I can’t look at Pinterest or Instagram without feeling sad that I can’t make curvy, lovely letters. I’ve tried picking up calligraphy several times over the years (it’s something that rears its head quite a lot when you’re a designer) but always bought those flat ended pen nibs and gave up quite quickly when I wasn’t immediately brilliant at it.
Recently though, I’ve decided to give it a proper go after seeing how brilliant at it my lovely friend Vicky is – and she works at it for hours and hours, day after day. Vicky recommended a course online and I’ve started doing a little bit every day, working my way through the alphabet. It’s SO MUCH FUN!
If you’re looking to get started with calligraphy but aren’t sure where, here are some tips I’ve picked up already that might help you to get nib to paper.
Get started online
The course Vicky recommended to me was An Introduction to the Art of Modern Calligraphy by Molly Jacques, available on Skillshare. There’s a 30 day free trial to the video tutorial site (which has TONNES of useful tutorials in all kinds of things) and after that it’s £7.99 a month. I’m partway through Molly’s course and my letters have already improved tenfold – she’s great!
I also came across The Postman’s Knock, the blog of a designer and calligrapher who offers calligraphy worksheets in different styles for just $5 each. I’ve bought a couple of them and printed them out, and they’re so useful for practicing your letters and really getting those movements right.
You don’t need much kit
Pen holders, nibs, brush pens and ink really aren’t that expensive. If you want to do it properly, here are the nibs and holder that Molly Jacques recommends for her course:
Nikko G nib, £2 – if you’re going to buy just one nib to practice with, this is the one to get.
Speedball penholder, £2.20 – this comes in different colours and can also be bought in a lefthanded version.
Paper-wise, I’ve been using a marker pad from Cass Art, though anything extra smooth and not too thin would work well. Rhodia pads come highly recommended for calligraphy work, too. Most art shops will have some form of black ink (I’ve been using Windsor & Newton, though may upgrade to Higgins soon as W&N has been taking forever to dry!)
Finally, if you just want to dip your toe in, you might prefer a brush pen – like this Pentel brush pen with refills. It’s really fun to use and easy to get a good differentiation between thick and thin strokes – and the ink cartridges mean it’s loooovely and inky.
Get online, on to blogs and Pinterest, and pin yourself some lovely lettering to use as inspiration. Surround yourself with letters and it’ll help you to learn the shapes and get creative with them once you’ve mastered them! Some favourites of mine on Instagram are of course @mollyjacques, @paperandhoney and @handmadefont.
Sounds obvious, but the more often you practice, the better you’ll get. Putting aside even half an hour a day to practice will make a huge difference to your lettering. Why not challenge yourself to put one piece of calligraphy online every day? I’ll be doing it over at inkorswim.tumblr.com – come and join me! I was inspired by this article from designer Marko Stupić which details how he wanted to get better at digital illustration, so he illustrated an icon every day. The same can work for anything – if you’re doing something every day for a year, you’re going to get pretty damn good at it.
I picked up a book about copperplate calligraphy back during one of my previous phases of learning, and it turns out it’s a lot more useful now I actually have the right nibs! Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy by Eleanor Winters gives a really thorough grounding in the basics, and how to structure sentences, paragraphs, invitations and even poems. Definitely worth a read!
Go forth and put pen to paper – and show us what you come up with!
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