• How to Create Your Own Calligraphy Styles: A Comprehensive Guide

    Today, I’ll teach you how to create your own distinctive calligraphy styles. Here, you’ll find tips, inspiration, and a fun quiz to find your unique calligraphy voice.

    How to Create Your Own Calligraphy Styles: A Comprehensive Guide (Includes Quiz, Tips, and Free Worksheets)

    Over the past decade plus, TPK calligraphy styles have been developed through a process of inspiration and experimentation. Developing different styles has not only offered a fulfilling creative journey for me, but also a way to provide unique calligraphy options to clients and calligraphy learners. Today, I want to share that journey with you. Whether you’re a beginner or intermediate pointed pen calligrapher, developing your own calligraphy styles is incredibly rewarding. It allows you to express your creativity, develop a unique artistic voice, and offer something special that stands out.

    In this guide, I’ll walk you through the steps and answer common questions to help you start creating your own calligraphy styles. From understanding the basics to experimenting with different tools and techniques, you’ll gain insights and tips that will benefit your calligraphy practice and help you develop a style that is uniquely yours.

    Janet Style Calligraphy Components | The Postman's Knock
    When I first started developing Janet Style calligraphy, I found myself constantly experimenting with different flourishes and loops until I found a look that felt just right.

    1. Learn the Basics

    If you’re new to dip pen calligraphy, your instinct may be to jump in without any experience. While you can certainly try that route, it’s more likely you’ll experience success if you start with an understanding of the basics of calligraphy. I recommend either taking an in-person calligraphy workshop or enrolling in The Beginner’s Modern Calligraphy Online Course.

    Can You Really Learn Calligraphy Online?
    This student is writing her own upright modern calligraphy style after taking The Beginner’s Modern Calligraphy Online Course.

    Mastering the basics of calligraphy gives you the tools to create a style that is uniquely yours. Once you figure out strokes, letter formations, and favorite nibs, you can cultivate your calligraphy creativity.

    Common Question: How do different types of nibs and holders influence the development of a calligraphy style?

    Different nibs and holders can significantly affect your writing style. Flexible nibs allow for varied line widths, perfect for flourished styles, while stiffer nibs offer more control for structured styles. (You can learn more about different calligraphy nibs here.) Oblique pen holders are excellent tools to help right-handed calligraphers develop styles with a right slant. Experiment with different supplies to find what suits your desired style best.

    2. Identify Elements of Calligraphy that You Like

    The next step in developing your own calligraphy styles is figuring out what sort of calligraphy appeals to you. Some people like messy styles, others are attracted to orderly styles, and still others love traditional-looking styles. If you’re like me, you might adore them all — which means you just need to focus in on what you’re feeling the most on any given day. If you’re on Pinterest, I would suggest creating a board that is dedicated to calligraphy inspiration.

    White Ink Calligraphed Envelope | The Postman's Knock
    I calligraphed this envelope after seeing examples of flourished calligraphy on Pinterest. The capital “A”s, in particular, presented a new way of writing for me.

    If you don’t have Pinterest, you can keep track of good ideas in a sketchbook. You also might garner some inspiration from books. For example, try perusing Modern Calligraphy or The Calligraphy Ideas Book (where you’ll find some work by yours truly). Looking at other artists’ calligraphy styles will help you to develop your own.

    Common Question: How can you identify and incorporate personal elements to make your calligraphy style unique?

    Consider incorporating elements that reflect your personality or interests, such as unique flourishes inspired by nature or geometric shapes. Then, think about what makes your handwriting unique and amplify those characteristics.

    3. Brainstorm Unique Elements of Your New Calligraphy Style

    Black Calligraphy Inks Comparison Part I: Ziller, Sumi, and Higgins | The Postman's Knock
    This is Kaitlin Style calligraphy. It has a traditional slant to it, but is very modern and whimsical. I would describe it as “bohemian”.

    Before you develop your calligraphy style, try making a list of rules and characteristics. Consider the following:

    • Slant: Does your calligraphy style lean to the left, to the right, or does it not have any slant?
    • Connections: Are all, none, or some letters connected in a word?
    • Adjectives: Once you’ve developed this style, how do you want to be able to describe it? Neat and elegant, perhaps? Or cute and messy? (Etc.)
    • Flourishes and Loops: Are there a lot of flourishes and loops in your calligraphy style?
    • Utilization: Do you envision an ideal utilization for this style? For example, would it be good to use on wedding envelopes, or more well-suited for inspirational quote artwork?
    Common Question: How do you balance traditional calligraphy principles with modern elements?

    Start by understanding traditional principles (see Dr. Joseph M. Vitolo’s free eBook Script in the Copperplate Style), and then decide which rules to bend. For example, you might maintain traditional letterforms but introduce modern spacing and flourishes. Balance is key – use traditional elements to provide structure and modern touches to add personality.

    4. Play with Individual Letters

    Try filling out a Creative Calligraphy Challenge worksheet, then create an entire style based on the letter you like the most. Write several different versions of the same letter that honor the characteristics in your list from step 3 (slant, connections, adjectives, etc.). Choose your favorite version of the letter from the worksheet, then make an entire alphabet based off of that letter version.

    A Creative Calligraphy Challenge | The Postman's Knock
    This worksheet can help to spark ideas for your next original modern calligraphy style.
    Common Question: What are effective practice techniques to refine your new calligraphy style?

