Calligraphy beginners often write to me with a question: “Do I start by learning brush pen calligraphy? Or do I start by learning pointed pen calligraphy?” Today, I’ll examine the answer to that in a YouTube video … with — and I hope you won’t mind this! — the help of a lovely little assistant.
Don’t Have Time to Watch the Video? Here’s the Breakdown:
First, it’s important to understand the difference between brush pen calligraphy and pointed pen calligraphy. Brush pen calligraphy is calligraphy that you create with a marker. Typically, that marker has a long, pointed tip that responds to pressure in order to make thin upstrokes and thick downstrokes.
Pointed pen calligraphy, on the other hand, is created with a pen holder and a nib. You dip that nib into a jar of ink, and you use the loose ink to write. Like the brush pen, the pointed pen responds to pressure in order to create stroke contrast.
Thinking About Effect
When you’re deciding whether to kick of your learning with the pointed pen or a brush pen, it’s important to consider effect. Brush pen calligraphy generally has a casual look and is good for filling up large amounts of space.
Pointed pen calligraphy has smaller, cleaner strokes. That means it’s better suited to smaller projects, like envelopes and place cards. If you’re looking to sell your calligraphy, pointed pen calligraphy is usually a better bet because it’s used a lot for weddings and other events.
The Intimidation Factor
When it comes to brush pen calligraphy versus pointed pen calligraphy, people usually feel more intimidated at the prospect of creating pointed pen calligraphy. First of all, the pointed pen requires several supplies (pen holder, nib, ink, specific paper, art water, cleaning cloth). In contrast, you just need a brush pen and paper to create brush pen calligraphy!
There’s no question that brush pens are more portable than their pointed pen cousins. You can take brush pens anywhere without fear of spilled ink or ruined nibs. Pointed pen supplies, on the other hand, require some forethought. You’ve got to package everything up carefully — and try to avoid bringing liquid ink with you. (Watercolors are an excellent travel-friendly substitute for ink.)
Ease of Learning
So, which is easier to learn: brush pen calligraphy or pointed pen calligraphy? I started off by learning pointed pen calligraphy. I’m glad that I started with the pointed pen, but I believe that brush pen calligraphy techniques are easier to learn. That’s because writing with a brush pen is somewhat similar to writing with an everyday pen. Your fingers mostly control the pen’s movement, which isn’t the case with pointed pen calligraphy.
Pointed pen calligraphy, on the other hand, requires a fairly hefty time investment to learn proper techniques and troubleshooting. There’s a specific grip and writing technique that involves the hand, wrist, and the forearm; and that takes a bit to get used to. Nibs need to be prepped for use, and you might need to dilute your ink with water to give it the proper viscosity. On top of that, you’ll need to learn how to exert balanced pressure on both tines of the nib, which is easier said than done.
If you’re trying to decide between pointed pen calligraphy or brush pen calligraphy, you’re probably leaning toward brush pen calligraphy at this point. After all, it’s less fussy and easier to learn. Before you commit to the brush pen, consider your personal preference! You’re more likely to stick with learning calligraphy if you really love the medium that you’re using. If you like the ease of brush pen, but you don’t love its casual look, then you probably will use the brush pen a couple of days and then put it away for good.
While I appreciate brush pen calligraphy, I have always preferred pointed pen calligraphy. The creation process, in my opinion, is more meditative: dip your pen in ink, write, swish off the nib in water, repeat. I love its versatility: you can easily switch ink colors, and opaque whites and golds aren’t a problem! Most importantly, I appreciate the look of pointed pen calligraphy. Sometimes, brush pen calligraphy has a bit too much of a casual look for my taste because of the bulky letters, even when it’s written with a fine-tipped brush pen.
Answering the Big Question
If both brush pen calligraphy and pointed pen calligraphy appeal to you, learn both. The two are similar enough that if you start with one, you can’t go wrong learning the other later. The important thing to remember is this: tackle the calligraphy tool that appeals to you the most first. You’re much more likely to stick with something if you have an incentive to reach the finish line, whether that incentive is making fun brush pen projects or beautiful pointed pen creations.
How to Learn
Learning Pointed Pen Calligraphy
If you’re looking to learn pointed pen calligraphy, I highly recommend TPK’s Beginner’s Modern Calligraphy Online Course. It covers everything that I teach in my in-person workshops plus much more! (If you’re on the fence, read the reviews.) In-person workshops are also excellent if you can find a good instructor! That way, you can ask questions in real time and benefit from the instructor’s critiques.
Once you’ve got the basics down, you can do the following to further hone your skills:
- Make projects
- Take an intermediate course
- Do drills and worksheets
Learning Brush Pen Calligraphy
There are two brush pen worksheets on the TPK website, and both worksheets come with an introductory course to teach you basic brush pen techniques. The Janet Style Brush Pen Worksheet covers a calligraphy style that’s reminiscent of Copperplate calligraphy, and the Kaitlin Style Brush Pen Worksheet covers a more bohemian style. I’m not super familiar with learning resources outside of TPK, but I’ve heard good things about The Happy Ever Crafter’s Show Me Your Drills course!
The best way to hone your skills after you’ve got the brush pen techniques down? Use those skills! Make as many things as you can. Here are a few projects that I like:
- “Juicy” Brush Pen Calligraphy Tutorial
- 3 Quick “Crayola Calligraphy” Projects
- Two Artistic Brush Pen Lettering Tutorials (+ Two More Artistic Brush Pen Lettering Tutorials)
I hope that this article gives you the push you need to started on your calligraphy journey! If you have any questions, let me know in the comments. Happy writing!