• Brush Pen Calligraphy Versus Pointed Pen Calligraphy

    Many calligraphy beginners wonder if it’s best to start learning with brush pen calligraphy, then move on to the pointed pen. My answer? Not necessarily. If you have time, watch the YouTube video detailing which calligraphy writing utensil is best for your situation! (No time? Read the summary article below the video!)

    Brush Pen Calligraphy Versus Pointed Pen Calligraphy

    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.

    Janet Style Brush Pen Calligraphy Worksheet Set | The Postman's Knock

    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.

    TPK's Top Hits of 2020
    Pointed pen calligraphy requires a pen holder, a nib, and liquid ink. You’ll also need art water and a cleaning cloth!

    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.

    Address Written Using a Brush Pen | The Postman's Knock
    Brush pen calligraphy is good for writing addresses on packages and other large surfaces.

    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.

    Iron Gall Ink: A Timeless Favorite
    Pointed pen calligraphy usually appears on elegant wedding invitation envelopes.

    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!

    Not Your Average Brush Pen Drills Sheet | The Postman's Knock
    Brush pen calligraphy tends to feel more approachable for beginners. (You can find the free brush pen drill sheet in this photo by clicking here.)


    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.)

    The Essential Calligraphy Travel Kit | The Postman's Knock
    If you want to travel with your pointed pen calligraphy supplies, consider writing with watercolors when you’re on the go. That way, you won’t have to deal with ink spills!

    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.

    Janet Style Brush Pen Calligraphy
    While there is a technique to writing brush pen calligraphy (as shown in this page from the Janet Style Brush Pen Calligraphy Worksheet), it’s not a tough technique to pick up on!

    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.

    🎉 The New Modern Calligraphy Beginner's Course is Here!
    Once you get the hang of it, pointed pen calligraphy isn’t difficult. The learning curve, however, can be frustrating! That’s why it’s best to take a course — either in person or online — to get a good grip on the basics. (Try TPK’s Beginner’s Modern Calligraphy Online Course!)

    Personal Preference

    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.

    The "Little Black Dress" of Calligraphy Birthday Cards
    This “Little Black Dress” of Calligraphy Birthday Cards boasts beautiful stroke contrast and an understated but impactful color scheme.

    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.

    "Gracias" Brush Pen Lettering | The Postman's Knock
    It’s difficult to create brush pen projects that don’t have a casual look, which limits the brush pen’s versatility. (Still, I really like this casual thank you card concept!)

    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.

    Tasteful Twist-Out Tree Holiday Card Tutorial
    This tasteful holiday card was created with a pointed pen.

    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.

    TPK Calligraphy Workshop
    I love teaching in-person pointed pen workshops. Since I have a new baby, I probably will be taking this summer off from teaching. Keep Boulder, Colorado, calligraphy workshops on your radar for next summer, though!

    Once you’ve got the basics down, you can do the following to further hone your skills:

    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!

    Writing with a Brush Pen | The Postman's Knock
    The Kaitlin Style Brush Pen Worksheet teaches you how to use a brush pen to write in a fun, artistic writing style.

    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:

    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!


    Lindsey's Signature | The Postman's Knock