How to Write in Calligraphy

Four Methods:Sample AlphabetsWriting in CalligraphyPracticing to Perfect Your SkillsMastering Calligraphy

Calligraphy (meaning “beautiful writing” in Greek) is the art of decorative handwriting. It is a practice spanning thousands of years and countless cultures. Though in the past it was used largely for religious purposes, it is now used for a variety of purposes. If you’d like to learn this beautiful art for yourself, read below.

Sample Alphabets

Sample Calligraphy Alphabet

Sample Simple Calligraphy Alphabet

Sample Thick Calligraphy Alphabet

Method 1
Writing in Calligraphy

  1. Image titled Write in Calligraphy Step 1
    Outline or sketch the general shape and placement. If you want to, outline where you wish your characters to go on the page. You can simply leave basic base lines or you can outline the space for each character. If you want to get even more elaborate, you can design the entire page before you begin.
    • Use a ruler to get the spacing right and look at references for your preferred style so that you can copy the general style of the letters.
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    Hold your writing utensil correctly. The calligraphy brush will be held differently than the pens. The brush will also be held differently depending on whether you are using it for Western or Eastern calligraphy. Holding the utensil properly will help you form the letters correctly.
    • For Eastern calligraphy, hold the brush so that it is nearly straight up and down in the first three fingers of your dominant hand. The closer to the bristles you hold it, the more defined the line will be. In this style, your elbow should be held high and your hand still, moving the brush only with your fingers.
    • For Western calligraphy with the brush, hold it in much the same way you would use a normal paint brush. Using a brush for Western calligraphy, rather than a pen, will give your letters a rounder, more fluid form.
    • For Western or Arabic calligraphy, hold your pen at a constant 30-60 degree angle with the point of the nib pointing away from you, up and to the left. When the wide part of the nib is parallel with the paper it will create a thicker line and when it is perpendicular it will create a thinner line. Quills will work in a similar manner.
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    Create the letters. Form the letters on the page. Pay attention to how you are holding your writing utensil. Use line width variation to give the letters a pleasant form. Keep your strokes even and proportional.
    • Be sure that you are not moving the writing utensil too slowly. This will cause too much ink to go onto the page and lead to bleeding and uneven lines.
    • Allow the ink to dry before touching the lines. Make sure to keep the heel of your hand off of the paper, as this will cause the ink to smudge.
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    Use pressure to control line width. You will want to use line width variation to make your letters have the calligraphy look. This can be done by controlling the angle of your drawing utensil, but it can often also be controlled by pressure. Press down harder for brief periods to get a thicker line and use only the lightest touch to get those hair-thin lines.
    • Different nibs, or pen tips, will also help you get different line thicknesses. There are lots of different nibs and some are better for certain styles than others.
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    Use the correct stroke order. Each letter or symbol will be made up of several different sections. These sections are done in a single movement, so they are called strokes. Which order you do these strokes in will matter, so be careful. It is advised that you follow the correct order of the strokes because they follow a certain rhythm.
    • Stroke order will be different for different types of calligraphy. The best way to know how to do this is to get a book on calligraphy. A trick for Western calligraphy is to essentially use the same strokes as if you were writing normally (vertical, then horizontal lines, for example).
    • Stroke order not only ensures that the sections overlap correctly and are even, it also often has philosophical significance!
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    Protect your writing surface. You will want to make sure that the paper you are writing on doesn't get smudged. Some of this will require planning; write in such a way that your hand will not make contact with ink that is still wet. You will also want to protect the paper from anything you might already have on your hands, like grease. You can put an extra sheet of paper under the spot where your hand is to help protect your document.[1]
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    Add decorations. Once the ink is dry you can add decorations and elaborations. This can take the form of illustrations, color, or gold embellishments. These will make your text stand out and give it more character and appeal.

Method 2
Practicing to Perfect Your Skills

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    Practice freely. You can practice by simply writing with any instrument on any paper available. The most important thing is that you gain a steady hand and an understanding of how to vary your line widths. Practicing freely will allow you gain experience quickly and easily, since this can be done anywhere, with minimal materials and little pre-planning.
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    Use the grid method. If you want to practice a little more formally, you can set up a grid to practice with. Draw a grid lightly, in pencil, with squares roughly 1”x1”. Fill each row with repeated versions of whichever letter you wish to practice until your strokes are even and clean-looking. For some other calligraphy hands like Italic, they are formed using "nib widths". You can learn how to form such calligraphy rules here.
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    Trace others’ work. You can also learn by trying to recreate the work of others. Get images of calligraphy, either from the internet or calligraphy books, and cover the image in tracing paper. Write on the tracing paper, trying to recreate the strokes of the original. If you intend to use ink, be aware that it may bleed through the paper and prepare accordingly.
    • Because of the issues with the paper bleeding, try to always use cheap photocopies or prints of the work you are tracing. This will keep you from rendering the original unusable.

