In this comprehensive guide for calligraphy beginners, you’ll learn about the various different kinds of calligraphy, like pointed pen, broad edge, and brush pen. You’ll also find resources for getting started in the type of calligraphy that resonates with you, along with practice tips, free resources, and encouragement.
Earlier this week, a reporter interviewed me for a local magazine. She specifically wanted to know about calligraphy, which is one of my passions and a cornerstone of TPK. Everything was going well until she asked, “And how important do you think it is for kids to learn calligraphy?”
That was when I realized that “calligraphy” means different things to different people. When I think of calligraphy, I see pointed pen calligraphy (which is difficult — and unnecessary — for children to learn). For the reporter, good handwriting and calligraphy were synonymous. Still others consider brush pen calligraphy to be the predominant form of calligraphy, and there are many people who see broad edge calligraphy in their mind’s eye when the word “calligraphy” pops up.
Buckle in. Today, we’re going to examine all the different types of calligraphy. My goal is to connect you with the kind of calligraphy that resonates with you best. I will then give you the vocabulary and the resources to follow your interest.
Different Types of Calligraphy
According to Merriam-Webster, “calligraphy” means “artistic, stylized, or elegant handwriting or lettering” or “the art of producing such writing”. Its root, “kalli”, means “beautiful”. In short, any piece of visually-appealing writing can be considered calligraphy. “Calligraphy” is just an umbrella word, kind of like “cake”. You might tell me that you like cake, but what kind? There are so many! Calligraphy is the same way. In this section, we’ll talk about the main types.
1. Pointed Pen Calligraphy
In pointed pen calligraphy, you use a flexible pointed nib to create thin upstrokes and thick downstrokes. This type of calligraphy relies on pressure. When you exert pressure on your pen, the nib splits at the end and can create a thick downstroke. When you let up on pressure, the split closes and you create a thin upstroke. It’s worth noting that there are two types of pointed pen calligraphy: modern and traditional.
Pointed pen calligraphy is HUGE on this website, so there are umpteenth resources for learning it here. If this calligraphy style is your jam, you can watch the following video — which includes a free worksheet — to get started:
To create broad edge calligraphy, you use nibs that have a flat or angled edge nib. You navigate the nib’s width to control the thickness of your strokes. Basically, where pointed pen calligraphy relies on pressure exertion, broad edge calligraphy is all about the nib’s position. In general, broad edge calligraphy favors block letterforms.
I don’t pretend to be an expert on this calligraphy style. So, I’m including a tutorial video in this article by someone who is: Tamer Ghoneim of Blackletter Foundry.
Broad edge calligraphy supplies dovetail with pointed pen calligraphy supplies. You can use the same pen holder, paper, and ink; but you’ll need a different nib. Get all the broad edge calligraphy supply information you need here.
In brush pen calligraphy, you use a tapered marker to create letterforms. Brush pen calligraphy pulls elements from both pointed pen and broad edge calligraphy in that you vary your pressure and your nib position in order to achieve stroke contrast. This calligraphy style owes its popularity to its accessibility: you just need a marker to get started, and you can write on any type of paper.
There’s not much to creating brush pen calligraphy, as I’ll show you in this 2.5-minute tutorial:
Several other techniques fall under the umbrella of “artistic, stylized, or elegant handwriting or lettering”. The following approaches are also considered calligraphy:
Faux calligraphy – You can create faux calligraphy, a technique that involves manually filling in downstrokes, with any writing instrument. (I particularly like it on chalkboards.)
Good penmanship – If penmanship is pretty enough, it can be referred to as “calligraphy”.
Pencil calligraphy – The humble pencil just might be the easiest writing utensil to get you started in calligraphy!
Digital calligraphy – With the advent of Procreate, many people have started to explore creating calligraphy on their iPad screen using an Apple Pencil.
Getting Started With Calligraphy
Once you’ve chosen the type of calligraphy that most resonates with you, gather your supplies and jump in. Some people prefer to start with an in-person workshop to kick-start things, and that’s a fun and helpful experience. However, all of the information you need is available online! You can stitch your knowledge together via YouTube videos and free worksheets, or you can spring for a premium learning model — like an online course — for the sake of organization and consistency.
Here are my recommendations for online calligraphy courses:
Pointed pen calligraphy – Enroll in TPK’s Beginner’s Modern Calligraphy Online Course! With 4.5 hours of viewing time, a helpful worksheet, and 240 five-star reviews from 10,000 students, the course is fabulous for pointed pen calligraphy beginners.
It’s not difficult to get really good at your chosen type of calligraphy if you follow one rule: keep it fun. Worksheets are helpful, so fill them out when you feel like it! But, don’t relegate yourself to practicing the alphabet ad nauseum. I like to encourage my pointed pen students to hone their skills on joyful, non-alphabet projects, like the marinera dancer calligraphy drill below.
My second tip? Make real world calligraphy projects when you can. There’s no reason not to write an address on an envelope using your calligraphy skills, for example.
I keep a running list of “real life” pointed pen calligraphy projects that double as amazing practice. The list features things like card tutorials and gift-worthy artwork concepts.
I discovered Molly Suber Thorpe’s Modern Calligraphyin 2015, and it’s still my favorite all-in-one published resource for learning calligraphy and finding pointed pen inspiration. The Calligraphy Ideas Bookis fun if you’re just looking for some inspiration for your next pointed pen calligraphy project. If traditional pointed pen calligraphy is more your thing, check out Eleanor Winters’ Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy.
For a resource that celebrates all calligraphy techniques and styles, try Calligraphy Crush Magazine. Editor Maureen Vickery does a great job showcasing different artists and their respective approaches to making beautiful letters!
If any kind of calligraphy resonates with you, I urge you to give it a try! (If pointed pen calligraphy is your thing, I’d love to teach it to you in the Beginner’s Modern Calligraphy Online Course.) There’s a lot of focus and concentration involved in making beautiful letters, which will lead to many a relaxing writing session for you. Take it from this mother of two young children: calligraphy can carry you through a lot of life’s stressors. The only caveat? Remember that you won’t become an expert overnight.
Take a no-pressure approach and enjoy every moment of your evolution! With calligraphy, it’s all about the journey in your creation sessions. I suspect you’ll be delighted at the challenges and the opportunities for growth and problem solving!