• 8 Things Every Calligraphy Beginner Should Know

    New year, new endeavors! If learning pointed pen calligraphy appears on your goal list this year, you’ll benefit from the eight tips in this article. (It’s worth a skim even if you’re an intermediate calligrapher. Tips 6-8 apply to any skill level!)

    Writing with a Brause EF66 Nib
    One of my best calligraphy beginner tips? While it’s a good idea to start learning with guided worksheets, projects — like the one pictured — are the key to progress! Making projects forces you to problem-solve and allows you to learn as you go.

    It’s the new year, which means it’s the perfect time to learn a new skill. If learning pointed pen calligraphy is on your goal list, I hope that you’ll find this article helpful! In it, you’ll find tips that were designed to benefit any calligraphy beginner. I suspect that intermediate writers will discover some inspiration, too.

    1. Paper Makes All the Difference

    When you’re new to calligraphy, there’s no reason not to think that calligraphy can be created on any paper. After all, calligraphy is just artistic writing. But. The inks that you use to write pointed pen calligraphy can take a little while to dry. As the ink is drying, it will soak into certain papers, resulting in a fuzzy effect.

    Bleeding Ink | The Postman's Knock
    See the feathering around these letters? This paper — a Paper Source cardstock place card — is too porous for pointed pen calligraphy.

    While there are fixes for this issue, like adding gum arabic to your ink, the best you can do is switch papers. When you practice on a good paper (my top pick is 32# HP Laserjet), it will pay off in spades. You’ll have a smooth writing experience, better results, and more motivation to keep on going!


    (PS – Your ink makes a big difference, too. I recommend sumi ink for beginners.)

    2. Medium-Flex Nibs are Best for a Calligraphy Beginner

    Every calligraphy nib has a certain level of flexibility, which refers to the ease in which the tines of the nib spring apart when pressure is applied. Some nibs respond immediately to pressure, while others take a little bit of coaxing. While I prefer to use the high-flex Brause EF66 nib, I started out by mastering the Nikko G.

    The Best Beginner Calligraphy Nib: The Nikko G | The Postman's Knock
    When you apply pressure to most calligraphy nibs, the tines split apart, as shown on the right. That split allows you to draw thick downstrokes.

    As a pointed pen calligraphy beginner, you’re figuring out how to use a nib’s flexibility to your advantage, and that’s not an easy task. If your nib is too low-flex, you won’t be able to achieve the stroke contrast that you’re after. If you use a high-flex nib, you’ll find that the tines splay apart too easily. For a calligraphy beginner, delicate splayed tines can mean ink spatter issues and problems with one tine digging into the paper. Most people will benefit by starting out with the Nikko G nib, which has enough flex to give you results without the problems of a nib with higher flexibility.


    3. Pointed Pens are Not Everyday Pens

    Every calligraphy beginner has a tendency to use a pointed pen as if it’s an everyday pen. Remember that pointed pen calligraphy requires an entirely different writing technique! Your actual pen movement should be minimal, with no wiggling motions.

    In everyday writing, our fingers do all the work. Pointed pen calligraphy requires a group effort! Yes, the fingers contribute to your success, but the wrist, forearm, and elbow chip in, too. With all that full-arm work, it’s important to pay attention to your posture! Remember, too, that your forearm needs to be able to move seamlessly across the table. To that end, it’s a good idea to wear a long-sleeved shirt or work on a table that doesn’t let your arm stick to it.


    4. Oblique Pens are Awesome for Right-Handed Writers

    Calligraphy may be one of the few endeavors in which (some) left-handed people have the advantage. For left-handed people who don’t write with a hook, it can be fairly easy to write in that right-leaning slant that many of us admire. If you’re right-handed, try using an oblique calligraphy pen, which mimics the pen angle that comes naturally to lefty writers.

    5 Tips for Creating Left-Handed Calligraphy (From a Lefty!) | The Postman's Knock
    Notice how the left-handed writer on the left is able to create calligraphy that slants to the right without any concessions. The right-handed writer uses an oblique pen to get that same slant. (I don’t condone using plastic-flanged oblique pens, but this is a good photo for demonstration purposes.) Photo credit Elisabeth Young)

    If you opt to go the oblique pen route — and many of us right-handed calligraphers do! — be sure to use a brass-flanged oblique pen. You can learn why a brass-flanged pen is so important in the 5 Reasons to Ditch Your Plastic Oblique Calligraphy Pen article.


    *If you’re a lefty, see these articles: 5 Tips for Creating Left-Handed Calligraphy and A Word on Left-Handed Calligraphy

    5. A Calligraphy Beginner Should Master the Basic Strokes

    Boiled down, pointed pen calligraphy is just a series of vertical strokes, horizontal strokes, and ovals. If you can create those strokes, you can write calligraphy. That’s why every calligraphy beginner should consider incorporating calligraphy drills into their practice. Calligraphy drills break down essential calligraphy strokes and help you master those strokes through repetition.

    More Calming Calligraphy Drills
    You can download this free calligraphy drills worksheet here. (A treasure trove of free worksheets can also be found in All of TPK’s Free Calligraphy Worksheets: A Master List!)


    6. Guidelines are a Calligrapher’s Best Friend

    As a calligraphy beginner, I worked without pencil guidelines or slant lines — often without great results. It seemed like too much work to draw guidelines! Then, I saw the light: once I started taking the extra time to draw guidelines, my pieces started to look cohesive and elegant. While some calligraphy styles (Kaitlin, Cocktail Casual) don’t necessarily benefit from guidelines, most calligraphy styles do. I strongly encourage you to take a couple of minutes to set yourself up for success!

    About Calligraphy Slant Lines | The Postman's Knock
    Calligraphy guidelines will help to ensure your success.



    7. Small Mistakes Can Be Scraped Away

    Pointed pen calligraphy can feel intimidating because it’s fairly formal and permanent. Make a mistake, and you can’t erase it or cross it out. Take heart, however, that small mistakes can be scraped away with an X-Acto knife. This is a small tip, but it’s one that I wish I would have discovered much earlier in my calligraphy career!

    5 Ways to Correct Art & Calligraphy Mistakes
    Sometimes, you can scrape away errors with an X-Acto knife.


    8. Projects Make Progress

    There’s no question that calligraphy courses and worksheets are useful, but they are intended to help you build a foundation. The real progress comes when you take on projects! That’s when you have to problem-solve, get creative, and tap into your individual style. Also: projects, frankly, just tend to be more fun that guided practice. They involve more active thinking, and you get rewarded with a cool result at the end that you can really “own”.

    Calligraphy Artwork Tutorial: Woman's Back | The Postman's Knock
    This silhouette art is a unique pointed pen project that you can display in your home.

    My favorite real life application of calligraphy is mail art. I can’t get enough of making pretty envelopes! There are so many other projects that you can make, though, and you can browse some of them by clicking below:


    You’re In Good Hands …

    … To get your writing hand to do what you want it to do. 😊 The TPK Blog has supported thousands of people in their pointed pen calligraphy endeavors! You can browse its many tutorials to find free projects, information, and inspiration; or you can take the leap and enroll in the Beginner’s Modern Calligraphy Online Course. Either way, I’m thrilled to share this beautiful art with you! Here’s to an artistic and creative new year.

    TPK's New Starter Kit
    The TPK website offers calligraphy supplies, courses, and a vibrant blog to help you flourish — literally — in your calligraphy journey.

    I hope that you enjoyed the tips in today’s article! If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below the blog post. Thanks so much for reading, and happy writing!


    Lindsey's Signature | The Postman's Knock