Method 3
Mastering Calligraphy

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    Decide which style is right for you. There are several different kinds of calligraphy, corresponding with some of the calligraphic traditions which exist across the world. You will want to decide which one is right for you, based on which you prefer and why you are wanting to learn calligraphy.
    • Western Calligraphy is the style with which most people in the English-speaking world are acquainted. This style arose with the creation of the Latin script. It is most often see in Bibles and illuminated manuscripts, often accompanied by illustrations.
    • Eastern Calligraphy is the style of Japanese, Chinese or Korean decorative writing. A common and honored practice in the East, calligraphy is usually used to write poetry and add to paintings and other artwork.
    • Arabic Calligraphy is a usually religious art form, common in the Islamic world. Muslims believe that to create art which depicts something real is morally wrong (as it insults God). Calligraphy as the main art form of the culture then arose in response to this.
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    Sketch your ideas. Before you start a new piece, you will want to sketch out your ideas. Think about what you are wanting to write and where you would like it to go. Think about the space that you want to fill and how you intend to fill it. Draw a few quick, small images (with just a regular pen or pencil on scratch paper) to get you ready for creating your final image.
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    Get the best paper. You will need paper to draw on . This can be as simple as printer paper or as elaborate as fine calligraphy paper. Use whatever material suits you best. Paper can be purchased from office stores, craft stores, and paper shops.
    • You will want paper that is smooth. This will keep your writing utensil from catching or being redirected by the paper. Avoid paper which is greasy or waxy. These will keep the paper from absorbing the ink. You want to use a paper that does not cause the ink to bleed but instead dries quickly.
    • Look for paper which is labeled as being acid-free and archival. This will ensure that your image does not age poorly. You will also want to look for paper which is labeled as being “sized”. This is paper which has been treated to keep ink from bleeding.[2]
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    Get a proper writing utensil. You will need some kind of utensil with which to create your calligraphy. While you can technically create calligraphy with any writing utensil, there are certain writing instruments which are considered better than others. Which you use, however, will depend upon what type of calligraphy you are doing and what writing utensil feels best to you.
    • Dip pens are pens which you dip in ink. They consist of a wood, plastic or bone handle and a metal nib (the pointed end which will make contact with the paper). The nib is dipped in the ink and stores it in the well of the nib. This type of pen is most common for both Arabic and Western calligraphy, though it can be used for Eastern calligraphy as well.
    • Fountain pens are similar to dip pens but instead draw their ink from a container within the pen. While this ink will occasionally need to be replaced or refilled, it will save you the trouble of constantly needing to dip your pen.
    • Brushes, most commonly used in Eastern calligraphy but also in Western calligraphy, come in a variety of sizes but will usually all be roughly the same shape. These are dipped in ink and use the pressure and direction of the writer’s strokes to form the line variations.
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    Get the best ink for your style. You will need to get some kind of ink in order to write with. There are many different types of ink and which one you choose will partially depend on what you are writing with. Inks will also come in a variety of colors but black is the most commonly used color in all styles of calligraphy. Use whichever you prefer.
    • Ink sticks, which will also require an ink stone, are sticks of ink which must be ground and mixed with water in order to form the ink you will write with. They are an excellent option for calligraphers because they allow you to get many different tones from the same ink, depending on how it is mixed. They can be found at craft stores and in some Asian stores, as well as online.
    • Pot ink is the most common ink used for calligraphy. This ink comes pre-mixed in a small jar and your writing utensil will be dipped into it. India ink is the most common type of pot ink used in calligraphy. It is easily found at art stores.
    • Fountain pen ink is a special kind of dye-based ink which is used for fountain pens. It is important to use fountain pen ink and only fountain pen ink in these types of pens as other ink types will clog the pen. Fountain pen ink will come in either pre-loaded barrels, which you place in your pen, or pots, in which case you fill the pen yourself.
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    Get rulers or other guide instruments to give you the 'pro' look. You may wish to create guide lines for yourself, to ensure that your writing is straight. Or perhaps you wish to write across a curved or circular line and need a reference. Rulers and other guide instruments can help you keep your writing looking professional and even.
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    Get tape or weights to cut down on frustration. You will want tape or weights to hold the paper in place while you are writing. This will keep you from skewing or bumping the paper while you are writing. You can also use clips or a drawing board.
    • Be careful what kind of tape you use. If it is too strong, you will tear the paper when you try to remove the tape. Painter's tape is best.

Things You'll Need

  • chisel-pointed writing implement
  • ink
  • suitable paper
  • an idea or example of what calligraphy alphabets look like. Good ones can be found here
  • brush
  • Suitable table, comfortable to work on

Article Info

Categories: Drawing Text and Lettering