How to Start Brush Calligraphy

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how to start brush calligraphy


What Is the Difference Between Calligraphy, Hand Lettering, Handwriting, and Typograpy?

Before I share with you how to start brush calligraphy, I want to explain the differences between the terms ‘calligraphy’, ‘hand lettering‘, ‘handwriting‘, and ‘typography‘.
Calligraphy and hand lettering are both visual art forms related to letters, but the method to create the letters is different.


In calligraphy your focus is on writing beautifully while in hand lettering you draw and illustrate the letters.
hand lettering

Prefer videos? Watch this!


In traditional calligraphy you normally use a pointed nib and ink but in modern calligraphy you can use a variety of writing tools such as a broad-edged nib, brushes, fountain pens etc.











In hand lettering you normally sketch the letters with a pencil and then outline and color them with pens and markers.
Handwriting is not a visual art form. It is writing done by hand especially: the form of writing peculiar to a particular person and a style or manner of writing by hand, especially that which characterizes a particular person; penmanship. Each person has their own unique handwriting.  It is mostly done thoughtless and quickly while all calligraphy and hand lettering is done slowly and there is much thought given to the different forms and shapes of each letter. In calligraphy there are also certain rules that need to be applied to make it look beautiful. In handwriting you can almost write however you want. You don’t need to have a good handwriting to be able to do calligraphy or hand lettering as in both of these letter art forms you can learn the rules, techniques, shapes, and forms to create beautiful letters which will completely look different than your personal handwriting.
Typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language legible, readable and appealing when displayed. The arrangement of type involves selecting typefaces, point sizes, line lengths, line-spacing (leading), and letter-spacing (tracking), as well as adjusting the space between pairs of letters (kerning). The term typography is also applied to the style, arrangement, and appearance of the letters, numbers, and symbols created by the process. (excerpt from Wikipedia)

What Is Brush Calligraphy?

Brush Calligraphy, sometimes also called Brush Lettering (I avoid this term because it is can be confused with Hand Lettering), is calligraphy, the art of beautiful writing using a brush pen or painting brush. In this tutorial we focus on calligraphy with a brush pen.
brush calligraphy

Supplies You Need for Brush Calligraphy

For Brush Calligraphy you only need two supplies – a brush pen and paper.


You can’t use any paper because normal paper will break your brushes. Highly absorbent paper is also not ideal, as it will drain the ink from the pen. The best paper to make your brush pens last longest is smooth, low-absorbent paper.



Brush Pens

These are pens with a flexible tip with which you can create both thin and thick lines in modern calligraphy.
Brush Pens come with different tip sizes. There are small tip pens and large tip pens. You often see calligraphy worksheets for small and large brush pens. You can’t use a small brush pen on a worksheet for large brush pens and vice versa. So it’s important you know which size your pen is. It’s fairly easy to find that out by just looking at your pen.
For beginners it might be easier to start with a small brush pen as it is the same size as you do handwriting (which should not be confused with calligraphy, you don’t need a good handwriting to do calligraphy) as you are better used to it. However, you have to try out what type of brush pen works best for you.

Prefer videos? Watch this!

Small Tip Brush Pens






Large Tip Brush Pens








How to Use a Brush Pen for Calligraphy

You hold the pen at about 45 degrees to page (but not to high). In calligraphy you create a thin upstroke and thick downstroke.


The thin upstroke is created by using light pressure on the paper just touching the tip of the brush to the paper.

To create the thick downstroke you need to press down harder on the brush.


Learn the Basic Strokes

You might want to start writing the letters of the alphabet right away but that is not the best approach to learn calligraphy.
The best way to learn calligraphy is to learn and practice the basic strokes first.

1. Upstroke: Light Pressure

calligraphy upstroke



How to create the upstroke:

Start at the baseline and extend up with a slight curve towards the waist line.

Put only light pressure on your pen and do it slowly but with consistent speed.




2. Downstroke: Heavy Pressure

calligraphy downstroke


How to create the downstroke:

Start at the waist line putting full pressure on your pen.

Continue diagonally towards the baseline with full, consistent pressure.

No rush. Do it slowly but consistenly.




3. Overturn Stroke

calligraphy overturn



How to create the overturn stroke:

Start at the baseline with a light upstroke.

Make a transition at the top and curve into a heavy downstroke.

Continue with the heavy downstroke until you reach the baseline.

The upstroke and the downstroke should be parallel.



4. Underturn Stroke

calligraphy underturn



How to create the underturn stroke:

Start at the waistline with a heavy downstroke.

Make a transition at the bottom and curve into light upstroke.

Continue with a light upstroke until you reach the waistline.

The upstroke and the downstroke should be parallel.



5. Compound Curve

calligraphy compound curve


compound curve

How to create the compound curve:

Start at the baseline with a light upstroke.

Make a transition at the top and curve into heavy downstroke.

Make another transition at the bottom and curve into light upstroke.

Continue with the light upstroke until you reach the waistline.

All three strokes should be parallel.



6. Oval

calligraphy oval



How to create the oval:

Start at the red line – off to the right side, not at the top!

Go up in a light upstroke towards the top.

Make a transition at the top and curve into heavy downstroke.

Make another transition at the bottom and curve back into light upstroke

Connect back at the red line and don’t miss the mark.




7. Ascending Loop

calligraphy ascending loop


ascending loop

How to create the ascending loop:

Start at the waistline in a light upstroke curving to the ascender line.

Make a transition at the top and curve into heavy downstroke.

Continue with your heavy downstroke until you reach the baseline. The ascending loop is twice as high as the other basic strokes mentioned before.




8. Descending Loop

calligraphy descending loop


descending loop

How to create the descending loop:

Begin at the waistline in a heavy downstroke.

Continue you with your heavey downstroke past the baseline all the way down to the descender line.

Make a transition at the bottom and curve into a light upstroke.

Finish the upstroke to meet the baseline and connect it back with the downstroke.




Prefer videos? Watch this!

Free Brush Calligraphy Practice Worksheets

Now it’s time for you to practice! Here are some free worksheets with which you can practice the basic brush calligraphy strokes:

brush calligraphy image


Find more Lettering Tutorials here