use a pen, brush, brush pen or even any mark making tool.  Brush pens are more commonly used with modern calligraphy styles whereas metal nibbed dip or ink pens, tend to be used for traditional calligraphy.   Any pen can be used, even ball point pens, if you are willing to spend a bit more time creating the variations in width, but for an authentic look you will need a calligraphy pen.  See below for a buyers guide.

  • Use a ruler and pencil to draw feint guidelines - You can also use grids to practise on if this helps
  • Identify the style of font you want to replicate and get hold of a guide on the stroke order of how letters should be formed.  Copy or even trace the letters so you can get the hang of how they should look.
  •  The basics are that when forming letters you put more pressure on the downstrokes than on the upstrokes.  Looping and joining the letters will create a distinctive calligraphy style.
  • If writing with a nib pen, hold at a 30-60 degree angle and always keep the nib pointed in the same direction.
  • Always move the nib backwards or sideways from the direction the nib is pointing in otherwise the ink will splatter.

Calligraphy Alphabet A to Z

For Calligraphy beginners it helps to copy or even trace the alphabet to get used to letter formation.  Below is the most popular calligraphy font style, Copperplate.  you will need a copperplate nib that creates wider marks when more pressure is applied.

Copperplate font is one of hundreds that you can choose to recreate but is named because it is the style associated with the engraved metal copper plates that were used in the 18th Century for printing books.

Copperplate alphabet a to z

Chinese Calligraphy

Chinese Calligraphy is held in very high regard as an art form akin to poetry in its self expression.  Very soft brushes are used with ink made from grinding ink stones (made from Lamp Black).  Chinese calligraphy has a much looser, more expressive look to it partly because it was never used in the same utilitarian purpose that some earlier European calligraphy fonts were. 

Chinese calligraphy example

Click HERE to view some of our Chinese calligraphy products where you can get started recreating some beautiful authentic looking artwork.   

What brush and ink is best for Chinese Calligraphy

You can use a wide variety of painting brushes but the main requirement is that it has a soft spring to it so watercolour brushes are best.  Round brushes that form a point are traditionally used so Sable or goat hair is great.  For those of you who want to spare animal suffering then there are synthetic versions of these that perform just as well and can be much more affordable. Click HERE

If you don't have the inkstone you can just as easily use a black drawing ink or indian ink.  Winsor and Newton have a non waterproof ink that has all the impact with none of the hassle of grinding it out.  Click HERE

 

Arabic Calligraphy

Artistic calligraphy of the Arabic alphabet is known in Arabic as Khatt (خط)‎) from the word line, design or construction.  Most Arabic Calligraphy is Islamic and was designed as a tool for communication but has since evolved into an art form. 

There are several different Arabic scripts such as  Ruq'ah, Thuluth and Naskh and many of them were written with a traditional cut and dried Reed pen called a Qalam.  

Arabic Calligraphy

 

Bamboo pens were/are also used (that we stock HERE) but a broad metal nib would be most suitable for Arabic Calligraphy. Size 6 in the William Mitchell range would suit a broad stroke. HERE

There are also some great free resources for Free Arabic/Islamic images such as https://freeislamiccalligraphy.com/  to copy and create some beautiful calligraphy.

Calligraphy pens 

Let's be clear, you can write Calligraphy with any pen or mark making instrument.  Purists or snobs may feel that it isn't true calligraphy unless certain materials and techniques are used but the reality is that there is modern calligraphy is a much more free form, creative way of expression than the rigid fonts of old.

So with that out of the way, what art materials/supplies are out there to make your mark.  I'll list the most common tools below and the styles they are capable of creating and it's up to you to decide what you like best.

Calligraphy Markers - Click HERE

The quickest, easiest, and often the cheapest way to get started.  Nibs can vary in width and they come in a variety of colours.  Bear in mind that they are disposable and the nibs lose their crisp edge over time.  For more regular users I would recommend a good quality fountain or dip pen.

Calligraphy italic nibs

Calligraphy written with square cut nib italic

Calligraphy Brush Pens - Click HERE

Great for modern calligraphy, Brush Tips like the Lyra Aqua Duo are made from a flexible Polyester that can give varied thickness of line depending on how much pressure you apply.  The best kind of brush pen is the Pentel Fude XGFKP where there are separate synthetic filaments that draw ink from a cartridge.  These pens give a beautiful natural looking line with jet black Indian ink.Calligraphy brush tip

 

Calligraphy Fountain Pens - Click HERE

Fountain pens have ink cartridges that give you a consistent line without the hassle of a fraying nib or the constant dipping that comes with a dip pen.  If you want to stick to a standard colour and have a lot of writing to do then a fountain pen is the most convenient choice.

Calligraphy fountain pen close up of nib writing

Calligraphy Dip Pens - Click HERE

Dip pens are little more difficult to master but are the tool of choice if you want to vary the types of nib and ink you use.  Usually people suffer from too much ink flowing through the nib and it blots, or too little flows and it is very scratchy.  Persevere though and you will be able to create a much superior finish.

Calligraphy dip pen

Why Use a Dip Pen over a fountain pen?

  1. Dip pens are preferred by many calligraphers because it allows you to use denser, more highly pigmented and waterproof ink, like Indian ink. 
  2. There are many more colours available in bottles, where they can be used for drawing and other artistic pieces.
  3. Dip pens are sensitive to variations in pressure and speed.  You can create far finer, clearer lines using a dip pen than a fountain pen.

 Dip pens have a capillary channel for the ink to travel down but they don't have cartridges to store ink hence you will need to keep dipping the pen.  You can attached small clips of metal called Reservoirs that hold more ink to write without dipping quite so often.

Buyers Guide: If you are starting out a small set is the best way to go.  Manuscript offer sets that have the nib holder, 3 nibs and ink for a good price HERE

 

You have the Gear... So What now?

Use Calligraphy templates and design to copy from to begin with.  You will need lots of practise paper and you might want to try using a layout or tracing paper to perfect the consistent curves and loops.  

See below for some links to some great free resources for Calligraphy templates and designs. Also perfect as Wedding Calligraphy fonts.

Traditional Calligraphy Templates

https://crafts.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Free_Calligraphy_Templates

https://thepostmansknock.com/a-list-of-tpks-free-printable-calligraphy-practice-sheets/ 

Modern Calligraphy Templates

https://www.urbanfonts.com/fonts/calligraphy-fonts.htm

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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