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Calligraphy means "beautiful writing" in Greek and has been around for thousands of years. There are many different styles of calligraphy including Western, Eastern Asian, Southern Asian, and Islamic. In this guide, we will be exploring a beginners' version of calligraphy to get you writing beautifully using everyday pens.

Equipment needed:

  • Pen (You can create calligraphy with any type of pen. Try lots of different types of pens - felt tips, fine-liners, brush pens, even Biros - to decide which effect you like the most.)
  • Pencil 
  • Ruler 
  • Rubber

To begin, let’s look at the basics.

Think of calligraphy as drawing rather than writing. You need to really consider how you are drawing each letter and symbol. Take your time, remember, this is art, not just handwriting!

1. First, let’s look at forming some letters and creating calligraphy using just a fine-liner pen. Begin by writing the alphabet using your pen. Space your letters out and take your time to form each letter carefully. Pay attention to where the upstrokes are in each letter and where the downstrokes are. I have drawn in the arrows to help here.

2. As a general rule in calligraphy, downstrokes form thicker lines and upstrokes are thinner. So now you can thicken each downstroke by drawing a second, parallel line on each downstroke (shown above). This in itself creates a fun calligraphy font option, as it is. Alternatively, finish the effect by colouring in the gaps to create thick down strokes in your letters. It’s as simple as that!

You can add variety to your calligraphy by writing the letters in different styles, upper- or lowercase, and using different fonts.

Now let’s look at a more traditional method of creating calligraphy using pens. 

1. Begin by practising your upstrokes and your downstrokes. Try a variety of pens to begin with, to get the feel of which pens are easiest for you to work with. Remember, when drawing your letters, the upstrokes will be thinner, so don’t apply too much pressure on the paper with the pen, to draw the thinnest line possible. The downstrokes need to be thicker – so push down with the pen to create a thicker line.

2. Now have a go at writing the alphabet using a felt tip or brush pen. Remember to adjust the pressure on the page according to whether you are doing an upstroke or a downstroke. At this point practice makes perfect, so it might take you a few goes to get the hang of it, and if you find you need to thicken your downstrokes, just go back and go over them like you did earlier with the fine-liners.

Next you can begin thinking about the size of your letters.

Calligraphy looks really effective when your letters are the same size. Letters have heights and drops. So b, d, f, k, l and t all extend up above the other letters, and f, g, j, p, q and y all drop below the line.

1. You might remember the old handwriting paper you may have used at school, made up of four lines to show where the main portion of your letters go, and the heights and drops. Use a pencil to mark these lines out on your page and practice writing out the full alphabet. You can rub the pencil marks out later.

2. Capital letters are a little different, as they are typically all the same height. But notice that the middle of the letters need to be the same height. So A, B, E, F, G, H, P, R, S, X and Y all have middle features, such as the cross of the X, or the bottom of the curve in the P and R, or the middle line of the E. When writing, make sure you place all these at the same height to create a uniform, neat font. 


3. Now try writing whole words or phrases. If your paper doesn’t already have lines, sketch some on using your ruler and pencil. We suggest writing your word out in pencil first, so that you can see the letter spacing and make sure longer words will fit on the page. Then go over with your pen, taking your time, and applying more pressure on the downstrokes, and less on the upstrokes.

Now you’ve got the basics, you can practice all the time. Use different fonts, uppercase and lowercase, or a mix of the two, to create works of art using calligraphy. The more you practise, the more confident you will become. Why not practise on every piece of writing you do? That shopping list could be spruced up! Or notes to housemates or family members. Any birthday cards you send can now be beautiful on the inside as well as the outside!

We would love to see your calligraphy attempts, so share your creations on socials or in the comments below.