    Practice consistently and mindfully. Focus on one letter at a time, striving to improve each iteration. Use practice sheets, but also apply your style in real-world contexts, like writing quotes or addressing envelopes, to see how it holds up.

    5. Make Exemplars for Yourself

    The human brain can only handle so much. You might come up with the coolest modern calligraphy style ever, only to forget what it looked like three weeks later! (Trust me, I know from personal experience.) That’s why it’s always a good idea to make an exemplar. Display it near your workspace for easy reference.

    How to Frame Artwork on the Cheap | The Postman's Knock
    This Janet Style calligraphy exemplar currently hangs beside my desk — along with several other style exemplars.
    Common Question: What are effective ways to document your progress and changes in your style over time?

    Keep a dedicated calligraphy binder where you document your progress, challenges, and style evolution. Take photos of your work and note the date and any new techniques or tools you used. Alternatively, take photos with your smart phone and keep them in a dedicated digital album.

    6. Take Photos of Your Favorite Calligraphy Projects

    Let’s face it: paper isn’t forever. Mail art is lovely, but the point is to send it away! Artwork can last longer, but it’s not guaranteed that it will. So, if you calligraph something that you like, take a photo. It will last practically forever and can serve to inspire you for future projects.

    Calligraphy Ampersand Art | The Postman's Knock
    I’m glad I took a photo of this calligraphy ampersand art. The photo has outlasted the artwork itself, which ended up on my brother’s refrigerator … and eventually into the hands of my little nieces and nephew. RIP, calligraphy ampersand.

    If you particularly love something you made, try posting it to social media (like Instagram). In addition to having a record of your project for yourself, you might just inspire someone else.

    Common Question: How can I effectively showcase my calligraphy projects on social media?

    Showcasing your calligraphy projects on social media can be a great way to share your work with a wider audience and inspire others. If you post photos, include props or elements that reflect your personality or the theme of your work. Think: a cup of coffee, flowers, and/or calligraphy tools. While it’s a little more work, videos and time-lapse recordings of your calligraphy process can be very engaging. They give your audience a behind-the-scenes look at how you create your work and can be very captivating. No matter how you post, don’t forget to preserve your recipient’s privacy if you’re showcasing work like an envelope. For tips over how to do that, see How to Maintain Privacy with Artistic Photos of Envelopes.

    7. Allow Yourself to Embellish and Evolve Your Calligraphy Styles

    When you’re creating modern calligraphy, know that you always have the freedom to change styles and allow them to evolve. If you’re writing and you suddenly have the urge to put a very long, curly cross on a lowercase “t” (despite never having done so before), go for it! Your style should evolve as your skills and tastes develop.

    Flourished pointed pen #10 calligraphy envelope with walnut ink, red ink, and white ink.
    Always feel free to tweak and experiment with your calligraphy styles! I had a blast making this highly flourished envelope.

    As your level of comfort with creating your new calligraphy style grows, you’ll find yourself trying out new looks for the style. It’s natural for your artistic tastes and, effectively, the calligraphy style, to change. That’s what happened with Amy Style calligraphy for me. It started off looking very flourished and playful, like this:

    Classic Amy Style Calligraphy: A Limited Edition Worksheet
    This is the “classic” version of Amy Style calligraphy.

    Then, over the next few years, I subtracted flourishes and modified letters to make the style a bit cleaner. Now, Amy Style calligraphy looks like this:

    Amy Style Calligraphy Envelope | The Postman's Knock
    Contemporary Amy Style calligraphy is more orderly and polished than the classic version.
    Common Question: How can you ensure your style remains cohesive across different projects?

    Create a style guide for yourself, noting specific elements like alternate letterforms, awkward letter pairs (“ff”, “tt”, “Tl”, etc.), and superscripts/subscripts. You can refer to this guide when starting new projects to maintain consistency.


    Free Worksheets to Help You Experiment

    Basic Copperplate Worksheet
    TPK’s basic two-page worksheets provide examples and room to experiment.

    If you want to try on a few established styles to spark inspiration for your own style, you can play with some of TPK’s free calligraphy worksheets. They include:

    A Quiz to Help You Find Your Style

    If you’re curious about what kind of calligraphy style you might create, I’ve designed a quiz for you. Based on your preferences and approach to calligraphy, this quiz will help you identify which calligraphy style best suits your personality and artistic voice. Answer seven short questions to see what your responses reveal about your unique style:

    Discover your unique calligraphy style!

    Additional Tips and Tricks

    The real secret to developing your own calligraphy styles is confidence and a willingness to experiment! Create your own calligraphy styles by coming up with all sorts of alphabets, using them when the mood strikes, and continuing to make modifications as you go.

    Cocktail Casual Calligraphy is Here to Stay!
    Remember that your calligraphy preferences may change daily. Some days, I love a messy, bohemian style like Cocktail Casual (shown here). Other days, I gravitate toward neater letterforms.

    I hope this guide has provided you with valuable insights and practical tips for creating your own calligraphy styles. Remember, the most important aspect of this journey is to have fun and let your creativity flow. Feel free to share your progress and creations with me, and the TPK community at large, on Instagram by tagging @thepostmansknock. Happy calligraphing!

    Warmly,