Learning how to write calligraphy can be a wonderful experience and a hobby you can use to create beautiful works of scripted art. Using a slanted tip pen, you can create artistic flourishes and swirls that make the writing as expressive as what you are communicating. Calligraphy was once the only acceptable means of formal writing, and all children learned how to write calligraphy as part of their education. Illuminated letters found in medieval texts are examples of this functional art.
Today, calligraphy is still considered a mark of class and quality. This is why it has been popularized as a way to address invitations to weddings and other special occasions. Dignitaries and important government officials, such as governors and the President, all hire calligraphers to address invitations and their annual holiday cards.
The History Of Calligraphy
Western calligraphy is based off of the Roman alphabet, which was first recognized as a complete writing set around 60 BC. It sprang mainly from the Greek and Phoenician alphabets, and eventually evolved into an intricate set of capital letters generally used as engravings on stones. In the second and third centuries, this developed into a “Unical” lettering format, which was used in monasteries. There it was utilized as the font of choice for copying religious texts. When the Roman Empire fell, these monasteries preserved the calligraphy style during the Dark Ages.
There is a hand-written Bible on display in Wiltshire, England that was penned in AD 1407 using calligraphy font. This is one of the earliest calligraphy texts that has been preserved in its entirety. The writing tools differ based on the part of the world the writing takes place in. For the most part, though, nibs and brushes made out of various types of hair were the most popular tools of early calligraphy.
Calligraphy Fun Facts
- The word calligraphy comes from Greek words “kallos“and “graphe” and means “beautiful writing”.
- Today, there are three main types or styles of calligraphy: (1) Western or Roman, (2) Arabic, and (3) Chinese or Oriental.
- Jamyang Dorjee Chakrisah, a Tibetan Master Calligrapher from India, created the longest calligraphy scroll (as of this writing). His scroll measures over 500 feet and contains long life prayers composed for the Dalai Lama.
Getting Started With Calligraphy
When learning how to write calligraphy, you can begin your new hobby with only a few items. First, you will need a calligraphy pen or marker. While professional calligraphers use fountain pens with ink cartridges that must be re-filled or replaced, beginners should start with a wider calligraphy marker. The marker will have the same chiseled edge as a fountain pen, but without the messy splotches and spills that a fountain pen can lead to. Look for a calligraphy marker in your local arts and crafts store.
The cost of these pens and markers can vary widely depending on the quality, durability, and materials they are made from. You can try to teach yourself calligraphy using a calligraphy instruction book, and a pad of graph paper, all of which should cost under $50. You also should have on hand a ruler, pencil, and high quality eraser.
It’s a great idea to enroll in a calligraphy course so you can receive guidance and feedback from an expert. Look for classes that are offered through your local community center. Some art stores also have evening calligraphy classes. While you can certainly teach yourself calligraphy, it always helps to get started on the right track and this is where a calligraphy class can help.
With your basic technique and supplies in hand, practice as often as you can. Practice not only helps you improve your calligraphy form but you’ll also start to learn how to more easily relax. Relaxation is key when learning how to write calligraphy. A shaky hand or preoccupied mind will definitely express themselves through your letters.
How To Write Calligraphy
Begin learning how to write calligraphy by taking two pencils and taping them together. This will serve as a training tool before you begin using your calligraphy marker. Practice making large letters on scrap paper with your training pen. The two lines of the pencils will help you see how you move your wrist. The direction at which you hold the pencils affects the shape of each letter.
Follow the instructions in your calligraphy book to make each letter. Pay attention to which part of each letter you should do first, and in what direction you should move your pencils.
When you have learned how to write calligraphy letters in large sizes, switch to your calligraphy marker. Use graph paper to measure how wide and tall each letter is supposed to be. Refer to your calligraphy book for this information. As you improve your calligraphy, you will be able to make finely formed letters smaller and smaller.
Use a pencil to trace lines on your envelope or paper. Make a line for your letters to sit on, and another line below it where your ‘below the line‘ letters will end. Draw a line for the top of your letters, and then another on top of that for letters whose flourishes are ‘above the line.’ Refer to your calligraphy book’s detailed instructions on making each letter to know which letters will be going above and below the lines. Calligraphy is known for its precision and the uniform size and style of all letters.
Once you are done using your calligraphy pens and related supplies, be sure to put them away carefully. Calligraphy pens and markers can easily dry out so make sure that caps are firmly in place. Papers need to be stored flat to keep them from wrinkling and creasing.
Calligraphy Tips and Tricks
The following tips and tricks can help you with your new calligraphy hobby…
- Consider purchasing a light board, which is a flat box that lights up. When you put a pre-lined piece of paper on it, and then cover that paper with the envelope that you wish to address in calligraphy, the light makes the lines of the bottom piece of paper show through.
- Trace your letters with a pencil before making the marks permanent with the calligraphy pen or marker.
- Consider a drafting table or an angled surface to write on.
- Look at many calligraphy examples to help you develop a style that is unique to yours.
Ways To Grow Your Calligraphy Hobby
Once you have learned how to write calligraphy in one alphabet you can continue to hone your new skills. Your instruction book or class may teach you how to learn to write calligraphy with a different alphabet. While the initial alphabet taught is almost always an italicized alphabet of slanting and slightly curved letters, there are many others.
A popular choice is an Irish-inspired alphabet consisting of curved letters. You may even leave your calligraphy marker behind in favor of a pointed pen. The pointed pen can help you to create different and modern alphabets.
Here are a couple of other ideas for ways to expand your calligraphy skills…
- Learn to write illuminated calligraphy letters.
- Take a penmanship class at a local community college.
- Create your own font style.
- Learn to draw pictures and incorporate them into text.
- Start a small business selling your calligraphy services.
Related Calligraphy Resources
Check out the following resources to learn more about how to write calligraphy…
Association for the Calligraphic Arts – international association organized to promote the calligraphic arts.
Paper and Ink Arts – boutique site that offers calligraphy instruction books and writing supplies
Society of Scribes (S0S) – founded in 1974, the SoS organization promotes the study, teaching, and practice of calligraphy and related arts.
Related YouTube Videos
Check out the following videos to learn even more about starting this hobby.